Author Identifiers

Joseph Coyne
ORCID: 0000-0002-5855-4298

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


School of Medical and Health Sciences

First Advisor

Professor G. Gregory Haff

Second Advisor

Professor Robert U. Newton

Third Advisor

Aaron J. Coutts

Fourth Advisor

Distinguished Professor Aaron Coutts


Training load (TL) monitoring is considered important to understand an athlete’s ability to perform in training and competition along with their risk of any injury and illness. By assessing the physical work an athlete performs in training (i.e., external TL) and/or the athlete’s response to that training (i.e., internal TL), a basic model of an athlete’s response to training can be estimated by the difference between chronic “fitness” (positive) and acute “fatigue” (negative) functions. Subjective measures of TL, which includes sessional ratings of perceived exertion (sRPE), and differential ratings of perceived exertion, are both considered measures of internal TL. Of these, sRPE is the most common, is recommended as the primary TL measure in team sports, is also widely used in endurance-based sports and is the principal focus of this thesis.

When examining relationships between sRPE-TL with performance, there has been very little research in this area but there does appear to be some level of relationship in both open (OS) and closed skill (CS) sports. The difference between OS and CS sports is of interest as research suggests that any TL relationship with performance may be influenced by mental fatigue and mental fatigue experienced by athletes may differ between OS and CS sports. To date, the research investigating TL and the relationship to performance has been focused on sports that are relatively similar in terms of skill nature and mental fatigue. There exists a gap in the literature examining sRPE-TL relationship with performance, if this relationship exists across OS and CS sports and how mental fatigue may influence sRPE-TL. Alongside this, there are also issues with how TL measures are calculated and how subjective TL measures relate to other objective markers of athlete readiness (e.g., heart rate variability). Therefore, the central aim of this thesis was to examine the relationship between TL and performance in different OS and CS sports and to determine if there were differences in TL measures between successful and unsuccessful performances in these sports at an elite level. Alongside this, further examinations into the different TL calculation issues (including the issue of mathematical coupling in the acute to chronic workload ratio (ACWR)), the influence of mental fatigue on sRPE-TL and the sRPE-TL relationship with athlete readiness markers in athletes at an elite level were also warranted as secondary aims for this thesis.

The main finding of this thesis was that there appeared to be a relationship between subjective TL and performance measures for elite Olympic level athletes in both CS and OS sports. Other secondary findings from the thesis included i) the influence of the mathematical coupling inherent in the ACWR appeared trivial, despite other critical issues with the ratio; ii) mental fatigue did not seem to significantly influence sRPE scores from individual training sessions when accounting for nature of the sport (OS versus CS), duration of training and influence of injury/illness, and iii) there were trivial small correlations between sRPE-TL and objective markers of athlete readiness (heart rate variability and direct current potential) in both OS and CS sports.

Available for download on Tuesday, July 04, 2023