Training load monitoring: how can I easily monitor my team with subjective data?

03 MAY 2019

Have you ever wondered whether your players perceive the intensity of your training as intended? And did you know that you can win games, prevent injuries and optimize the training loads of your players with only their answers on 5 easy questions? Getting information from exertion and recovery forms is already accepted within football and field hockey practice. Subjective data is often gathered through pen & paper, but analysis afterwards is a time-consuming process. An easy and user-friendly App can help you, as a coach, to gather and analyze the data of all players of your team in an effective and time-efficient way on your mobile phone! The JOHAN Team Performance App can offer an affordable solution for teams ranging from amateur to professional level. In today’s blog we will discuss how subjective data can be used in training load monitoring.

In sports science literature there is a distinction between the external and internal load. The external load refers to what the players have actually done (e.g. total distance, sprint meters, running distance, etc.) which can be measured with a GPS tracking system. On the other hand, internal load refers to how the players perceive this load. This can be measured with subjective data such as Rating of Perceived Exertion (RPE). It has been shown that RPE has a good relationship with heart rate, therefore RPE can also be used as an alternative for heart rate monitoring1.

The importance of montoring internal load, can best be explained by an example: a marathon runner might perceive a run of 5km as ‘easy’, whereas the same run would be ‘hard’ for an untrained individual. Even though external load plays an important role in training adaptations, it is ultimately the internal load which is the best indication for the training adaptations2 (the marathon runner will not improve his endurance capacity from the run; whereas the untrained individual will improve his endurance capacity by this run). It is therefore of importance to monitor the way the players perceive the load.

Furthermore, by performing sports science calculations with the subjective data, we get insights into how much load the players can handle. By doing so, we calculate the optimal load for each player (see image). If the player is exposed to more (or less) load than the ‘sweet spot’, he/she has an increased risk of injury. If this occurs, you will get an alert (and an advice) on your phone which warns you that one of your players has an increased risk of injury!

“Every morning we discuss outliers in the subjective data with the entire staff.” – Physical Trainer SC Cambuur (1st Division, Netherlands)

As discussed in a previous blog, your weekly periodization should balance exercise and rest. Subjective data (RPE) is one of the methods to check whether your training follows the weekly wave-like periodization. This is an easy-to-use first step in monitoring your team! In addition, it appears that the way players perceive training load is different from what the coach intended. Have you planned a hard training session, but did the players mention it in the form that it was an ‘easy’ session, this should be a sign that you can increase the load of the training session. Your players can handle more load than expected!

“After every training, I check how players perceived the training and adjust my training accordingly.” – Trainer FC Rijnvogels (Hoofdklasse, Amateurs)

Picture1: Exertion form

But there is more than just the exertion form. With using recovery scores (i.e. muscle soreness, fatigue, sleep, mood and stress) within the mobile App you can check whether players are recovered after an intense session and/or if they are ready to be exposed to the next conditional session. Increased fatigue or muscle soreness reports should encourage you to protect these players against high workloads, thus preventing them from sustaining an injury. Does this mean that you should always adjust training when players are not recovered well? No, someone who experiences muscle soreness can train as well. A practical solution would be to let the players with muscle soreness play against each other. Because of this the intensity for these players will be lower, which is beneficial for their recovery.

“When a player experiences muscle soreness, I want to know more.” “It confirms what I see on the pitch.” – Trainer SC Cambuur

Picture 2: Recovery form

The subjective data can therefore not only give you valuable feedback on whether the planned training intensity was reached, but it can also inform you about the ideal training load, the weekly periodization, and whether your players have recovered from the training sessions or not. The JOHAN RPE Performance App is a great first step in monitoring your team in an easy way!

“It is addicting, but more importantly it is effective.” – Trainer FC Rijnvogels

Eventhough subjective data can already give you valuable feedback about whether you should train more (or less) intensive, it does not provide you with information of which exercises you need to do.A high RPE score can be achieved by performing a high amount of accelerations or by a lot of sprinting. Both actions expose the body to a different kind of load. However, RPE does not tell you how the external load of your players was built up. By using a GPS sytem, you get specific information on how the load was built up, and thus about which exercises you need to perform (e.g. 4v4 or 10v10). If you thus want to determine the optimal load more precisely, you need information on the external load.

Furthermore, good education and feedback to players are needed for better mobile app data. The goal of the mobile app is not to verify whether players have delivered enough workload. More important, it is aimed at giving you feedback on how to optimize your training schedule. By showing results periodically, and showing how the data is used to adjust the training, players will see the value of providing good/honest answers. This way you take care of fitter and better players together!

Impellizeri, F.M., Rampini, E. & Marcora, S.M. (2005) Physiological assessment of aerobic training in soccer. Journal of Sports Sciences. 23(6); 583-592
Impellizzeri, F.M., Rampini, E., Coutts, A.J. & Sassi, A., (2004) Use of RPE-based training load in Soccer. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 36(6); 1042-1047.
Brink, M.S., Frencken, W.G.P., Jordet, G. & Lemmink, K.A.M.P. (2014) Coaches’ and players’ perception of training dose: not a perfect match. International Journal of Sports Physiology and Performance. 9(3); 497-502.


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