Variability in Submaximal Self-Paced Exercise Bouts of Different Intensity and Duration

in International Journal of Sports Physiology and Performance
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Purpose: Rating of perceived exertion (RPE) as a training-intensity prescription has been extensively used by athletes and coaches. However, individual variability in the physiological response to exercise prescribed using RPE has not been investigated. Methods: Twenty well-trained competitive cyclists (male = 18, female = 2, maximum oxygen consumption =55.07 [11.06] mL·kg−1·min−1) completed 3 exercise trials each consisting of 9 randomized self-paced exercise bouts of either 1, 4, or 8 minutes at RPEs of 9, 13, and 17. Within-athlete variability (WAV) and between-athletes variability (BAV) in power and physiological responses were calculated using the coefficient of variation. Total variability was calculated as the ratio of WAV to BAV. Results: Increased RPEs were associated with higher power, heart rate, work, volume of expired oxygen (VO2), volume of expired carbon dioxide (VCO2), minute ventilation (VE), deoxyhemoglobin (ΔHHb) (P < .001), and lower tissue saturation index (ΔTSI%) and ΔO2Hb (oxyhaemoglobin; P < .001). At an RPE of 9, shorter durations resulted in lower VO2 (P < .05) and decreased ΔTSI%, and the ΔHHb increased as the duration increased (P < .05). At an RPE of 13, shorter durations resulted in lower VO2, VE, and percentage of maximum oxygen consumption (P < .001), as well as higher power, heart rate, ΔHHb (P < .001), and ΔTSI% (P < .05). At an RPE of 17, power (P < .001) and ΔTSI% (P < .05) increased as duration decreased. As intensity and duration increased, WAV and BAV in power, work, heart rate, VO2, VCO2, and VE decreased, and WAV and BAV in near-infrared spectroscopy increased. Conclusions: Self-paced intensity prescriptions of high effort and long duration result in the greatest consistency on both a within- and between-athletes basis.

The authors are with the Endurance Research Group, School of Sport and Exercise Sciences, University of Kent, Canterbury, United Kingdom. O’Grady is also with the Israel Start-Up Nation professional cycling team, Tel Aviv, Israel. Passfield is also with the Human Performance Lab, Faculty of Kinesiology, University of Calgary, AB, Canada.

O’Grady (cmao3@kent.ac.uk) is corresponding author.
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