Overtraining- Too Much of a Good Thing

Overtraining- Too Much of a Good Thing

You may not want to face it, but the hard truth is that the potential for Overtraining is a reality for all athletes, including swimmers. Past reports found that up to 37% of elite swimmers between 16-20 years old and 10% of college swimmers experience Overtraining every season! We need to fix these numbers, and the first step is understanding what Overtraining is.

Overtraining has gone by many names: burnout, staleness, failure adaptation, under-recovery, training stress syndrome, unexplained underperformance syndrome and chronic fatigue. When a condition has a lot of names, it usually means no one knows what’s going on. But, each of these names tells us something about the process that leads to Overtraining and they all have some truth to them.

We will go through this vast and difficult concept piece by piece. For starters, Overtraining is a combination of increased stress (usually training, but not necessarily) and poor recovery which leads to poor performance and altered phycology…aka a bad mood. While we have all encountered certain periods in our training where we couldn’t swim very fast or didn’t feel well (called Over-reaching, below), Overtraining is a long term and chronic problem that causes a loss of training adaptations, regression and decreased tolerance to workout. It means you physically degrade the engines and muscles that power the Swimming Machine. Not good.

While coaches try to balance training and recovery, sometimes Overtraining just happens. Learning the signs and symptoms is critical because no single test can 100% prove Overtraining, you have to look at the whole picture. And even if you do find Overtraining to be the problem, by the time you know it’s happening… it’s too late. Prevention, monitoring and curing Overtraining are tools every coach and swimmer should know, so let’s get started.

Tangent: You can think of training as being on a spectrum: Undertraining is where the stimulus is not enough to create new adaptations. Over-reaching is your normal hard training that makes your Swimming Machine improve. Non-functional Over-reaching is where you are training hard, but nothing is getting better. Finally, Overtraining is where you are training hard and getting worse.

 

Over-reaching vs. Overtraining

Before we start describing what Overtraining looks like, let’s outline what normal training should look like. Normal hard training is called Over-reaching. That means you are pushing your Swimming Machine past its capability in the hopes that it will adapt and super-compensate during recovery in order to become better capable of handling what you throw at it. The training part can be hard… like crawling out of the pool hard. It will cause broken muscle fibers and spent muscle sugar, which will last for 24-48 hours. Immediately, you might feel physically sore (broken muscle fibers) and mentally drained (empty fuel tank) and un-motivated. Your next workout or two may feel like your muscles are heavy and not powerful.

But all these bad feelings and changes should be temporary. Within that 1-2 day recovery period, muscles should rebuild and refuel and mentally your motivation and energy should return, just in time for another tough workout. But this time the adaptations we talked about in the Endurance and Sprint training chapters should have taken place and your Swimming Machine is ready to take on new challenges.

Over-reaching is a balance between training, outside stress and recovery. Overtraining is where the balance is lost. Either stress is added or recovery is lost or both. This leads to a vicious cycle of training stressors leading to incomplete recovery, loss of training adaptations which makes any new stressor intolerable, making recovery more difficult… and so on. Those feelings of soreness, being drained and un-motivated that we had during Over-reaching are now a permanent feature and do not improve after 24-48 hours. Because training adaptations have regressed and are totally lost, not even taper can reverse Overtraining. Once the muscle fibers, mitochondria and mental reserve has regressed to a lesser state, there is nothing left to taper! 

Why does this happen? It may seem obvious and logical that training too hard for too long will cause more damage that it builds, but researchers and scientist haven’t really found a great biological mechanism that explains Overtraining. Therefore, there are about a million theories out there to explain what and how Overtraining happens (hence all the names). Most likely, it is a combination of all the theories, that’s why we are going to take a look at a few up and commers and fit them with what we see in practice.

Tangent: New swimmers struggle a lot in practice, but their rate of adaptation is just as impressive. But over time, the massive gains in ability that were seen early in a career slow down. So, if the body is capable of changing and adapting very fast in the beginning, why can’t it do the same at the end? For some reason, there is a limit, and going over the limit is part of Overtraining.

Let’s start with the simplest, most understood and most important theory: Glycogen Depletion. Now we haven’t used the word “glycogen” a lot, but it is basically muscle sugar in storage form. It is the main fuel used in Glycolysis which fuels your muscles during hard training and fast swimming speeds (review in Energy System chapter).

Your muscles have a very limited ability to store this sugar (glycogen) because it is heavy and “wet.” That’s why fat is the preferred storage molecule for your body. During low intensity sets (drills, aerobic endurance…), muscle cells use fats to get the energy they need. But during high intensity sets (aerobic power, lactate sets…) glycogen is the main fuel source, and after about 40 minutes it will be all gone. Usually, workouts run longer than 40 minutes, so what is the muscle using for fuel if the gas tank is empty? Fats are always around, so those get used more, but protein also starts being used. In the past, we have ignored protein as a fuel source because its contribution is so little. But at times like these where the muscle glycogen is run dry, protein use can escalate.

Your muscle cells do not store extra protein around to use as fuel. Protein’s major job is to build stuff with: mitochondria, actin/myosin fibers, enzymes, connective tissue… everything. So, when you run the fuel tank dry of sugar and need something more powerful to burn than fat, your muscles start to self-cannibalize and break down all those protein-based structures in order to fuel the engines and keep the muscles working. In the short term and in small doses, that’s ok because good recovery will give the muscles time to rebuild what was broken down. At the same time, dipping into some protein fuel will let you keep workout going to challenge your Swimming Machine and get it to adapt and get better.   

But if your muscle sugar, stays drained all the time and you don’t get proper nutrition and recovery, your muscles will be forced to keep breaking things down to get fuel from protein in order to survive workout. Over a long enough time, there won’t be anything left. Mitochondria will get smaller, weaker and less able to burn fat for energy. Muscles will also lose size and power as their large protein structures are broken down. This is Overtraining. To put some numbers to the theory, swimmers who ended up being Overtrained had 40% less glycogen in their muscles, and it was found that they were eating 1000 calories less per day than swimmers who did the exact same workouts but did not get Overtrained.

Tangent: In order to use fats at the optimum rate, sugar needs to be available at the same time. Here are the technicals: fat enters the mitochondria as the molecule acetyl-CoA. This is then combined with oxaloacetate to start the Krebs cycle. Oxaloacetate can only be made from sugar. If no sugar, then no oxaloacetate, which means no fat metabolism and the body must rely even more on protein to get its fuel. Bad…

As nice as it would be to stop here and call it a day, this isn’t the whole picture. Plenty of Overtrained swimmers and athletes have no change in glycogen, and others can have huge drops in glycogen all the time, but don’t get Overtrained. It’s more than just a difference in genetics, something else is going on. Here are some other leading theories:

Systemic Inflammatory Disease

This is a nice one because it has the potential to explain everything. They problem is that it’s almost impossible to prove. Anyway, here is how it works. Inflammation is the process the body uses to fight infections, clean up messes and make repairs. We touched on it waaay back when in the first chapter on Muscles. When you work out, muscles get damaged and leak the inside stuff into the outside. Inflammation, run by an army of white blood cells, come in and eat up the garbage and help rebuild the broken tissue.

In small, localized areas this is not a problem. But let’s say you break a lot of muscles all the time. The inflammation and white blood cells will spread as well in an attempt to fix everything. The cells coordinate by sending hormone signals called cytokines (cyto = cell, kine = mover) that attract more white blood cells and activate them. The problem is that if too many cytokines signals are sent, they could activate white blood cells and inflammation in all areas of the body, not just where it is needed (hence the “Systemic”).

Like most hormones, cytokines have their fingers in everything! They can block absorption of sugar into the muscles (further aggravating glycogen depletion), increase stress hormones (coming up), worsen oxidative stress damage (also coming up) cause pain and soreness, and they can explain those mental changes too. Cytokines are the same hormones that make you feel so crummy when you are sick with the flu.

Tangent: Certain bacteria like Staph have a protein called a Supertoxin. It’s not really toxic itself, but it forces all the white blood cells in your body to release all their cytokines at once. This causes something called Toxic Shock Syndrome and is extremely deadly! That’s how powerful these cytokines are, but don’t worry, no amount of training has caused Toxic Shock Syndrome in a person… yet.

Hormone Changes

Classically, Overtraining has been thought to cause or be caused by rises in certain hormones. If you look back at our Hormone chapter, we talked about a couple stress hormones. The short term “keep me alive now” hormone was adrenaline, and the long term “keep me alive tomorrow” hormone was cortisol. These hormones do a great job in small amounts and will naturally rise during workout and recovery. They help burn glycogen faster to create more power, decrease inflammation to keep muscles working without white blood cells getting in the way, and they raise blood pressure and heart rate to improve athletic performance and recovery.

But let’s say your body is exposed to high levels of these “stress” hormones all the time. Not just from workout, but from school, breakups, deaths, tests, moving, partying…aka life. Well then, we have a problem. The hormones only work if they cycle and have a chance to go back down to resting levels. Keeping them high all the time will start to decrease their effectiveness during workout and prevent recovery outside of workout. High cortisol and adrenaline levels will increase protein and glycogen use as fuel, disturb sleep and appetite, cause bad moods and limit your body’s ability to fight infection. This leads to breaking down of all the adaptations you worked so hard on and regression. What is nice about the hormone theory is that it explains how other stressors that are unrelated to training can impact our performance in the pool. What is not nice is that once again, it is not consistent across all Overtrained athletes.

Tangent: Alcohol and drugs increase protein breakdown and catabolism, besides being directly toxic themselves. Bad for those with goals.

Oxidative Stress

The last big theory we will talk about is about Oxidative stress. If you remember from our Energy System chapter, oxygen is breathed in and used in the muscle’s engines to pick the left-over electrons at the end of the mitochondria. It picks up the garbage. Normally, this pickup of an electron and a couple hydrogen atoms turns the oxygen into water, which is harmless. But 5% of the time, that same oxygen and electron don’t combine quite right and it creates a “reactive oxygen species.” Like their name, these guys react with things and can cause all kinds of damage to protein and DNA… unless they are scavenged and cleaned up, which is what usually happens and there are no problems.

The formation and elimination of these naughty oxygens is usually balanced out. But in training, the added oxygen supply and constant formation of these radicals can overcome your body’s ability to clean them up. This causes damage and regression of training adaptations and ability to perform. 

So, which of these theories are right? Most likely it depends on the person, and most likely it is a combination of many or all of what we talked about. That’s why we need to know all the signs and symptoms of various types of Overtraining and their causes. Once we know what’s wrong, it becomes easier to fix.

You may have noticed that some of these theories don’t reveal which came first, the Oxidative stress or the Overtraining? The Hormone change or the Overtraining? The Inflammation or the Overtraining!? We just don’t know every time, that’s why our prevention and treatment is going to attack all of these!

 

What does Overtraining Look Like and How to Test for it

Overtraining can be subtle, obvious or it can look totally different in different swimmers. But the common theme is a decrease in performance (possible in training, but definitely in meets) and some kind of behavior change. As we talked about before, the decreased performance is a result of losing the training adaptations you have been building, and so training tolerance goes down as well as sprint and endurance abilities. The behavior change can be variable: low motivation, irritable, sleep and appetite changes, depression and not wanting to rise to any challenges or being unable to find anything funny.

I wish I could tell you to do this one test and it will tell you if you’re are Overtraining or not. But that test doesn’t exist yet. Instead, let’s try to draw the big picture and figure out what to look for in our swimming that can hint about what is going on. Let’s start with the performance part:

If we are Overtraining and losing adaptations, then this should show up in training and test sets. That seems logical. But be careful. The test needs to be done at the right time and the results need to be analyzed in multiple ways.

First off, never run a test set without a couple days of easy, recovery swimming beforehand. This will allow the Swimming Machine to restock on glycogen and repair some broken muscles, maybe not to Taper levels, but enough to show if we are improving or not. A couple days of recovery will not be enough to reverse and fix a truly Overtrained swimmer, and so their performance on the test will still be poor.

Tangent: Not doing recovery days is like trying to race a car without any fuel in the tank. Doesn’t matter how big an engine it has, no fuel = no speed = useless test.

Let’s come up with a test and run a mental experiment and see what happens to a swimmer as they become Overtrained and how that might look like during a test set.

For the test, let’s do 20x100s Long Course with a 10 second rest in between each 100, and every 5th 100 there will be a full 60s rest. We aren’t going to just measure average time per 100 or total time (obviously this set is for time), we are also going spot check tempo, stroke length (easier in Long Course), perceived exertion and heart rate after 30s rest during the 60s break (this is called recovery heartrate). This test is long enough that it will challenge the endurance engines of the Swimming Machine but has built in rest to let us measure and track some data. Think of it as a broken Timed-2000. Let’s look at the results from our two swimmers:

Total Time

Average 100

Tempo

Heart Rate

Strokes/50

Perceived Effort (0-10)

Baseline

40 min

1:42

0.75

170

44

8

Time 1

36 min

1:32

0.8

165

42

7.5

Time 2

36 min

1:32

1

185

49

9

 

From the baseline test, there was improvement in performance at Time 1. Faster average speed on each 100, better tempo, lower heart rate, better DPS (shown as strokes per 50) and lower perceived exertion. Perfect!

Time 2 shows the swimmer didn’t improve, but they didn’t get worse either in terms of time and swimming speed. So, no Overtraining, right? Nope. By the other numbers we gathered, it took that swimmer a lot more effort to go the same time. They compensated by having a higher tempo, less DPS, and their effort was much higher as evidenced by the higher recovery heart rate. This isn’t a knock out of the park diagnosis, but if the time had been slower on top of all the other numbers listed, we would be very worried about Overtraining in this swimmer. Remember, this was after two days of rest, the times should be better if training is going well.

Tangent: Runners who were known to be Overtrained showed heart rates that were 24 beats per minute (18%) higher during submaximal running speeds!

As we see in this test. the most annoying problem with Overtraining is that the athletes can compensate to fake good training, when in reality performance is getting worse. The regression of their adaptations won’t be made obvious until the end of the season when you don’t go a best time at the championship meet. On the other hand, someone could interpret these numbers as the swimmer not having tried that hard on the Baseline test and is in-fact improving normally. It makes interpreting the numbers very difficult. That’s where mood testing comes in.

Tangent: Changes in resting heart rate (right when you wake up) are also being researched as a way to monitor for Overtraining. Increases of about 10 beats per minute from baseline could indicate overtraining. But this is not 100% accurate. You could have normal heart rate and still be Overtrained. This is called Heart Beat Variability.

Mostly likely, swimmers won’t tell you that they are in a bad mood, sleep badly, constantly have anxiety about workout and that they aren’t eating. Lucky for you, you can use the Profile of Mood State (POMS) questionnaire to quantify and monitor mood disturbance. The short version with instructions on how to use are at the end of this chapter.

The POMS’s list of adjectives are part of seven sub-categories. Five are negative feelings: Tension, Anger, Fatigue, Depression and Confusion. Two are positive feelings: Vigor and Esteem. A simple calculation combines these sub-categories into one score called the Total Mood Disturbance (TMD). Essentially, you use the POMS the same way you use a swimming test set. Get a baseline score before the season starts and repeat the test a couple times throughout the season. Here is an example of what an Over-reached swimmer’s scores look like vs. an Overtrained swimmer:

Tangent: Total Mood Disturbance Score = (Tension + Depression + Anger + Fatigue + Confusion) - (Vigor + Esteem). Adding 100 to the score eliminates negative numbers.

 

Overreach

Baseline

1

2

Taper

Total Mood Disturbance

75

86

92

81

Vigor

18

17

17

17

Tension

0

4

5

9

Anger

2

4

5

2

Fatigue

3

4

5

1

Depression

4

6

8

4

Confusion

2

4

6

3

Esteem

18

19

20

21

Percent Changes from Baseline

Pre

1

2

Taper

Total Mood Disturbance

-

14.7

22.7

8.0

Vigor

-

-5.6

-5.6

-5.6

 

Over-trained

Baseline

1

2

Taper

Total Mood Disturbance

75

86

128

119

Vigor

18

17

8

13

Tension

0

4

8

16

Anger

2

4

6

6

Fatigue

3

4

16

9

Depression

4

6

13

8

Confusion

2

4

9

7

Esteem

18

19

16

14

Percent Changes from Baseline

Pre

1

2

Taper

Total Mood Disturbance

-

14.7

70.7

58.7

Vigor

-

-5.6

-55.6

-27.8

 

Before we dive into all these numbers, let’s figure out how to read this mess. On the left, you will see all the sub-categories, as well as the TMD at the top. The columns on the right are the scores that we get after each test. A baseline test, two mid-season tests and a Taper test.  If the TMD rises, that means moods are worse. If Vigor scores fall, that means moods are worse. You can mostly ignore the other sub-categories. At the bottom of each table is another smaller table that shows the percent change in score from baseline.

For these two swimmers, the season started the same. Good TMD and Vigor scores at baseline and at Test-1. A slight change in numbers shows up in Test-1, but that is normal. You expect hard training to produce some fatigue and mild mood changes.

But by Test-2 something big changes. The Over-trained swimmer sees a huge jump in TMD (70% from baseline) and a big drop in Vigor (-55%). This is highly suspicious for Overtraining (duh…we made up the numbers). But by the research, an increase of the TMD by 25% along with a large drop in Vigor is a result of Overtraining 80% of the time. That makes the POMS one of the best tools for monitoring and helping diagnose Overtraining!

We get confirmation that this is Overtraining with the Taper test. The Overreached swimmer’s numbers return almost to baseline (a little jump in Tension scores is expected with upcoming races). But the Over-trained swimmer’s scores do not even get close to baseline. That’s because Taper is not enough to fix Overtraining.

Remember, bad moods alone don’t mean much, you need bad swimming performance too. If all we had was a bad mood but the Swimming Machine kept getting better and putting up best times, then the mood disturbance is coming from something other than Overtraining (teenagers....). But if you have the whole picture of bad racing, bad training, and a disturbance in the mood state then Overtraining needs to be seriously considered and fixed…like now!

 

How to Fix Overtraining and Stop it from Happening Again

You finally admitted to yourself that you or your swimmers are Overtrained. For months performance at meets has gone downhill despite increased training. Even with taper there were no best times and their mood in practice has been stale and un-energetic. This radical problem needs a radical solution. In our treatment and prevention, we are going to target all the theories we have as to the cause of Overtraining.

As we have mentioned before, Taper is not an acceptable solution to Overtraining. There is nothing to Taper and a few days of rest won’t build back up what was broken down over the last few months. The best way to deal with Overtraining is to start the season over, but this time eliminate extra stressors and improve recovery. And by “start the season over” I mean you have to start with time off. Just accept from the beginning that his healing process might take weeks to months.

You Swimming Machine is either building (anabolic) or breaking (catabolic). In Overtraining, it was breaking more than building, and now we have to get the system to flip the switch to building mode. By taking 3-7 days off, it allows all the glycogen to be restored in all the muscle cells, damage to be repaired, inflammation and cytokine signals to die down and stress hormone levels to return to normal for long enough that their signal will start to mean something again when it matters (like in practice). Time away from the pool will be good for the mind as well.

If after a week the POMS hasn’t normalized, or heart rate in the morning is still high or for whatever reason you are not back to your normal self, take more time off! This process cannot be rushed and jumping back in before the body is ready to accept new stressors (training) will just throw you back into Overtraining and breaking mode.

Once you are ready to start training again, you need to realize you are back to square one, just like a new season. Start with slow, basic endurance training, once a day (no doubles). Some short sprints are ok to maintain racing technique and muscle memory, but 80% of workout should be nice, slow yards. No Aerobic Power (pace), Aerobic Endurance (threshold) or Lactate sets. We need to build those mitochondria, heart and capillaries back up so they can fuel our races and remove lactic acid effectively after every repeat.

Just because you restarted the season doesn’t mean you won’t run into Overtraining again. In fact, if you do everything exactly the same as before, you will Overtrain again. We need to make more changes. Outside of the pool stressors should be dealt with and eliminated. Get over the breakup, stop partying, deal with finals, pass driver’s ed, stop other sports (yes, I said it) … whatever else is taking up your energy outside of the pool needs to be minimized. You are a Swimming Machine, not an everything machine.

Sleep at least 8 hours a day (that means 10pm lights out) and take naps. Remember that Overtraining is an imbalance between stressors and recovery. There is no better recovery than sleep, so get on it. To help, follow good sleep hygiene habits: No screens starting two hours before bedtime (use sunglasses indoors if you have to, orange/red ones are best), don’t work or study in your bed (it’s only for sleeping), room should be dark, cold and quite (no TV) and lastly no alcohol. It helps put you to sleep faster but messes up your cycles during the night.

Tangent: Melatonin is a hormone that signals “night time” and gets your body to do night time things, like sleep. Blue light suppresses the release of this hormone, therefore messing up your circadian rhythm. Red glasses help block the blue light, and over the counter melatonin supplements can be tried as well. The experiments say the supplements don’t work… but its worth a try. 10mg an hour before bed every day.

We will discuss Nutrition in detail in a later chapter, but for now let’s take a peek at diet changes we need to make this time around. Most Overtraining can be avoided by getting enough calories in per day, specifically sugar/carbs immediately after practice ends. Preventing the muscle from self-cannibalizing means keeping those glycogen stores up so it has a preferred fuel source available and doesn’t have to rely on protein to get its fuel. During workout and immediately afterward you should be getting your sugar in liquid form every single workout from a solution that is about 10% sugar. After that, meals should have a large complex carb portion to maintain recovery throughout the day and night. Don’t be afraid to carb load like a marathon runner (500g of carbs per day!). You train like a marathon runner, you should fuel like one too. This can double the rate of glycogen recovery when compared to a regular diet. That’s a big deal. (Taper is a different story though… might want to cut down the carbs then).

Great! You recovered to baseline, took care of outside the pool business, restarted training nice a slow, fueled, hydrated and slept really well and you are feeling better than ever. It’s time to start hard training and getting ready to race again. Overtraining is still a possibility, and this time you don’t want to wait until you are deep in it before you throttle back to fix it. So, let’s talk monitoring and preventing Overtraining.

Tangent: Long ago in China, there once were two brothers who were both doctors. The older brother was well known in the land as a great doctor, but the younger brother was almost unknown altogether.

One day, the oldest brother was summoned to the emperor’s palace. The emperor asked him why he was so great and his brother so unknown. The older brother said “Well, actually my younger brother is the really good doctor. You see, I only treat diseases after they have gotten bad and show many symptoms. And that is why I am so famous. My brother on the other hand prevents diseases before they even show symptoms, so no one knowns about him because it looks like he never treats anything.”

Most of the coming suggestions are the responsibility of coaches, but you the swimmer can get involved too. After all, you are the one on the blocks.

Training should be periodized with recovery days built into mini-cycles, and recovery weeks built into macro-cycles. Instead of constantly increasing yards and training intensity every week, cycle between hard and easy days throughout the week. And after every 3-6 weeks, drop in a recovery week. These act as safety nets and release valves so that no matter how hard you go in practice, there is always recovery built in.

Next, use test sets and POMS to monitor training throughout the season. College swimmers who used POMS to monitor and adjust training went from having a 10% Overtraining rate to 0%! Now… that doesn’t necessarily mean they swam faster at the end of the season. Very little (if any) data has linked good POMS scores to good end of season results. But you know what, my bet is that a happy swimmer is a fast swimmer. Make sure POMS scores do not worsen by 25% in the TMD and that Vigor scores do not drop too much. If they do, adjust training, diet, and recovery to normalize those numbers.

Monitoring mood changes is a great tool, but it’s no substitute for great team culture on deck. Coaches, swimmers and parents all have a role to play here. The culture should be motivating, not pressurizing. Coaches should explain to swimmers that there will be ups and downs throughout the season and that this is normal. After all, you can’t have good races without bad ones, and if it was all easy it wouldn’t be worth the effort.

Final suggestions. We dealt with the glycogen depletion by fixing the diet, hormone and cytokine problems with rest, and mood changes with changing culture. All that is left is dealing with the Oxidative Stress. Certain vitamins and minerals have been shown to be important in preventing the accumulation of oxygen free radicals. Whether you get them in a pill or from food is probably not that important. But if you aren’t getting all you need from your diet, that might suggest you have a bigger problem with your diet than you know about. Here is a summary of what you need and where to get them:

  • BCAA and glutamine (specific amino acids)- help with the immune system

Tangent: Getting your flu shot also helps your immune system!

  • Beta-carotene (30mg/day) and Vitamin C (400-800mg/day)- from green and orange things (sweet tators, broccoli, spinach, carrots, apricots, mangoes, berries
  • Vitamin E (400mg/day)- from nut fats (almonds, sunflower seeds, cados)
  • Selenium (60-100mg/day) – from meat and whole grains

Remember, a fool learns from their own mistakes, but a wise person learns from the mistakes of others. If you or someone you know has experienced Overtraining, don’t just jump in and do the same thing, change something!

  

 

 

 

Profile of Mood State

Below is a list of words that describe feelings people have.  Please CIRCLE THE NUMBER THAT BEST DESCRIBES HOW YOU FEEL RIGHT NOW.

 

Not At All

A Little

Moderately

Quite a lot

Extremely

Tense

0

1

2

3

4

Angry

0

1

2

3

4

Worn Out

0

1

2

3

4

Unhappy

0

1

2

3

4

Proud

0

1

2

3

4

Lively

0

1

2

3

4

Confused

0

1

2

3

4

Sad

0

1

2

3

4

Active

0

1

2

3

4

On-edge

0

1

2

3

4

Grouchy

0

1

2

3

4

Ashamed

0

1

2

3

4

Energetic

0

1

2

3

4

Hopeless

0

1

2

3

4

Uneasy

0

1

2

3

4

Restless

0

1

2

3

4

Unable to concentrate

0

1

2

3

4

Fatigued

0

1

2

3

4

Competent

0

1

2

3

4

Annoyed

0

1

2

3

4

Discouraged

0

1

2

3

4

Resentful

0

1

2

3

4

Nervous

0

1

2

3

4

Miserable

0

1

2

3

4


 

Not At All

A Little

Moderately

Quite a lot

Extremely

Confident

0

1

2

3

4

Bitter

0

1

2

3

4

Exhausted

0

1

2

3

4

Anxious

0

1

2

3

4

Helpless

0

1

2

3

4

Weary

0

1

2

3

4

Satisfied

0

1

2

3

4

Bewildered

0

1

2

3

4

Furious

0

1

2

3

4

Full of Pep

0

1

2

3

4

Worthless

0

1

2

3

4

Forgetful

0

1

2

3

4

Vigorous

0

1

2

3

4

Uncertain about things

0

1

2

3

4

Bushed

0

1

2

3

4

Embarrassed

0

1

2

3

4

 

Copyright © 1993

J.R. Grove, PhD

The University of Western Australia

Abbreviated POMS (Revised Version)

 

*** SCORING KEY ***

Scores for the seven subscales in the abbreviated POMS are calculated by summing the numerical ratings for items that contribute to each subscale.  The correspondence between items and subscales is shown below.

 

Item

Scale

Not At All

A Little

Moderate

Quite a lot

Extremely

Tense

TEN

0

1

2

3

4

Angry

ANG

0

1

2

3

4

Worn Out

FAT

0

1

2

3

4

Unhappy

DEP

0

1

2

3

4

Proud

ERA

0

1

2

3

4

Lively

VIG

0

1

2

3

4

Confused

CON

0

1

2

3

4

Sad

DEP

0

1

2

3

4

Active

VIG

0

1

2

3

4

On-edge

TEN

0

1

2

3

4

Grouchy

ANG

0

1

2

3

4

Ashamed

ERA

Reverse-score this item [0 = 4, 1 = 3, 2 = 2, 3 = 1, 4 = 0]

Energetic

VIG

0

1

2

3

4

Hopeless

DEP

0

1

2

3

4

Uneasy

TEN

0

1

2

3

4

Restless

TEN

0

1

2

3

4

Can’t concentrate

CON

0

1

2

3

4

Fatigued

FAT

0

1

2

3

4

Competent

ERA

0

1

2

3

4

Annoyed

ANG

0

1

2

3

4

Discouraged

DEP

0

1

2

3

4

Resentful

ANG

0

1

2

3

4

Nervous

TEN

0

1

2

3

4

Miserable

DEP

0

1

2

3

4


Item

Scale

Not At All

A Little

Moderate

Quite a lot

Extremely

Confident

ERA

0

1

2

3

4

Bitter

ANG

0

1

2

3

4

Exhausted

FAT

0

1

2

3

4

Anxious

TEN

0

1

2

3

4

Helpless

DEP

0

1

2

3

4

Weary

FAT

0

1

2

3

4

Satisfied

ERA

0

1

2

3

4

Bewildered

CON

0

1

2

3

4

Furious

ANG

0

1

2

3

4

Full of Pep

VIG

0

1

2

3

4

Worthless

DEP

0

1

2

3

4

Forgetful

CON

0

1

2

3

4

Vigorous

VIG

0

1

2

3

4

Uncertain…

CON

0

1

2

3

4

Bushed

FAT

0

1

2

3

4

Embarrassed

ERA

Reverse-score this item [0 = 4, 1 = 3, 2 = 2, 3 = 1, 4 = 0]

 

 

TEN = Tension

Note that 2 of the items on the Esteem-related Affect (ERA) subscale are reverse-scored prior

 

ANG = Anger

to being combined with the other items.

 

Total Mood Disturbance (TMD) is calculated by summing the totals for the negative subscales and then subtracting the totals for the positive subscales:

 

TMD = [TEN+DEP+ANG+FAT+CON]-[VIG+ERA].

 

A constant (e.g., 100) can be added to the TMD formula in order to eliminate negative scores.

 

FAT = Fatigue

DEP = Depression

ERA = Esteem-related Affect

VIG = Vigour

CON = Confusion

 

Karl Hamouche- Swim Smart founder
© 2018 Swim Smart, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

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