Free yourself from data and trust your feelings

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What indicators do you base yourself on to assess your daily shape? What diagnosis do you base yourself on in order to know whether your next training session will be light, moderate or intense? In a previous post, I told you about the danger of being obsessively preoccupied by data. Personally, I trust the short moment of introspection which allows me to connect to myself rather than the link which is automatically produced by the latest cutting-edge application on my smartphone that promises to inform me about my shape… The visual analogic scale which is proposed by Laurent et al. (2011) invites you to estimate your perceived level of recovery. Using it before a training session is a practical way of assessing your recovery day after day and that way to estimate your performance level over the next session: 

Laurent 1One of the main features of our society is the omnipresence of data, a huge yearning for untreated data, and figures. Objective data is king, and leaves little room for the development of a critical mindset, self-awareness, and education. The sport’s world does not escape from this avalanche of data and reports. A systematic review of the literature was carried out in order to compare the relevance of objective markers assessed during off time and training (blood markers, heart rate) as opposed to subjective markers (e.g. mood, perceived stress) to follow up on the responses to training load variations in athletes. The main outcomes showed that subjective data reflects training load variations more accurately than objective data. Thus, depending on the authors and as part of the athlete’s daily follow-up, subjective markers should play a key role in assessing the athlete’s shape in response to the training load; and objective data, which displays a high level of scientific evidence, should only complete this assessment. This subjective data will be all the more reliable because the athlete will have been early accustomed to listening to him(her)self and taking decisions based on his(her) perception. Finally, as suggests James Williams, an ex-Googler who stepped down in order to become a philosopher: “On the short term, these tools (i.e. new technology) distract us from the things we should be doing. On the long term, they can distract us from the life we wish to lead… These technologies put our instincts before our intentions”. For every one of us, it means taking back control over our relationship with technology in order for it not to disrupt our precious path to self-awareness.

Myths and beliefs surrounding sleep

What about your beliefs surrounding sleep?

Isabella mariana

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In terms of health, many beliefs are transmitted in spite of low levels of scientific evidence. They can either promote or refrain from adopting healthy habits. Sleep does not escape this rule and several myths are hard to beat! It is important to identify these myths - which are shared by relatives, the media, press, forums and the Internet - and assess their scientific level of evidence. In a recent study (Robbins et al., 2019), a Delphi procedure was implemented with 11 experts in order to assess the falsehood and importance of some myths surrounding sleep on public health. Authors finally established a list of 20 myths classified into six categories: sleep quantity; sleep timing; nightly habits; daily habits and their impact on sleep; behaviour prior to bedtime; brain activity throughout the night. Among the identified myths, we can find that of “short sleeper” which stipulates that some adults need only 5 or less hours of sleep in order to be fit. Another one refers to a recurring question: if I don’t manage to sleep, should I stay in bed or get up? Another myth refers to snoring: apart from the nuisance it causes for the partner, in most cases it wrongly appears to be without danger for the sleeper. Better identifying and understanding myths and beliefs surrounding sleep is a first step towards: 1) promoting beliefs based on scientific evidence; and (2) proposing educational interventions on sleep.

Mathieu Nedelec, sport scientist in charge of research projects on sleep and recovery. I teach best practices to improve sleep and performance. I will read your answers carefully and let you know when my next posts will be published.