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The Evolution of World-Class Endurance Training: The Scientist’s View on Current and Future Trends

Øyvind Sandbakk, David B. Pyne, Kerry McGawley, Carl Foster, Rune Kjøsen Talsnes, Guro Strøm Solli, Grégoire P. Millet, Stephen Seiler, Paul B. Laursen, Thomas Haugen, Espen Tønnessen, Randy Wilber, Teun van Erp, Trent Stellingwerff, Hans-Christer Holmberg, and Silvana Bucher Sandbakk

Background: Elite sport is continuously evolving. World records keep falling and athletes from a longer list of countries are involved. Purpose: This commentary was designed to provide insights into present and future trends associated with world-class endurance training based on the perspectives, experience, and knowledge of an expert panel of 25 applied sport scientists. Results: The key drivers of development observed in the past 10–15 years were related to (1) more accessible scientific knowledge for coaches and athletes combined with (2) better integration of practical and scientific exchange across multidisciplinary perspectives within professionalized elite athlete support structures, as well as (3) utilization of new technological advances. Based on these perspectives, we discerned and exemplified the main trends in the practice of endurance sports into the following categories: better understanding of sport-specific demands; improved competition execution; larger, more specific, and more precise training loads; improved training quality; and a more professional and healthier lifestyle. The main areas expected to drive future improvements were associated with more extensive use of advanced technology for monitoring and prescribing training and recovery, more precise use of environmental and nutritional interventions, better understanding of athlete–equipment interactions, and greater emphasis on preventing injuries and illnesses. Conclusions: These expert insights can serve as a platform and inspiration to develop new hypotheses and ideas, encourage future collaboration between researchers and sport practitioners, and, perhaps most important, stimulate curiosity and further collaborative studies about the training, physiology, and performance of endurance athletes.

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Training Characteristics and Competitive Demands in Women Road Cyclists: A Systematic Review

Alba Herrero-Molleda, María José Álvarez-Álvarez, Pablo Floría, and Juan García-López

Purpose: To identify the main training characteristics and competitive demands in women’s road cycling. Methods: A systematic search was conducted on 5 databases according to PRISMA (Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis) guidelines. The articles had to be primary studies, written after 1990 with a sample of competitive women between the ages of 15 and 50. The Quality Assessment Tool for Quantitative Studies and the Oxford Levels of Evidence scales were used. Results: The search yielded 1713 articles, of which 20 were included. Studies on training and competitive demands (n = 5) found that both external and internal loads are higher in women than in men. Studies on strength and endurance training (n = 5) showed that both velocity-based and heavy-load strength training programs performed at least 2 days per week and including 3 to 4 lower-body exercises improved performance. Altitude-training studies (n = 3) found that “Live High–Train Low” was effective to increase performance during the first 9 days after the training camp. The 7 remaining studies focused on a range of topics. The methodological quality was strong for 12 studies and moderate for 8. In contrast, the level of evidence was high in 7 and low in the other 13. Conclusions: Endurance training and competitive demands in women’s road cycling are higher than those of men. Strength training is effective in women when the frequency, intensity, and number of exercises are appropriate, while altitude training should be completed a few days before competing. Further studies are warranted to better define the participants’ competitive level, using a methodological design with a higher level of evidence.

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Heat Preparation and Knowledge at the World Athletics Race Walking Team Championships Muscat 2022

Natalia Galan-Lopez, Chris J. Esh, Diogo Vaz Leal, Silvia Gandini, Ronan Lucas, Frederic Garrandes, Stephane Bermon, Paolo Emilio Adami, Alma Kajeniene, Yuri Hosokawa, Bryna Catherine Rose Chrismas, Christopher J. Stevens, and Lee Taylor

Purpose: To assess elite racewalkers’ preparation strategies, knowledge, and general practices for competition in the heat and their health status during the World Athletics Race Walking Teams Championships (WRW) Muscat 2022. Methods: Sixty-six elite racewalkers (male: n = 42; mean age = 25.8 y) completed an online survey prior to WRW Muscat 2022. Athletes were grouped by sex (males vs females) and climate (self-reported) they live/trained in (hot vs temperate/cold), with differences/relationships between groups assessed. Relationships between ranking (medalist/top 10 vs nonmedalist/nontop 10) and precompetition use of heat acclimation/acclimatization (HA) were assessed. Results: All surveyed medalists (n = 4) implemented, and top 10 finishers were more likely to report using (P = .049; OR = 0.25; 95% CI, 0.06%–1%), HA before the championships. Forty-three percent of athletes did not complete specific HA training. Females (8% [males 31%]) were less likely to have measured core temperature (P = .049; OR = 0.2; 95% CI, 0.041–0.99) and more likely to not know expected conditions in Muscat (42% vs 14%; P = .016; OR = 4.3; 95% CI, 1%–14%) or what wet bulb globe temperature is (83% vs 55%; P = .024; OR = 4.1; 95% CI, 1%–14%). Conclusions: Athletes who implemented HA before the championships tended to place better than those who did not. Forty-three percent of athletes did not prepare for the expected hot conditions at the WRW Muscat 2022, primarily attributed to challenges in accessing and/or cost of equipment/facilities for HA strategies. Further efforts to bridge the gap between research and practice in this elite sport are needed, particularly in female athletes.

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Adherence to a Ketogenic Low-Carbohydrate, High-Fat Diet Is Associated With Diminished Training Quality in Elite Racewalkers

Alannah K.A. McKay, Megan L.R. Ross, Nicolin Tee, Avish P. Sharma, Jill J. Leckey, and Louise M. Burke

Purpose: To examine the effects of a high-carbohydrate diet (HCHO), periodized-carbohydrate (CHO) diet (PCHO), and ketogenic low-CHO high-fat diet (LCHF) on training capacity. Methods: Elite male racewalkers completed 3 weeks of periodic training while adhering to their dietary intervention. Twenty-nine data sets were collected from 21 athletes. Each week, 6 mandatory training sessions were completed, with additional sessions performed at the athlete’s discretion. Mandatory sessions included an interval session (10 × 1-km efforts on a 6-min cycle), tempo session (14 km with a 450-m elevation gain), 2 long walks (25–40 km), and 2 easy walks (8–12 km) where “sleep-low” and “train-low” dietary strategies were employed for PCHO. Racewalking speed, heart rate, rating of perceived exhaustion, and blood metabolites were collected around key sessions. Results: LCHF covered less total distance than HCHO and PCHO (P < .001); however, no differences in training load between groups were evident (P = .285). During the interval sessions, walking speed was slower in LCHF (P = .001), equating to a 2.8% and 5.6% faster speed in HCHO and PCHO, respectively. LCHF was also 3.2% slower in completing the tempo session than HCHO and PCHO (P = .001). Heart rate was higher (P = .002) and lactate concentrations were lower (P < .001) in LCHF compared to other groups, despite slower walking speeds during the interval session. No between-groups differences in rating of perceived exhaustion were evident (P = .077). Conclusion: Athletes adhering to an LCHF diet showed impaired training capacity relative to their high-CHO-supported counterparts, completing lower training volumes at slower speeds, with higher heart rates.

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Work–Life Balance Among Sport Scientists and Coaches: Do As I Say, Not As I Do

Øyvind Sandbakk

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Is It Time to Reconsider the Incremental Test Protocols?

Cristina Cortis, Andrea Fusco, Renato Barroso, Daniel Bok, Daniel Boullosa, Daniele Conte, and Carl Foster

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“Living High-Training Low” for Olympic Medal Performance: What Have We Learned 25 Years After Implementation?

Olivier Girard, Benjamin D. Levine, Robert F. Chapman, and Randall Wilber

Background: Altitude training is often regarded as an indispensable tool for the success of elite endurance athletes. Historically, altitude training emerged as a key strategy to prepare for the 1968 Olympics, held at 2300 m in Mexico City, and was limited to the “Live High-Train High” method for endurance athletes aiming for performance gains through improved oxygen transport. This “classical” intervention was modified in 1997 by the “Live High-Train Low” (LHTL) model wherein athletes supplemented acclimatization to chronic hypoxia with high-intensity training at low altitude. Purpose: This review discusses important considerations for successful implementation of LHTL camps in elite athletes based on experiences, both published and unpublished, of the authors. Approach : The originality of our approach is to discuss 10 key “lessons learned,” since the seminal work by Levine and Stray-Gundersen was published in 1997, and focusing on (1) optimal dose, (2) individual responses, (3) iron status, (4) training-load monitoring, (5) wellness and well-being monitoring, (6) timing of the intervention, (7) use of natural versus simulated hypoxia, (8) robustness of adaptative mechanisms versus performance benefits, (9) application for a broad range of athletes, and (10) combination of methods. Successful LHTL strategies implemented by Team USA athletes for podium performance at Olympic Games and/or World Championships are presented. Conclusions : The evolution of the LHTL model represents an essential framework for sport science, in which field-driven questions about performance led to critical scientific investigation and subsequent practical implementation of a unique approach to altitude training.

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“I Touch the Future. I Teach.”

Jos J. de Koning

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Training Quality—What Is It and How Can We Improve It?

Silvana Bucher Sandbakk, Jacob Walther, Guro Strøm Solli, Espen Tønnessen, and Thomas Haugen

Purpose: The concept of training quality reflects that the effect of training is dependent on more than the mere product of training load (eg, duration, intensity, frequency). The aims of this commentary are to (1) propose a practice-oriented framework to describe training quality and its general and context-dependent characteristics and (2) discuss how athletes and coaches can work to improve training quality. Conclusions: Training quality can be viewed from different perspectives. The holistic dimension includes the entire training process (goal setting, gap analysis, application of training principles and methods, etc), while a narrower dimension encompasses the specific training sessions and how they are executed in relation to the intended purpose. To capture the varying contexts, we define training quality as the degree of excellence related to how the training process or training sessions are executed to optimize adaptations and, thereby, improve overall performance. Although training quality is challenging to quantify, we argue that identification and assessment of quality indicators will increase our scientific understanding and consequently help coaches and athletes to improve training quality. We propose that the physical, technical, and psychological factors of training quality can be improved through an individualized learning process of systematic planning, execution, and debriefing. However, assessment tools should be identified and scientifically validated across different training sessions and sports. We encourage further interventions to improve training quality.

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A Framework for the Standardization of Game Analysis in Ice Hockey

Craig A. Staunton and Glenn Björklund

Background: Compared with other major global team sports such as football or basketball, ice hockey has received considerably less attention in sport-science research. However, the research focus on ice hockey performance is growing rapidly. Unfortunately, despite the growing interest in ice hockey, among the little research that has been conducted there are inconsistencies in terminology and methodology in the study of physiology and performance during games. The need for systematic and standardized reporting of study methodology is vital, as a lack of methodological detail or methodological inconsistencies make it impossible to replicate published studies, and alterations in the methodologies used can influence the measured demands imposed on players. Accordingly, this prohibits the ability of coaches to generate game-replicating training programs, decreasing the application of research findings to practice. In addition, a lack of methodological detail or methodological inconsistencies can result in incorrect conclusions being made from research. Purpose: In this invited commentary, we aim to increase awareness regarding the current standard of methodological reporting in ice hockey game-analysis research. In addition, we have developed a framework for the standardization of game analysis in ice hockey in order to allow for greater replication in future research and to increase the application of published findings to practice. Conclusions: We implore researchers in the field to consult the Ice Hockey Game Analysis Research Methodological Reporting Checklist in order to adopt a detailed reporting standard of methodologies in future work to help improve the applicability of research outcomes.