Survey Says: Time To Ask Your Athletes These 5 Questions




Note: Athletes must upgrade to the latest version of our iOS or Android mobile app to receive Readiness Surveys.

You’ve written your program. You put a lot of effort into it, and it’s a very good program. It has aspects of block, linear, and undulating periodization, autoregulation, and just the right amount of progressive overload.But who is it perfect for? Will everyone adapt and recover on your schedule?

Presuming an elite, cloned army of drones on PEDs, who do nothing but train with you and sleep, in a universe where nothing unexpected ever happens: maybe.

In this world, where athletes:

  • are different genetically and psychologically
  • don’t get enough sleep
  • don’t get enough of the right nutrients
  • have sport practice and games
  • face plenty of stressors other than training

So, what can we do, rather than hoping everything works out for the best? Collect data along the way, and adjust when necessary. That’s why we built our Athlete Readiness Survey.

Aren’t surveys kind of old school?

Look, there are oodles of ways to measure yourself these days. Between wearables and apps, it’s easy to measure heart rate, heart-rate variability (HRV), sleep quality, and whatever other signals your body might be sending out. These can all be influenced by training stress. Still, these types of measurements are rivaled, and even bested, by Athlete Readiness Surveys. It turns out that taxing the body and mind in training reliably causes decreases in an athlete’s perception of their own wellness. The same changes aren’t always seen by other measures, which can be expensive or tedious to measure. How hard is it to answer a few questions?

Think about the last time you went through a truly hard training cycle. At first, you felt pretty good. Eventually, it became apparent you were accumulating fatigue from session to session; your performance wasn’t as consistent, there was some lingering soreness. You felt less motivated to train, and a little “off.” Who hasn’t taken it a little too far for just a little too long (admit it), and felt like a faded version of themself afterward? These changes in athlete status would be reflected in TrainHeroic’s survey. There are times for reaching deep into your reserves, and times where that’s inappropriate. The point is to be able to make that choice by monitoring athletes continuously.

Surveys are cheap, fast, easy, and at least as good as more complicated methods. Even if you’re already using something higher-tech like GPS or VBT, why not add surveys for some corroborating evidence? When multiple streams of data are leading you in the same direction, you can be sure you’re doing the right thing for your athlete when you take action.

How We Built It

We have one concern: collecting useful data. That means we have to ask the right questions, and we have to get athletes to log the information. After doing our research and consulting with coaches, sport scientists, and exercise psychologists, we designed our survey around aspects of athlete wellness that

1. Are responsive to changes in training loads (acute and chronic)

If training loads change, so should the athlete’s responses.

2. Are easy for the athlete to assess

They won’t be confused, and they won’t have to think too much

3. Give the survey as much breadth as possible (in as few questions as possible)

It’d be great if they’d answer 100 questions every day, but we don’t have that luxury. We need to get a good assessment in only a handful of questions.

Long, “Perfect” survey → “Perfect” data, that nobody logs→ Low utility.
Short, “Really Good” survey → “Really Good” data, Athletes consistently do it → High utility

4. Have high “face validity”

If the questions seem to measure something important, athlete buy-in will be higher. The questions we chose to measure are: Stress, Mood, Sleep Quality, Soreness, and Energy.

Combined, these will give you a snapshot of how the athlete is doing every time they train. Trends over time will help you assess how the athlete is responding to training.

Of these, sleep quality is actually the least reliable in terms of responsiveness to training loads. But, it is very often an actionable item that will improve recovery and performance, so we and our coaches and scientists want to keep tabs on how our athletes are sleeping.

We put a lot of effort into making it effortless and enjoyable for athletes to answer the survey questions.



  • You can answer the questions without ever moving your hand. Answering one question scrolls you to the next, and the answers are already under your thumb.
  • The answers are on a 1-5 Likert-type scale. This is a familiar type of scale.
  • We give as few options as the research says is valid (5). This keeps athletes from having to think too much, while still giving enough options to identify changes.
  • Once you’re familiar with the survey, it takes about 10 seconds to complete.

What’s good? What’s bad? How do I use this?

When interpreting the answers to these questions, it’s important to remember that each athlete has their own “normal” values. What you’re looking for are decreases from their typical scores.

As for how to use it: that very much depends on your coaching environment.

1:1, personal coaches might look at every data point for an athlete, and be able to have detailed conversations about what they see. It’s very possible for this coach to know about and control pretty much everything that’s going on. If you’re coaching a big team or group, these surveys can be the start of that conversation. Maybe you see an athlete who is trending down, and their performance hasn’t been what you’d expect. Sounds like it’s time to find out more about what’s going on.

Ultimately, the intervention is up to you. TrainHeroic’s goal is to empower you to do what you do best: coach.

Further Reading

These are just a few of the resources we consulted. We’re highlighting these because they may be of particular interest to you if you want to dig a little deeper.

Bartholomew JB1, Stults-Kolehmainen MA, Elrod CC, Todd JS. Strength gains after resistance training: the effect of stressful, negative life events. J Strength Cond Res. 2008 Jul;22(4):1215-21.

One of a bunch of investigations showing that stress compromises adaptations to training.

Flatt, Andrew A. et al. Heart rate variability and psychometric responses to overload and tapering in collegiate sprint-swimmers. J Sci Med Sport. 2017 Jun;20(6):606-610.

You can clearly see differing responses to heavy training, and how survey responses corroborated HRV measurements.

Malone S, Owen A, Newton M, Mendes B4, Tiernan L, Hughes B, Collins K. Wellbeing perception and the impact on external training output among elite soccer players. J Sci Med Sport. 2018 Jan;21(1):29-34.

Wellness is clearly associated with performance in training in these athletes. A good example of comparisons between survey data and performance/training load

Saw AE, Main LC, Gastin PB. Monitoring the athlete training response: subjective self-reported measures trump commonly used objective measures: a systematic review. Br J Sports Med 2016; 50:281-291.

A nice review of the research available at the time. This one’s dense.

About The Author

Adam Dawdy is a Product Manager at TrainHeroic. Before that, he coached in various settings, taught, and studied biomechanics and exercise physiology. Adam is a converted endurance athlete who enjoys the pursuit of strength.