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Sports Scientist (PhD),
Ex rower and rowing coach,
Rowing Academy Scientist
In addition to clinical findings and metabolic values, the level of stress and recovery
seems to reflect the clinical state of the athletes quite well. The presence of several
psychological symptoms in cases of high load trainings has been recognized frequently,
characterized mainly by increased negative moods.
Psychological tools are used because they are:
• Practical and reliable
• The results can be analyzed quickly
• Assumptions can be made on the individual or team level
Profile of Mood States (POMS)
By measuring five negative mood states (tension, anger, depression, fatigue and
confusion) and one positive (vigor) POMS has frequently been used as a monitoring tool
of athletic state during the training process.
For example, those swimmers who
responded well to the training program
indicated lowered POMS scores when
training load was decreased, but for
overtrained swimmers the score
continued to be high (Figure 1).
Figure 1. POMS scores over the swimming season
for overtrained and healthy rowers (data from
Morgan et al. 1987).
It should also be noted that during
overload training fatigue and vigor
usually show the largest shifts, while
depression generally has the smallest.
But during overtraining syndrome,
depression scores may increase the
The Recovery and Stress Questionnaire for
Research has also shown that stress and recovery are different in their time course and
restricting the analysis to the stress dimension (i.e. POMS) alone is
insufficient, especially in high-performance areas. The theory behind the RESTQ-Sport
questionnaire is that accretion of stress in everyday life, coupled with weak recovery
potential, will cause variation of the psychophysical general state. Nevertheless, high
stress is tolerable if the athlete is able to recover from it.
Figure 2 presents data from the high volume training camp of the international rowers
(data form Mäestu et al. 2005) where an overtrained athlete indicated significantly
increased stress scores compared to the whole group. Furthermore, most of his recovery
scores were also decreased compared to others, meaning that he was unable to use
different strategies to increase his recovery potential. This finally results in negative
recovery stress state and decreased adaptation of the athlete.
The Recovery and Stress Questionnaire for
Being in Shape
Lack of Energy
Figure 2. Scales of the RESTQ-Sport of an overtrained athlete versus group average in the group of rowers during a
training camp after three weeks of high training volume. Left pane – stress scales, right pane – recovery scales
Problems with psychological assessments
Mood state and other factors can be influenced by stressors unrelated to excessive
training or recovery
Athletes may “learn” how to fill the questionnaire or may cheat if, e.g. their place in
the team is at stake. Coaches should make sure that athletes answer the questions
Psychological tests must be administered with appropriate instructional set (e.g. „last
three days“, „today“, „last week including today“) based on the training paradigm.
The „right now measurements“ should be approached with caution as they can
strongly be influenced by secondary factors
Coaches and athletes might sometimes be skeptic to use psychological tools
• Morgan WP, Brown DR, Raglin JS. Psychological monitoring of overtraining and
staleness. British Journal of Sports Medicinev1987; 21: 107-114.
• Mäestu J, Jürimäe J, Kreegipuu K, Jürimäe T. Changes in perceived stress and
recovery during heavy training in highly trained male rowers. The Sport Psychologist
2006; 20: 24-39.
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More related reading
Overtraining syndrome (whitepaper)
Markers of overtraining – performance tests (whitepaper)
Self-assessment of overtraining (whitepaper)
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