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The Influence of Pleasure and Attentional Focus on Performance and Pacing Strategies in Elite Individual Time Trials

Theo Ouvrard, Alain Groslambert, and Frederic Grappe

Recent psychophysiological models of endurance performance explained that pacing strategies and exercise-intensity regulation influence cyclists’ ability to produce high mean power output (PO) during time trials (TTs). However, the relationships between these pacing strategies and psychological parameters of the athletes remain unknown. Purpose: To determine the impact of pacing strategies on cyclists’ mean PO during an elite TT championship and to identify the relationships between these pacing strategies and psychological parameters. Methods: Mean PO, projected frontal area, attentional focus, and pleasure were recorded for 9 male cyclists during an official individual TT national championship. Pacing regulations were quantified from PO using the new exposure variation analysis, which determines times spent at adapted PO for optimal constant-pacing strategy (APO) and inaccurate PO for optimal constant-pacing strategy (IPO). Relationships between mean PO, times spent at APO and IPO, and psychological variables were analyzed. Results: Significant relationships were found between mean PO and exposure variation analysis pacing parameters (r 2 .56–.86, P > .05). Time spent at IPO was negatively related to pleasure during the individual TT (r = −.746, P = .016). Conversely, time spent at APO was significantly related to cyclists’ attentional focus (r = .827, P = .006). Conclusions: Mean PO during elite individual TTs is directly related to athletes’ ability to optimally regulate pace throughout the event. This pacing regulation is influenced by attentional focus and pleasure, underlining that coaches and athletes should devote greater attention to these psychological parameters to improve their performances.

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Effects of Various Cognitive Video Stimulations on the Measured Stamina of Runners

Benoît R. Gonzales, Vincent Hagin, Peter W. Dowrick, and Alain Groslambert

This study assessed whether cognitive stimulations could improve running performance. Nine trained men (22.6 ± 2.1 years old) performed four tests of stamina i) a control test (CT) at 100% of maximal aerobic velocity without any specific attention instructions, ii) a video self modeling test filmed from behind (VB), where runners attended to a video-loop of themselves, iii) a video self modeling test filmed from the front (VF), and iv) a video of landscapes (VL) with music. The results revealed a significant increase (p = .004) of stamina in all video conditions: VB (235 ± 59 s); VF (229 ± 53 s); VL (242 ± 57 s), compared with CT (182 ± 33 s). The results showed that the oxygen consumption was significantly lower (p = .02) in VB. Two distinct processes could explain these results including the active role of mirror neurons and the influence of music.

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Relationships Between Psychological Factors, RPE and Time Limit Estimated by Teleoanticipation

Jérémy B. J. Coquart, Yancy Dufour, Alain Groslambert, Régis Matran, and Murielle Garcin

The purpose was to study the relationships between psychological factors and perceptually-based values (Ratings of Perceived Exertion: RPE and Estimated Time Limit: ETL). The researchers obtained the scores of several psychological factors (anxiety, extraversion-introversion, neuroticism-stability, self-esteem, motivation, psychological resistance and endurance, desire for success, social desirability, dynamism, competitiveness, activity control, risk-taking, emotional control, aggressiveness, sociability, cooperation, acceptance of a judgment, and leadership) among 23 cyclists. The cyclists performed a graded exercise test in which the researchers collected RPE and ETL at 150, 200, 250 and 300W. Correlations between RPE/ETL and psychological factors were examined. RPE was correlated with leadership, psychological resistance and endurance. ETL was significantly correlated with psychological endurance. These results suggest a link between psychological factors, effort perception, and the time limits predicted by teleoanticipation. These relationships varied according to intensity.

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Mechanisms of Performance Improvements Due to a Leading Teammate During Uphill Cycling

Theo Ouvrard, Alain Groslambert, Gilles Ravier, Sidney Grosprêtre, Philippe Gimenez, and Frederic Grappe

Purpose: To identify the impact of a leading teammate in front of a cyclist on psychological, physiological, biomechanical, and performance parameters during an uphill maximal effort. Methods: After familiarization, 12 well-trained competitive cyclists completed 2 uphill time trials (UTTs, 2.7 km at 7.4%) in randomized order; that is, 1 performed alone (control condition) and 1 followed a simulated teammate during the entire UTT (leader condition). Performance (UTT time) and mean power output (PO) were recorded for each UTT. For physiological parameters, mean heart rate and postexercise blood lactate concentration were recorded. Psychological parameters (rating of perceived exertion, pleasure, and attentional focus) were collected at the end of each trial. Results: Performance (UTT time) significantly improved by 4.2% (3.1%) in the leader condition, mainly due to drafting decrease of the aerodynamic drag (58% of total performance gains) and higher end spurt (+9.1% [9.1%] of mean PO in the last 10% of the UTT). However, heart rate and postexercise blood lactate concentration were not significantly different between conditions. From a psychological aspect, higher pleasure was observed in the leader condition (+41.1% [51.7%]), but attentional focus was not significantly different. Conclusions: The presence of a leading teammate during uphill cycling had a strong impact on performance, enabling higher speed for the same mean PO and greater end spurt. These results explain why the best teams competing for the general classification of the most prestigious and contested races like the Grand Tours tend to always protect their leader with teammates during decisive ascents.

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Acute Responses to Repeated-Sprint Training in Hypoxia Combined With Whole-Body Cryotherapy: A Preliminary Study

Thibaud Mihailovic, Alain Groslambert, Romain Bouzigon, Simon Feaud, Grégoire P. Millet, and Philippe Gimenez

Purpose: This study aimed to investigate acute psychophysiological responses to repeated-sprint training in hypoxia (RSH) combined with whole-body cryotherapy (WBC). Method: Sixteen trained cyclists performed 3 sessions in randomized order: RSH, WBC-RSH (WBC pre-RSH), and RSH-WBC (WBC post-RSH). RSH consisted of 3 sets of 5 × 10-second sprints with 20-second recovery at a simulated altitude of 3000 m. Power output, muscle oxygenation (tissue saturation index), heart-rate variability, and recovery perception were analyzed. Sleep quality was assessed on the nights following test sessions and compared with a control night using nocturnal ActiGraphy and heart-rate variability. Results: Power output did not differ between the conditions (P = .27), while the decrease in tissue saturation index was reduced for WBC-RSH compared to RSH-WBC in the last set. In both conditions with WBC, the recovery perception was higher compared to RSH (WBC-RSH: +15.4%, and RSH-WBC: +21.9%, P < .05). The number of movements during the RSH-WBC night was significantly lower than for the control night (−18.7%, P < .01) and WBC-RSH (−14.9%, P < .05). RSH led to a higher root mean square of the successive differences of R-R intervals and high-frequency band during the first hour of sleep compared to the control night (P < .05) and RSH-WBC (P < .01). Conclusions: Inclusion of WBC in an RSH session did not modify the power output but could improve prolonged performance in hypoxia by maintaining muscle oxygenation. A single RSH session did not deteriorate sleep quality. WBC, particularly when performed after RSH, positively influenced recovery perception and sleep.