Collegiate athletes experience a unique combination of stressors: academic, athletic, physiological, and social. The relationship between physiological stress due to training and perceived cognitive stress is not yet well-understood. PURPOSE: The current study evaluated the relationship between physiological and cognitive stress as represented by training load and cumulative life stress using the College Student Athlete Life Stress Scale (LSS) for collegiate cross-country skiers, respectively. It was hypothesized that no significant relationship would be found between these two measures, indicating that physiological and perceived cognitive stress contribute independently to total stress. METHODS: Collegiate cross-country skiers (10 women: (Mean ± SD) 20 ± 2 yrs, 22.9 ± 2.3 kg/m2 BMI; 5 men: 21 ± 1 yrs, 22.5 ± 1.2 kg/m2 BMI) were recruited from Montana State University. Data was collected during four separate 1-week collection periods over the course of the fall semester, representing different parts of the skiers’ training cycle. Throughout each week, subjects recorded training within a log, noting each activity, duration, and session rating of perceived exertion (RPE; 1-10 scale). Training load (TL) was then calculated by multiplying the training volume (TV, hrs) of each activity by its session RPE. At the conclusion of each collection period, the subjects completed the LSS as part of an online survey. LSS, TV, and TL were analyzed using a 2-factor RM ANOVA with Tukey’s post-hoc analysis (0.05 alpha), while TV and TL were also correlated with LSS using Pearson Correlations. RESULTS: LSS did not vary significantly across trials, but women tended to score higher than men (P = 0.07). TV and TL were both significantly greater for men than women for all collection periods and varied as intended by the training cycle. LSS correlated weakly and negatively, but significantly with TV (R = -0.300, P = 0.02). The same correlational trends also existed for each of the 4 collection periods individually. LSS also correlated weakly and negatively, but non-significantly with TL (R = -0.251, P = 0.053). CONCLUSIONS: At higher training volumes, skiers tended to self-report lower levels of cognitive stress. The direction of this relationship was unexpected, because both TV and LSS are understood to increase total stress. It is unclear whether TV causes lower LSS or if lower LSS allows for higher TV. Further, the correlation between measures of physiological and cognitive stress indicates that they do not contribute independently to total stress. Additional investigation is necessary to assess whether the relationship between TV and LSS is observed among other collegiate athletes.

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