RESEARCH: Studies reviewed this week: 25 January 2021 to 31 January 2021

PSYCHOLOGY: The effects of intrinsic motivation on mental fatigue

Last week I shared a study about mental fatigue which mentioned that motivation may be an ameliorating factor. This study looked specifically at intrinsic motivation and how it can counteract mental fatigue. The authors found:

The main results showed that irrespective of condition, participants reported becoming fatigued over time. They performed better, invested more mental effort physiologically, and were less distracted in high-level than in low-level motivation blocks.

PRACTICAL TAKEAWAY - with high intrinsic motivation, people can maintain their performance over time as they seem willing to invest more effort as time progresses than in low intrinsic motivation.

PHYSIOLOGY: Acute Physiological Responses to Four Running Sessions Performed at Different Intensity Zones

One of the important ways I use HRV4Training is to adjust my training based on how I've adapted to the previous day's workload. This study investigated responses to running sessions performed at different intensities. The results were along the lines of what you would expect, however, there was some individual nuance which is what makes the tracking of your own responses so important.

The authors found that:

  • heart rate variability decreased acutely after all sessions
  • the decrease was greater after MOD compared to LIT and SMIT
  • the decrease was greater after HIIT compared to LIT
  • results highlight differences in the physiological demands of the running sessions, and distinct recovery patterns

PRACTICAL TAKEAWAY - it is important to have different recovery patterns depending on the stimulus and your response.

TRAINING: Psychological monitoring and modulation of training load of world-class canoeists

In the past I've shared a few different studies on training load (here, here and here). I believe that it is important to manage training load and having a robust and well-rounded set of factors or metrics that you consider is key to do this. I don't believe that there is any single optimal metric so it is interesting to learn about each individually and see how effective they can be in contributing to understanding an athlete's response to training load.

In this study the authors aimed to monitor psychological changes using the Profile of Mood States (POMS) test. Mood is an important factor in understanding any athlete's physical state, but it is a qualitative and quite difficult measure to interpret. The authors found that:

Elevated POMS total mood disturbance scores (elevation > 50%) were used as a criterion for determining whether the athletes were training excessively (or developing staleness). This criterion was fulfilled in 12% of all POMS assessments in nine of the subjects.
The monitoring of psychological mood disturbances is useful in reducing the risk of staleness in canoeists undergoing hard training. Titration of the training stimulus on the basis of POMS scores resulted in none of the canoeists developing signs of staleness in connection with the Olympics.

PRACTICAL TAKEAWAY - mood is an important metric for managing training load and should be incorporated into the range of metrics you use for determining your physical state and what training stimulus to apply.

SAFETY: Morbidity Among Athletes Presenting for Medical Care During 3 Iterations of an Ultratrail Race in the Himalayas

I often think that the organization and medical support crew at ultramarathons in remote locations make it a relatively safe activity no matter how extreme the race seems. However, that may not always be the case as this paper investigates.

The authors conclude that:

Ultratrail races at high altitude pose a challenge in terms of provision of medical care in a remote setting with limited resources. However, most of the illnesses are minor in nature and easily managed by the race doctor.

PRACTICAL TAKEAWAY - if you are planning in a race in a tough environment, make sure you're physically well prepared, that you know the potential illnesses and issues specific to that area, and that you have adequate insurance and rescue plans in place.

EQUIPMENT: Increasing the midsole bending stiffness of shoes alters gastrocnemius medialis muscle function during running

How are the new super-shoes improving performances? This study looked at the stiffness of the midsole and it's impact on the function of the gastrocnemius medialis (GM) muscle and achilles tendon. The authors found that:

Running in stiff shoes allows the ankle plantarflexor muscle–tendon unit to continue to operate on a more favourable position of the muscle’s force–length–velocity relationship by lowering muscle shortening velocity and increasing tendon energy return.

PRACTICAL TAKEAWAY - there is clearly some benefit to the new super-shoes and it's interesting to learn the different mechanisms responsible for that. Practically, I suggest trying a range of shoes including the super-shoes and finding the ones that work best for you. Not everyone can take advantage of super-shoes, but if they seem to work for you then they could be a valuable egogenic aid.

TRAINING: Performance success or failure is explained by weeks lost to injury and illness in elite Australian Track and Field athletes

Knowledge about training, planning training blocks, and keeping up to date with the latest research is important (I spend time on this every week and so do you if you're reading this post!). However, the value of being able to follow the training plan is a vital determinant of success. This study investigated the "impact of training modification on achieving performance goals".

The authors found that:

  • training availability accounted for 86% of successful seasons
  • the majority of new injuries occurred within the first month of the preparation season (30%)
  • most illnesses occurred within 2-months of the event (50%)
Injuries and illnesses, and their influence on training availability, during preparation are major determinants of an athlete's chance of performance goal success or failure at the international level.

PRACTICAL TAKEAWAY - doing the training is the most important thing and avoiding injury and illness is important. Be cautious when starting training again, when increasing load, and when peaking or approaching your race. Don't be "greedy" and trust the process of training to help you achieve your goals.

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