Your motivation and desire to exercise varies day-to-day. Using an exercise readiness questionnaire allows you to assess and track recovery and total health on a surface level. Exercise readiness is an assessment of how prepared the body is to perform a bout of physical activity. Whether you are feeling 100% and ready to PR or feeling 40% and need to take an active recovery day, using exercise readiness as a starting point for each workout will put you on the path to success.
Training for sport, general health, or enjoyment with friends is most effective when the body is recovered and primed for exercise. It is easy to fall into a pattern of doing the same thing each week, but when programs become mundane or too intense without a break, the benefit is lost. Make sure to visit our last post to understand how important RECOVERY is and keep reading to learn more about how assessing your preparedness can add to your training.
What is an exercise readiness questionnaire?
An exercise readiness questionnaire typically includes 5-10 questions aimed at identifying total stress and aspects of recovery. For athletes, a simple five question sample may require them to rate their sleep, mood, energy, stress, and soreness on a scale from 1-5. A score of 5 will often suggest peak readiness while a score of 1 suggests extreme stress or lack of recovery. More complex questionnaires may divide these categories to better understand an athlete’s situation. Stress can be presented as general, emotional, social or physical. Regardless, the goal of the questionnaire is to understand the intrinsic, subjective assessments of exercise readiness. If there are physical concerns, it is the job of the athlete and coach to communicate to ensure that injuries are not ignored.
"Readiness is a snapshot encompassing the accumulation of all of your workouts and your overall wellness, including sleep, mood, and stress to understand if you can work at full capacity."
- Christian Hartford
Program Manager of Applied Sport Science Tonal
How can an exercise readiness questionnaire be useful?
An exercise readiness questionnaire is a brief survey that targets various aspects of recovery and preparedness. Readiness is a single assessment that gives athletes the ability to know when they’re training appropriately or when they need to dial things back. It’s important to know that training is not the only thing that affects exercise performance. Sleep, nutrition, emotional status, outside stressors such as relationships and school, etc. all play a role in readiness. By assessing different facets of day-to-day life, athletes, coaches, trainers, and parents can ensure a healthy training plan.
When should a coach or parent intervene based on readiness questionnaire results?
The use of readiness questionnaires is great because it requires self-reflection by the athlete. However, if scores are never discussed, and changes are not made to improve readiness, the potential benefits of the questionnaire are negated. In most cases the first step is a conversation between player and coach/trainer. Two separate examples of athlete results are given below.
Athlete 1 records a 2/5 for sleep and stress for a month straight without mentioning anything to the coaching staff. In this situation the coaches identify a trend in which an athlete is not sleeping enough to recover appropriately, and there is some external stressor affecting their lifestyle. The goal would be to work with the athlete to find a lifestyle balance to improve sleep time and quality while also decreasing stress. An immediate change in programming would likely take place to decrease the overall workload until the external factors are balanced.
Athlete 2 records a 4 or 5/5 across the board for most of the season, then suddenly reports a 1/5 for muscle soreness and discomfort. In this situation the coach uses previous reports to determine that the athlete is likely not ready to train effectively. The goal would be to talk with the athlete prior to the training session to identify a potential injury, lack of recovery, or severe soreness that caused their score to drop. Program modifications would likely take place based on severity, but if the athlete is not injured, they may return to peak performance as soon as the next session.
Remember that the prior goal of the readiness questionnaire is to identify trends over a period of time. Injury prevention should be the top priority of every coach, so decreasing the risk of overuse and overtraining is of utmost importance.
What objective measures can be used to assess readiness?
Subjective assessments of readiness are often used in team settings because they are easily performed independently, and they require little knowledge or expertise to perform. However, there are situations in which objective measures of fatigue, recovery, and stress are practiced.
Heart rate has become more popular in recent years as technologies have developed which can assess heart rate variability (HRV) and heart rate recovery (HRR) in addition to resting heart rate. HRR is the rate at which heart rate decreases following the conclusion of exercise. Improved fitness typically improves HRR while a lack of training or overtraining decrease HRR. To use HRR within a training program, assess peak heart rate during a set, run, etc. as well as heart rate a set time following cessation (10 seconds, 30 seconds, 1 minute).
Measures of physical performance are another great way to assess readiness prior to a session. Depending on the session design and athlete, a coach may conduct a vertical jump test, 10-yard sprint, broad jump, or other high intensity exercise. The goal is to get a generalized idea of neuromuscular fatigue. Similar to the readiness questionnaire itself, these data can be tracked over time to identify ‘off’ days. For example, if an athlete regularly broad jumps 90 inches, but following a weekend tournament they are only able to jump 74 inches, their ability to produce force is limited. It is then the responsibility of the coach and athlete to communicate and determine the best approach for the session.
POMS is the psychological monitoring of overtraining and staleness. This 40-point survey targets mood status at a given point in time. Mood has shown to correlate strongly with recovery and signs of overtraining, making it a useful tool prior to exercise. Each of the 40 questions belongs to one of seven categories (Tension, Anger, Fatigue, Depression, Esteem, Vigor, Confusion). While this scale is extensive and most effective when used by trained professionals, the ability to assess mood state can be extremely valuable for athletes and coaches.
Recovery-Stress Questionnaire for Athletes
The recovery-stress questionnaire for athletes is a tool used to assess an athlete’s readiness in terms of general stress as well as sport-specific fatigue. The 19 total questions are broken down into 12 nonspecific and 7 sport-specific points of interest. The additional benefit of the RESTQ-Sport is that the coach or trainer is given more insight into the cause of stress or lack of recovery than a more generic questionnaire.
Apps are the simplest way for coaches and athletes to track readiness data. Below is a 5-question example of a readiness questionnaire, but many apps allow these to be customized based on the athlete’s needs. The survey that can be completed in a few seconds is saved and sent to the coach for real time, or post-workout assessment. Again, the goal is to catch any glaring changes in the moment, but more importantly, track trends over the season.