RESEARCH: studies reviewed this week - 21 September 2020 to 27 September 2020

ALTITUDE: Training quantification and periodization during live high train high at 2100m in elite runners

I have shared a couple of altitude studies before (High-Altitude Acclimatization Improves Recovery from Muscle Fatigue, and, Altitude Training and Recombinant Human Erythropoietin) and I believe that it's a useful tool for optimising performance. However, it can be difficult to know exactly how to plan a training camp, what timing to use in descending from altitude, and how to manage the training load at alitude.

This study "sought to quantify the training load (TL) periodization in a cohort of elite runners completing live-high-train-low (LHTH) immediately prior to competition". The key points highlighted by the study were:

  • Athletes experienced in altitude training did not complete 1-2 weeks of low intensity training during the initial acclimatization to altitude, as generally recommended, but instead commenced high intensity training after 2-4 days.
  • Whilst training load was acutely increased at altitude through a combination of increased volume and training under hypoxia, athletes did not exceed training volumes to which they were previously accustomed.
  • Prior to competition, athletes completed a taper in the final week of LHTH, which was individualized based on the volume of prior training, preferred event, and timing post altitude.

PRACTICAL TAKE AWAY - altitude training can enhance performance, but it needs to be carefully planned so that normal training load and routine are not significantly interrupted.

PHYSIOLOGY: Comparison of rating of perceived exertion scales during incremental and interval exercise

RPE is an important means of measuring exercise intensity. It's free, it's personal, and it's always available. The original Borg scale was based on a range from 6 to 20. This is typically used in studies and research. There is also a Category-Ratio scale with a range from 1 to 10. This study investigated the comparability and interchangeability of these two scales. The authors found that:

The two most popular versions of the RPE scale, BORG-RPE and BORG-CR10, were both highly related to the conventional physiological measures and very strongly related to each other, with an easily described conversion.

PRACTICAL TAKE AWAY - use whichever RPE scale is most intuitive and effective for you.

NUTRITION: Pre-Exercise Nutrition Habits and Beliefs of Endurance Athletes Vary by Sex, Competitive Level, and Diet

This study was a survey designed to learn the pre-exercise nutrition habits of a wide range of participants. The results were a wide-range of different protocols leading the authors to conclude:

Overall, nearly all factors measured relating to pre-exercise nutrition intake varied by sex, competitive level, habitual dietary pattern, and/or intensity/duration of the training session and suggest a large number of athletes may not be following current recommendations for optimizing endurance training adaptations.

PRACTICAL TAKE AWAY - while nutrition does have some individual preference and bias, there are guidelines that all athletes should use as a starting point that will ensure optimal performance. [a good starting point is this free resource: Nutrition for endurance sports]

ALTITUDE: Live high-train low guided by daily heart rate variability in elite Nordic-skiers

This study combines two effective tools for improving performance: live-high-train-low (LHTL) and HRV-guided performance. The authors set out to "analyze if LHTL effectiveness is improved when daily training is guided by heart rate variability (HRV)". Combining these two approaches the study found that:

The daily individualization of training load reduced the decrease in autonomic nervous system parasympathetic activity commonly associated with LHTL. The improved performance and oxygen consumption in the two LHTL groups confirm the effectiveness of LHTL even in elite endurance athletes.

PRACTICAL TAKE AWAY - LHTL is an effective performance enhancer and the added stress of pursuing this strategy can be mediated in part by using HRV to guide the training.

PHYSIOLOGY: Prediction of Performance in a Short Trail Running Race: The Role of Body Composition

In the past I've shared a couple of articles that outline the factors needed for success in trail races (1: maximum aerobic speed and leg strength; 2: VO2Max and fractional use of VO2Max). This study investigated "the role of the classical physiological model of endurance running performance – maximal oxygen uptake (VO2max), %VO2max at ventilatory thresholds (VT), work economy, lactate levels, and body composition on the prediction of short trail running performance".

Similar to the previous studies this study found that "VO2max accounted for 57%" and "vVO2max model variable accounted for 60%" of total variance. In addition, this study also found:

The fat mass model for 59.5%.

The combined VO2max and fat mass model explained 83.9% of the total variance.

The classical variable VO2max together with fat mass percent are two strong predictors for short trail running performance.

PRACTICAL TAKE AWAY - in addition to VO2Max, body composition is a critical aspect of performance in short trail races.

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