Using Training Diaries For Peak Performance
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Using Training Diaries For Peak Performance

What happened out there? You thought you were ready. You thought your training went well last week. You thought your pre-competition routine was the same as always. Now you’re wondering why you hit the wall early and just had an off day.
 
Consistently performing at a high level depends on creating the right combination and pattern of training that yields the best outcome. Even a small change to that ideal routine can result in a poor performance. Finding that wrong turn requires retracing your steps through your recent training sessions.Unfortunately, many athletes lack a system to capture not only the quantitative data but also the qualitative information about their mood, motivation and daily activities that may have affected their results. In all of the noise of today’s high-tech monitoring devices, the simplicity of a training diary often gets overlooked.So, what exactly is a training diary? 

It can range from a paper notebook with an athlete’s thoughts about the day’s practice to a sophisticated, online app. For either version, the key ingredient is consistent and accurate data. Without an athlete or coach entering data, the diary is like staring at a map with no roads.

Recently, human performance researchers at Dublin City University (DCU) studied the effectiveness of using training diaries for young Gaelic footballers as a way to assess their overall training load. Without proper management of their time and activities, young athletes can suffer burnout from overtraining.

Siobhán O’Connor, a researcher and graduate student at DCU, and Professor Noel McCaffrey gathered 162 players from U14, U18 and adult teams to measure not only the response of players to using a diary, either paper-based or online, but also to validate that what the players self-reported was an accurate reflection of their actual training.Previous research has shown that athletes prefer easy and efficient data entry for a diary to succeed. O’Connor designed a format that, on average, took the players just under 4 minutes per day to fill out. 

Initially, the paper and online versions received about the same participation rate but when e-mail or text reminders were sent out for the online version, the players use of the online version increased substantially.Filling diaries with the right information is just as important as timelines. As they say in the computer world, “garbage input produces garbage output.” 

To check this, a subset of the players also wore accelerometers and/or SenseCams to objectively capture data about the training sessions. When this data was compared with what the players actually recorded in their diaries, there was a 95% agreement, confirming that the players could accurately self-report their own data.

O’Connor is encouraged by the results, “This study will benefit Gaelic Footballers throughout Ireland and beyond by enabling them to quantify their training load in a quick and easy manner.”

Although training diaries were initially designed with amateur or semi-professional sports enthusiasts in mind, online diaries combined with communication portals are being utilized more and more by professional organizations and elite athletes.Of course, the payoff for athletes to entering this information is being able to quickly review the data and ensure consistent performance improvement. That’s where online diaries shine, especially those that can analyze the data and identify cause and effect patterns. Being able to understand how your daily habits contribute to your results makes it all worthwhile.