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Core Temperature Responses to Elite Racewalking Competition

Christopher John Stevens, Megan L. Ross, Julien D. Périard, Brent S. Vallance, and Louise M. Burke

Purpose: The core temperature responses during exercise and effects of different cooling strategies on endurance performance under heat stress have been investigated in recreational athletes. This investigation aimed to determine peak rectal temperatures during elite racewalking competitions and to detail any cooling strategies used. Methods: Rectal temperature was measured in 14 heat-adapted elite/preelite race walkers (9 females) via a telemetric capsule across 4 outdoor events, including the 2018 Commonwealth Games (race 1: 20 km, 25°C, 74% relative humidity [RH], n = 2) and 3 International Association of Athletics Federations–sanctioned 10-km events (race 2: 19°C, 34% RH, n = 2; race 3: 29°C, 47% RH, n = 14; and race 4: 23°C, 72% RH, n = 11). All athletes completed race 3, and a subsample completed the other events. Their use of cooling strategies and symptoms of heat illness were determined. Results: Peak rectal temperatures >40°C were observed in all events. The highest rectal temperature observed during an event was 41.2°C. These high rectal temperatures were observed without concomitant heat illness, with the exception of cramping in one athlete during race 1. The rectal temperatures tended to reach a steady state in the second half of the 20-km event, but no steady state was observed in the 10-km events. The athletes used cooling strategies in race 1 only, implementing different combinations of cold-water immersion, ice-slurry ingestion, ice-towel application, ice-vest application, and facial water spraying. Conclusions: Elite/preelite race walkers experience rectal temperatures >40°C during competition despite only moderate-warm conditions, and even when precooling and midcooling strategies are applied.

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Altitude and Heat Training in Preparation for Competitions in the Heat: A Case Study

Amelia J. Carr, Philo U. Saunders, Laura A. Garvican-Lewis, and Brent S. Vallance

Purpose: To quantify, for an elite-level racewalker, altitude training, heat acclimation and acclimatization, physiological data, and race performance from January 2007 to August 2008. Methods: The participant performed 7 blocks of altitude training: 2 “live high:train high” blocks at 1380 m (total = 22 d) and 5 simulated “live high:train low” blocks at 3000 m/600 m (total = 98 d). Prior to the 2007 World Championships and the 2008 Olympic Games, 2 heat-acclimation blocks of ~6 weeks were performed (1 session/week), with ∼2 weeks of heat acclimatization completed immediately prior to each 20-km event. Results: During the observation period, physiological testing included maximal oxygen uptake (VO2max, mL·kg−1·min−1), walking speed (km·h−1) at 4 mmol·L−1 blood lactate concentration [La], body mass (kg), and hemoglobin mass (g), and 12 × 20-km races and 2 × 50-km races were performed. The highest VO2max was 67.0 mL·kg−1·min−1 (August 2007), which improved 3.1% from the first measurement (64.9 mL·kg−1·min−1, June 2007). The highest percentage change in any physiological variable was 7.1%, for 4 mmol·L−1 [La] walking speed, improving from 14.1 (June 2007) to 15.1 km·h−1 (August 2007). Personal-best times for 20 km improved from (hh:mm:ss) 1:21:36 to 1:19:41 (2.4%) and from 3:55:08 to 3:39:27 (7.1%) in the 50-km event. The participant won Olympic bronze and silver medals in the 20- and 50-km, respectively. Conclusions: Elite racewalkers who regularly perform altitude training may benefit from periodized heat acclimation and acclimatization prior to major international competitions in the heat.

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Training to Compete at Altitude:Natural Altitude or Simulated Live High:Train Low?

Amelia J. Carr, Laura A. Garvican-Lewis, Brent S. Vallance, Andrew P. Drake, Philo U. Saunders, Clare E. Humberstone, and Christopher J. Gore

Purpose: To compare the effects of natural altitude training (NAT) and simulated (SIM) live high:train low altitude training on road-race walking performance (min), as well as treadmill threshold walking speed (km·h−1) at 4 mmol·L−1 and maximal oxygen consumption, at 1380 m. Methods: Twenty-two elite-level male (n = 15) and female (n = 7) race walkers completed 14 d of NAT at 1380 m (n = 7), SIM live high:train low at 3000:600 m (n = 7), or control conditions (600-m altitude; CON, n = 8). All preintervention and postintervention testing procedures were conducted at 1380 m and consisted of an incremental treadmill test, completed prior to a 5 × 2-km road-race walking performance test. Differences between groups were analyzed via mixed-model analysis of variance and magnitude-based inferences, with a substantial change detected with >75% likelihood of exceeding the smallest worthwhile change. Results: The improvement in total performance time for the 5 × 2-km test in NAT was not substantially different from SIM but was substantially greater (85% likely) than CON. The improvement in percentage decrement in the 5 × 2-km performance test in NAT was greater than in both SIM (93% likely) and CON (93% likely). The increase in maximal oxygen consumption was substantially greater (91% likely) in NAT than in SIM. Improvement in threshold walking speed was substantially greater than CON for both SIM (91% likely) and NAT (90% likely). Conclusions: Both NAT and SIM may allow athletes to achieve reasonable acclimation prior to competition at low altitude.