RESEARCH: Studies reviewed this week: 11 January 2021 to 17 January 2021

TRAINING: Estimating Running Performance Combining Non-invasive Physiological Measurements and Training Patterns in Free-Living

Last week I shared a paper on estimating running performance from training data. This paper also looks to estimate performance from training data and it looks at a wide range of data points for it's performance estimation:

  • anthropometrics data
  • training volume and speed
  • physiological data during training
  • training polarization
  • past running performance

The authors showed that:

Estimation was least accurate when using only anthropometrics data and improved progressively when adding resting physiological data, training volume and speed, physiological data during training and training patterns.

PRACTICAL TAKEAWAY - the more data you include in your performance estimation model the more accurate it likely to be. A comprehensive model like the HRV4Training 10km race estimator can provide quite accurate estimates for race performance.

TRAINING: Traditional Versus Optimum Power Load Training in Professional Cyclists

This study set out to determine whether optimum power load training (OPT) was better than traditional resistance training (TRT) in professional cyclists. In the study OPT involved training with an individualized load and repetitions that maximize power output, while TRT involved the same number of repetitions and relative load for all individuals. The study period was 8 weeks with 2 sessions per week.

The authors found that:

Both programs led to significant improvements in all strength/power-related parameters, muscle mass, and time-trial performance.
No between-groups differences were noted for any outcome.

PRACTICAL TAKEAWAY - adding resistance training can improve endurance performance and the training plan does not need to be that carefully individualized. That is, following even a generic set of sport specific strength exercises can make a difference.

PSYCHOLOGY: Mental toughness and self-efficacy of elite ultra-marathon runners

Mental toughness is a topic that I've been researching over the winter. This study "examined the relationships between mental toughness and self-efficacy with performance in...ultra-marathon runners competing in the 2019 HURT100". The findings from the study were:

  • Mental toughness and self-efficacy did not significantly relate to ultra-marathon performance.
  • Participants had significantly and meaningfully higher mental toughness than athletes from other sports.

The authors believe the results:

Suggest a threshold of mental toughness...require[d] be able to prepare for and compete in ultra-marathon events; once this threshold is met, other factors are...more influential in determining ultra-marathon performance.

PRACTICAL TAKEAWAY - it's important to develop mental skills, but when you have your own framework there doesn't appear to be benefit from additional work. This suggests that you don't have to do many extremely challenging and mentally demanding sessions once you have reached the threshold.

PSYCHOLOGY: The Effects of Overt Head Movements on Physical Performance After Positive Versus Negative Self-Talk

I've shared a few studies in the past about motivation self-talk. These showed that it can be beneficial for performance and how you say things matters (use 2nd person). This study looked at the addition of over head movement to self-talk.

The authors found that:

Positive self-statements led to better performance than negative self-statements.
Athletes' self-statements were significantly more impactful on physical performance in the head-nodding condition than in the head-shaking condition.

PRACTICAL TAKEAWAY - based on the previous studies and also the information in this study, athletes should: 1) use positive self-talk; 2) use 2nd person to express this self-talk; 3) nod when you're talking to yourself.

TRAINING: Effects of including sprints during prolonged cycling on hormonal and muscular responses and recovery in elite cyclists

This study investigated "the acute effects of including 30‐second sprints during prolonged low‐intensity cycling on muscular and hormonal responses and recovery in elite cyclists". This type of study is particularly useful as it studies the effect on elite athletes and also it sets out to confirm how slightly different training methodolgies of training compare.

The protocol was a randomized crossover design where "4 hours of cycling at 50% of VO2max were performed with and without inclusion of three sets of 3 × 30 seconds maximal sprints". A range of metrics were studied from muscle biopsies and blood tests. The authors concluded that:

Inclusion of sprint intervals to prolonged LIT session effective strategy for simultaneous development of endurance and sprint ability...potentially increasing the performance‐enhancing effects of training periods focusing on LIT.

PRACTICAL TAKEAWAY - including strides or short sprints in your low-intensity training sessions (or long runs) won't be detrimental to the low-intensity training stimulus and will benefit from the development of sprint ability.

PSYCHOLOGY: Time Flies When You're at RPE13: How Exercise Intensity Influences Perception of Time

I'm sure we've all felt that terrible sensation when we look down at our watch during a hard interval and it shows that only a few seconds have passed when it feels like we've been running for minutes. This study set out to investigate the relationship between intensity level and perception of time passing.

The authors found that:

Tests revealed that time estimations at RPE17 were significantly lower than those at RPE13.

RPE13 is approximately the aerobic threshold and RPE17 is approximately the anaerobic threshold. So clearly easy Z1 and Z2 running seems to pass much more quickly than the time during lactate threshold intervals!

Subjects perceived time to pass by more slowly as intensity increased.

PRACTICAL TAKEAWAY - this may provide input into how we pace easier runs as Z1 and Z2 training should feel like the time is passing quickly rather than dragging on.

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