Athlete Self-Monitoring

By Leo Isaac

There are multiple benefits for athletes to keep a log or diary of their session-to-session training activities and, importantly, record a regular self-evaluation of their performance and well-being.

These benefits include:

  • Optimising the prescription of training load

Training logs assist in gathering information about the athlete’s physiological and psychological adaptive response to training stress and this enables the coach and the athlete to make more informed decisions about the prescription of training load with a view to preventing overtraining syndrome1.

  • Recording personal best performances

Training logs completed in situ on a session-to-session basis provide a means to accurately record the athlete’s performances and in particular this enables both the coach and athlete to have full knowledge of the athlete’s best performances on every individual training activity, exercise or drill. This information is greatly important in determining exercise prescription and heightens the athlete’s awareness of targeted training activities2.

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  • Identifying problems that interfere with performance

Training logs assist the coach to gain an accurate representation of problems interfering with performance4. For example, a training log may enable the coach (and the athlete) to identify problems such as lack of sleep, failure to warm-up, injury or soreness, illness and failure to adhere to training prescription2.

  • Assisting the athlete to develop more self-knowledge

Training logs allow the athlete to review previous training and gain an insight into how they managed previous training prescription. This can assist the athlete to maintain motivation through brief but difficult training periods2 and improve their own self-regulation.

There are a number of practical matters to be considered when asking athletes to record their daily training activity and adaptive response. It is necessary to consider the athlete’s level of motivation, experience and maturity in setting the complexity of record keeping required. There is a time impost in record keeping, not only in the writing of the log book but also in keeping it safe and ready to use each training session. For younger age athletes it may be wiser for the coach to distribute and collect log books during each training session whereas for more mature and/or higher level athletes, it may be more useful for log books to be taken home so that further reflection on training can be added and/or symptoms of adaptation or non-adaptation recorded.

One of the important benefits of recording actual training performed in a log book, is that the coach can examine the athlete’s adherence to good warming up practice. Issues that commonly arise in warm-up include failure to start sufficiently light (low-intensity), insufficient number of light warm-up sets and large increments in weight between sets. These issues can significantly impact on the athlete’s skill learning, muscle fibre recruitment and flexibility. Thus if an athlete fails to perform sufficient warm-up sets and takes large “jumps” in weight, it is likely their performance will be diminished in terms of weight lifted and/or technique.

Another very important benefit that can be accrued through accurately kept training logs is the recording of failures. This information is vital in determining the training prescription. Failures may occur as a result of many factors, or combinations of factors, that may be physiologic, psychologic and technical in nature. For whatever reason, it is potentially damaging if an athlete experiences failure on a frequent basis. The coach, through the existence of a well-kept log by the athlete, can monitor the frequency of failures and determine their likely causes. This assists the coach to reset training load parameters to reduce the incidence of failure.

References

  1. Calder, A. 2006. “Performance Recovery – Monitoring Strategies for Tennis”. Medicine and Science in Tennis; 11(2): pp 6-7.
  2. Young, B., Medic N., & Starkes, J., 2013, Effects of self-monitoring training logs in behaviours and beliefs of swimmers

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