Category: monitoring

Training Load Conference In Aspire

Last week we held a fantastic conference at Aspire: “Monitoring Athlete Training Loads, the Hows and Whys”. We had attendees from all over the World and a pretty amazing line up of speakers, so I considered it a privilege to be able to give an overview of my experiences to the audience in the company of pretty amazing sports scientists.

The opening keynote was provided by Professor Carl Foster who gave an excellent overview of this area starting from his initial papers describing the session RPE method ending to recent papers using mathematical models as well as some aspects about how he sees the future of this field.
3 days full of activities followed with invited speakers, young investigators and free papers. The invited speakers were:
  • Prof. Carl Foster (USA) 
  • Dr. Dave Martin (AUS) 
  • Dr. Stephen Seiler (NOR) 
  • Dr. Bill Sands (USA) 
  • Dr. Darren Burgess (AUS)
  • Prof. Martin Buchheit (FRA)
  • Dr. Marco Cardinale (QAT) 
  • Prof. Aaron Coutts (AUS)
  • Dr. Tim Gabbett (AUS)
  • Assoc. Prof. Inigo Mujika (ESP)
  • Prof. Warren Gregson (QAT) 
  • Dr. Alberto Mendes-Villanueva (QAT)
  • Dr. Michael Kellmann (GER)
  • Mr. Andrew Murray (QAT)
  • Mr. Rod Whiteley (QAT)
  • Dr. Jos J. de Koning (NED)
  • Dr. Matthew Varley (QAT
Training monitoring was discussed within various sporting contexts: individual sports, team sports, combat and acrobatic sports as well as technologies and psychometric tools, mathematical models and injury prevention.
We will provide online access to all the talks of the conference soon on the Aspire Academy website ( and we have agreed to publish a special issue of the International Journal of Sports Physiology and Performance with all the papers from the conference and mini/extended reviews of this area to make sure that we can capture and disseminate all the knowledge exchanged and acquired over the 3 days.


In summary there was a lot of talk about the simple use of session RPE and how it could be used not only to track training load in many sports but also how it can be used to assess the likelihood of injuries in some sporting groups. Many (myself included) raised some issues with using just this measure as it is strongly biased by training duration and does not provide enough information to be able to change the content of the training. All speakers tended to agree that training monitoring needs an holistic approach with various measures used also according to the sport analysed, and the concept of dose-response it is something we need to revisit as many individual training sessions are prescribed without understanding the responses such sessions trigger. New technologies were discussed in terms of their validity and reliability and it was clear that too many manufacturers are too keen to sell and not keen to make sure their products are valid and reliable as well as having mostly black box approaches in which it is impossible or very difficult to extract raw data for advanced analytical capabilities. Finally, there was a call for standardisation of data collections as even in simple tools like RPE various scales are used also in various languages and not validated which permeate the literature and man felt this makes it difficult to compare studies conducted in various countries. The translation aspect of other psychometric tools was highlighted by Prof. Kellman which clearly stated that literal translation may not be appropriate in some countries as specific terms (and therefore anchors used in psychometric tools) might have a completely different meaning in the sociocultural context in which they are translated from English. Definitively more work is needed to a true international standardisation of many psychometric tools and visual analog scales.
My prezi is available here (no voice):

The conference attracted a lot of interest in social media and was trending on Twitter every single day. I have collected the most significant tweets and reactions in a storify file to facilitate access and it is accessible below.

Motion trackers and lifestyle technology

I have been recently looking at various activity monitors and apps as I am developing an interest into stress related research and wellness. Most of the research published in this field in the last twenty years suffers in fact from lack of technology to quantify more aspects of wellness and physical activity. Original studies in this field had to rely on questionnaires (reported activity/sleep/food intake), but now with the development of small portable technology measurement opportunities have improved.

In the last few years I used mainly heart rate monitors, actigraphs, and the sensewear armband to look at activity patterns, energy expenditure and sleeping patterns of athletes.

One of the most interesting tools I have come across is the Jawbone bracelet and its iPhone® app.

Jawbone seems to be a true wellness device. In fact it is capable of tracking your activity, your sleep and your meals. The Jawbone band has a built-in precision motion sensor that automatically tracks your movement (steps, distance, calories burned, pace, intensity level and active vs inactive time ) and sleep (hours slept, time to fall asleep, light vs. deep sleep and sleep quality). No information is available on validity and reliability of its measurements, and at the moment I am not aware of any study published using it.  The reviews from various bloggers and magazines (see this one on Wired) have been positive. However I still have not managed to see one in action as it has been impossible to buy one online (perennially out of stock). If I can get hold of one, I promise I will write about it.

This seems to be potentially a great product for wellness and elite sport which can allow us to understand more about activity patterns, sleep and eating patterns of our athletes/clients. If it is precise and reliable.


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Epidermal Electronics

I have been recently reading a lot about epidermal electronics. Pretty soon patients in hospitals (and sports people) should be able to wear skin mounted electrodes to be able to measure a variety of physiological indicators in real time for a prolonged period of time.

The latest innovation comes from the University of Illinois. A new device looking like a tattoo, has been developed and proposed as an innovative smart skin solution. Researchers at the University of Illinois who came up with this device made circuits with a wide array of components, to prove it could work: sensors, LEDs, transistors, radio frequency capacitors and wireless antennas. The devices can draw power from induction or even from mini solar cells!

Inventors say they could be used for various medical applications, especially sensors that monitor heart and muscle activity, which currently require conductive gels and/or relatively bulky equipment. To prove it, they measured electrical activity produced by the heart, brain, and skeletal muscles, some data are reported in Science.

image You can also see a video of the technology below. Pretty impressive technology which will be hopefully available soon!

This is impressive technology, pushing the boundaries of wearable sensors and providing incredible possibilities for studying human movement.

(Example of a sensor setup for EEG and other measurements. Photo courtesy of Prof. John Rogers)

(Easy removal of the skin mounted electrode. Photo courtesy of Prof. John Rogers)

You can learn more about this and other technologies developed by Professor Rogers’ group here.