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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.

Open access

Performance Effects of Video- and Sensor-Based Feedback for Implementing a Terrain-Specific Micropacing Strategy in Cross-Country Skiing

Trine M. Seeberg, Jan Kocbach, Rune Kjøsen Talsnes, Frederic Meyer, Thomas Losnegard, Johannes Tjønnås, Øyvind Sandbakk, and Guro Strøm Solli

Purpose: To investigate the performance effects of video- and sensor-based feedback for implementing a terrain-specific micropacing strategy in cross-country (XC) skiing. Methods: Following a simulated 10-km skating time trial (Race1) on snow, 26 national-level male XC skiers were randomly allocated into an intervention (n = 14) or control group (n = 12), before repeating the race (Race2) 2 days later. Between races, intervention received video- and sensor-based feedback through a theoretical lecture and a practical training session aiming to implement a terrain-specific micropacing strategy focusing on active power production over designated hilltops to save time in the subsequent downhill. The control group only received their overall results and performed a training session with matched training load. Results: From Race1 to Race2, the intervention group increased the total variation of chest acceleration on all hilltops (P < .001) and reduced time compared with the control group in a specifically targeted downhill segment (mean group difference: −0.55 s; 95% confidence interval [CI], −0.9 to −0.19 s; P = .003), as well as in overall time spent in downhill (−14.4 s; 95% CI, −21.4 to −7.4 s; P < .001) and flat terrain (−6.5 s; 95% CI, −11.0 to −1.9 s; P = .006). No between-groups differences were found for either overall uphill terrain (−9.3 s; 95% CI, −31.2 to 13.2 s; P = .426) or total race time (−32.2 s; 95% CI, −100.2 to 35.9 s; P = .339). Conclusion: Targeted training combined with video- and sensor-based feedback led to a successful implementation of a terrain-specific micropacing strategy in XC skiing, which reduced the time spent in downhill and flat terrain for intervention compared with a control group. However, no change in overall performance was observed between the 2 groups of XC skiers.

Free access

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.