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Assessing Overreaching With Heart-Rate Recovery: What Is the Minimal Exercise Intensity Required?

Yann Le Meur, Martin Buchheit, Anaël Aubry, Aaron J Coutts, and Christophe Hausswirth


Faster heart-rate recovery (HRR) after high to maximal exercise (≥90% of maximal heart rate) has been reported in athletes suspected of functional overreaching (f-OR). This study investigated whether this response would also occur at lower exercise intensity.


Responses of HRR and rating of perceived exertion (RPE) were compared during an incremental intermittent running protocol to exhaustion in 20 experienced male triathletes (8 control subjects and 13 overload subjects led to f-OR) before and immediately after an overload training period and after a 1-wk taper.


Both groups demonstrated an increase in HRR values immediately after the training period, but this change was very likely to almost certainly larger in the f-OR group at all running intensities (large to very large differences, eg, +16 ± 7 vs +3 ± 5 beats/min, in the f-OR and control groups at 11 km/h, respectively). The highest between-groups differences in changes in HRR were reported at 11 km/h (13 ± 4 beats/min) and 12 km/h (10 ± 6 beats/min). A concomitant increase in RPE at all intensities was reported only in the f-OR group (large to extremely large differences, +2.1 ± 1.5 to +0.7 ± 1.5 arbitrary units).


These findings confirm that faster HRR does not systematically predict better physical performance. However, when interpreted in the context of the athletes’ fatigue state and training phase, HRR after submaximal exercise may be more discriminant than HRR measures taken after maximal exercise for monitoring f-OR. These findings may be applied in practice by regularly assessing HRR after submaximal exercise (ie, warm-up) for monitoring endurance athletes’ responses to training.

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Power Output and Pacing During International Cross-Country Mountain Bike Cycling

Cyril Granier, Chris R. Abbiss, Anaël Aubry, Yvon Vauchez, Sylvain Dorel, Christophe Hausswirth, and Yann Le Meur

Purpose: To characterize the physiological profiles of elite cross-country mountain-bike (XCO-MTB) cyclists and to examine their pacing and power-output (PO) distribution during international races. Methods: Over 2 competitive seasons, 8 male XCO-MTB cyclists (VO2max 79.9 [5.2] mL·min−1·kg−1, maximal aerobic power [MAP] 411 [18] W and 6.3 [0.4] W·kg−1) regularly undertook incremental tests to assess their PO and heart rate (HR) at first and second ventilatory thresholds (VT1 and VT2) and at VO2max. During the same period, their PO, HR, speed, and cadence were recorded over 13 international races (total of 30 recorded files). Results: Mean PO, speed, cadence, and HR during the races were 283 (22) W (4.31 [0.32] W·kg−1, 68% [5%] MAP), 19.7 (2.1) km·h−1, 68 (8) rpm, and 172 (11) beats·min−1 (91% [2%] HRmax), respectively. The average times spent below 10% of MAP, between 10% of MAP and VT1, between VT1 and VT2, between VT2 and MAP, and above MAP were 25% (5%), 21% (4%), 13% (3%), 16% (3%), and 26% (5%), respectively. Both speed and PO decreased from the start loop to lap 1 before stabilizing until the end of the race. Conclusions: Elite off-road cyclists demonstrated typical values of world-class endurance cyclists with an excellent power-to-mass ratio. This study demonstrated that XCO-MTB races are performed at higher intensities than reported in previous research and are characterized by a fast start followed by an even pace.