Purpose: To present the acclimatization strategy employed by an elite athlete prior to 2 successful ascents to Mount Everest (including a “fastest known time”) in 1 wk. Methods: Training volume, training content, and altitude exposure were recorded daily. Vertical velocity was recorded by GPS (global positioning system) heart-rate monitor. Results: The subject first used a live high–train low and high preacclimatization method in normobaric hypoxia (NH). Daily, he combined sleeping in a hypoxic tent (total hours: ∼260) and exercising “as usual” in normoxia but also in NH (altitude >6000 m: 30 h), including at high intensity. The hypoxic sessions were performed at the second threshold on treadmill in NH at 6000 m, and the pulse saturation increased from 70% to 85% over 1 mo. Then, the subject was progressively exposed to hypobaric hypoxia, first in the Alps and then in the Himalayas. On day 18, he reached for the second time an altitude >8000 m with the fastest vertical velocity (350 m/h) ever measured between 6300 and 8400 m. Afterward, he climbed twice in a week to the summit of Mount Everest (8848 m, including a “fastest known time” of 26.5 h from Rongbuk Monastery, 5100 m). Conclusion: Overall, this acclimatization was successful and in line with the most recent recommendations: first, using live high–train low and high, and second, using hypobaric hypoxia at increasing altitudes for a better translation of the NH benefits to hypobaric hypoxia. This case study reports the preparation for the most outstanding performance ever acheived at an extreme altitude.
On Top to the Top—Acclimatization Strategy for the “Fastest Known Time” to Mount Everest
Grégoire P. Millet and Kilian Jornet
Eleven Years’ Monitoring of the World’s Most Successful Male Biathlete of the Last Decade
Laurent Schmitt, Stéphane Bouthiaux, and Grégoire P. Millet
Purpose: To report the changes in the training characteristics, performance, and heart-rate variability (HRV) of the world’s most successful male biathlete of the last decade. Method: During the analyzed 11-year (2009–2019) period, the participant won 7 big crystal globes, corresponding to the winner of the International Biathlon Union World Cup. The training characteristics are reported as yearly volume (in hours) of low-intensity training (LIT), moderate- and high-intensity training, and speed and strength training. Performance was quantified by the number of World Cup top-3 positions per season. HRV was expressed as low- and high-frequency spectral power (in milliseconds squared), root-mean-square difference of successive R–R interval (in milliseconds), and heart rate (in beats per minute). Results: The training volume increased from 530 to ∼700 hours per year in 2009–2019, with a large polarization in training intensity distribution (ie, LIT 86.3% [2.9%]; moderate-intensity training 3.4% [1.5%]; high-intensity training 4.0% [0.7%]; strength 6.3% [1.6%]). The number of top-3 positions increased from 2 to 24–26 in 2009–2018 but decreased to 6 in 2019. The mean supine values in the root-mean-square difference of successive R–R interval and high-frequency spectral power divided by heart rate increased until 2015, which were stable over 2016–2018 but decreased in 2019. The number of top-3 positions was related to the total (r = .66, P = .02) and LIT (r = .92, P < .001) volume and to several markers of supine parasympathetic activity. Conclusion: The improvement in performance of the participant was mainly determined by the progressive increase in training volume, especially performed at low intensity, and was correlated to parasympathetic activity markers. This case study confirms the effectiveness of the training method, with a large amount of LIT in an elite endurance athlete, and of regular HRV monitoring.
Comment on Gattoni et al: Sleep Deprivation Training as a Highway to Hell in Ultratrail
Grégoire P. Millet, Eric Hermand, and Rémy Hurdiel
Repeated-Sprint Training in Hypoxia Induced by Voluntary Hypoventilation in Swimming
Laurent Trincat, Xavier Woorons, and Grégoire P. Millet
Repeated-sprint training in hypoxia (RSH) has been shown as an efficient method for improving repeated-sprint ability (RSA) in team-sport players but has not been investigated in swimming. We assessed whether RSH with arterial desaturation induced by voluntary hypoventilation at low lung volume (VHL) could improve RSA to a greater extent than the same training performed under normal breathing (NB) conditions.
Sixteen competitive swimmers completed 6 sessions of repeated sprints (2 sets of 16 × 15 m with 30 s send-off) either with VHL (RSH-VHL, n = 8) or with NB (RSN, n = 8). Before and after training, performance was evaluated through an RSA test (25-m all-out sprints with 35 s send-off) until exhaustion.
From before to after training, the number of sprints was significantly increased in RSH-VHL (7.1 ± 2.1 vs 9.6 ± 2.5; P < .01) but not in RSN (8.0 ± 3.1 vs 8.7 ± 3.7; P = .38). Maximal blood lactate concentration ([La]max) was higher after than before in RSH-VHL (11.5 ± 3.9 vs 7.9 ± 3.7 mmol/L; P = .04) but was unchanged in RSN (10.2 ± 2.0 vs 9.0 ± 3.5 mmol/L; P = .34). There was a strong correlation between the increases in the number of sprints and in [La]max in RSH-VHL only (R = .93, P < .01).
RSH-VHL improved RSA in swimming, probably through enhanced anaerobic glycolysis. This innovative method allows inducing benefits normally associated with hypoxia during swim training in normoxia.
Accuracy of Indirect Estimation of Power Output From Uphill Performance in Cycling
Grégoire P. Millet, Cyrille Tronche, and Frédéric Grappe
To use measurement by cycling power meters (Pmes) to evaluate the accuracy of commonly used models for estimating uphill cycling power (Pest). Experiments were designed to explore the influence of wind speed and steepness of climb on accuracy of Pest. The authors hypothesized that the random error in Pest would be largely influenced by the windy conditions, the bias would be diminished in steeper climbs, and windy conditions would induce larger bias in Pest.
Sixteen well-trained cyclists performed 15 uphill-cycling trials (range: length 1.3–6.3 km, slope 4.4–10.7%) in a random order. Trials included different riding position in a group (lead or follow) and different wind speeds. Pmes was quantified using a power meter, and Pest was calculated with a methodology used by journalists reporting on the Tour de France.
Overall, the difference between Pmes and Pest was –0.95% (95%CI: –10.4%, +8.5%) for all trials and 0.24% (–6.1%, +6.6%) in conditions without wind (>2 m/s). The relationship between percent slope and the error between Pest and Pmes were considered trivial.
Aerodynamic drag (affected by wind velocity and orientation, frontal area, drafting, and speed) is the most confounding factor. The mean estimated values are close to the power-output values measured by power meters, but the random error is between ±6% and ±10%. Moreover, at the power outputs (>400 W) produced by professional riders, this error is likely to be higher. This observation calls into question the validity of releasing individual values without reporting the range of random errors.
Psychophysiological Responses to Repeated-Sprint Training in Normobaric Hypoxia and Normoxia
Franck Brocherie, Grégoire P. Millet, and Olivier Girard
To compare psychophysiological responses to 6 repeated-sprint sessions in normobaric hypoxia (RSH) and normoxia (RSN) in team-sport athletes during a 2-wk “live high–train low” training camp.
While residing under normobaric hypoxia (≥14 h/d, FiO2 14.5–14.2%), 23 lowland elite field hockey players performed, in addition to their usual training, 6 sessions (4 × 5 × 5-s maximal sprints, 25-s passive recovery, 5 min rest) under either RSH (FiO2 ~14.5%) or RSN (FiO2 21%). Sprint 1 and 5 times, physiological strain (heart rate [HR], arterial oxyhemoglobin saturation [SpO2]), and perceptual responses (overall peripheral discomfort, difficulty breathing, and lower-limb discomfort) were monitored.
During the 1st session, HR increased across sets (P < .001) independently of the conditions, while SpO2 was globally lower (P < .001) for RSH (averaged value: 91.9% ± 1.2%) vs RSN (96.9% ± 0.6%). Thereafter, SpO2 and HR remained similar across sessions for each condition. While 1st-sprint time remained similar, last-sprint time and fatigue index significantly decreased across sets (P < .01) and sessions (P < .05) but not between conditions. Ratings of overall perceived discomfort, difficulty breathing, and lower-limb discomfort were higher (P < .05) in RSH vs RSN at the 1st session. During subsequent sessions, values for overall perceived discomfort (time [P < .001] and condition [P < .05] effects), difficulty breathing (time effect; P < .001), and lower-limb discomfort (condition [P < .001] and interaction [P < .05] effects) decreased to a larger extent in RSH vs RSN.
Despite higher hypoxia-induced physiological and perceptual strain during the 1st session, perceptual responses improved thereafter in RSH so as not to differ from RSN. This indicates an effective acclimation and tolerance to this innovative training.
Is Altitude Training Bad for the Running Mechanics of Middle-Distance Runners?
Grégoire P. Millet, Rosalie Trigueira, Frédéric Meyer, and Marcel Lemire
Aims: It has been hypothesized that altitude training may alter running mechanics due to several factors such as the slower training velocity with associated alteration in muscle activation and coordination. This would lead to an altered running mechanics attested by an increase in mechanical work for a given intensity and to the need to “re-establish” the neuromuscular coordination and running biomechanics postaltitude. Therefore, the present study aimed to test the hypothesis that “live high—train high” would induce alteration in the running biomechanics (ie, longer contact time, higher vertical oscillations, decreased stiffness, higher external work). Methods: Before and 2 to 3 days after 3 weeks of altitude training (1850–2200 m), 9 national-level middle-distance (800–5000 m) male runners performed 2 successive 5-minute bouts of running at moderate intensity on an instrumented treadmill with measured ground reaction forces and gas exchanges. Immediately after the running trials, peak knee extensor torque was assessed during isometric maximal voluntary contraction. Results: Except for a slight (−3.0%; P = .04) decrease in vertical stiffness, no mechanical parameters (stride frequency and length, contact and flight times, ground reaction forces, and kinetic and potential work) were modified from prealtitude to postaltitude camp. Running oxygen cost was also unchanged. Discussion: The present study is the first one to report that “live high—train high” did not change the main running mechanical parameters, even when measured immediately after the altitude camp. This result has an important practical implication: there is no need for a corrective period at sea level for “normalizing” the running mechanics after an altitude camp.
Cardiorespiratory Responses to the 30-15 Intermittent Ice Test
Cyril Besson, Martin Buchheit, Manu Praz, Olivier Dériaz, and Grégoire P. Millet
In this study, the authors compared the cardiorespiratory responses between the 30–15 Intermittent Ice Test (30-15IIT) and the 30–15 Intermittent Fitness Test (30-15IFT) in semiprofessional hockey players.
Ten players (age 24 ± 6 y) from a Swiss League B team performed the 30-15IIT and 30-15IFT in random order (13 ± 4 d between trials). Cardiorespiratory variables were measured with a portable gas analyzer. Ventilatory threshold (VT), respiratory-compensation point (RCP), and maximal speeds were measured for both tests. Peak blood lactate ([Lapeak]) was measured at 1 min postexercise.
Compared with 30-15IFT, 30-15IIT peak heart rate (HRpeak; mean ± SD 185 ± 7 vs 189 ± 10 beats/min, P = .02) and peak oxygen consumption (VO2peak; 60 ± 7 vs 62.7 ± 4 mL/min/kg, P = .02) were lower, whereas [Lapeak] was higher (10.9 ± 1 vs 8.6 ± 2 mmol/L, P < .01) for the 30–15IIT. VT and RCP values during the 30-15IIT and 30-15IFT were similar for %HRpeak (76.3% ± 5% vs 75.5% ± 3%, P = .53, and 90.6% ± 3% vs. 89.8% ± 3%, P = .45) and % VO2peak (62.3% ± 5% vs 64.2% ± 6%, P = .46, and 85.9% ± 5% vs 84.0% ± 7%, P = .33). VO2peak (r = .93, P < .001), HRpeak (r = .86, P = .001), and final velocities (r = .69, P = .029) were all largely to almost perfectly correlated.
Despite slightly lower maximal cardiorespiratory responses than in the field-running version of the test, the on-ice 30-15IIT is of practical interest since it is a specific maximal test with a higher anaerobic component.
Responses to Exercise in Normobaric Hypoxia: Comparison of Elite and Recreational Ski Mountaineers
Raphael Faiss, Claudia von Orelli, Olivier Dériaz, and Grégoire P. Millet
Hypoxia is known to reduce maximal oxygen uptake (VO2max) more in trained than in untrained subjects in several lowland sports. Ski mountaineering is practiced mainly at altitude, so elite ski mountaineers spend significantly longer training duration at altitude than their lower-level counterparts. Since acclimatization in hypobaric hypoxia is effective, the authors hypothesized that elite ski mountaineers would exhibit a VO2max decrement in hypoxia similar to that of recreational ski mountaineers.
Eleven elite (E, Swiss national team) and 12 recreational (R) ski mountaineers completed an incremental treadmill test to exhaustion in normobaric hypoxia (H, 3000 m, FIO2 14.6% ± 0.1%) and in normoxia (N, 485 m, FIO2 20.9% ± 0.0%). Pulse oxygen saturation in blood (SpO2), VO2max, minute ventilation, and heart rate were recorded.
At rest, hypoxic ventilatory response was higher (P < .05) in E than in R (1.4 ± 1.9 vs 0.3 ± 0.6 L · min−1 · kg−1). At maximal intensity, SpO2 was significantly lower (P < .01) in E than in R, both in N (91.1% ± 3.3% vs 94.3% ± 2.3%) and in H (76.4% ± 5.4% vs 82.3% ± 3.5%). In both groups, SpO2 was lower (P < .01) in H. Between N and H, VO2max decreased to a greater extent (P < .05) in E than in R (–18% and –12%, P < .01). In E only, the VO2max decrement was significantly correlated with the SpO2 decrement (r = .74, P < .01) but also with VO2max measured in N (r = .64, P < .05).
Despite a probable better acclimatization to altitude, VO2max was more reduced in E than in R ski mountaineers, confirming previous results observed in lowlander E athletes.
The Relationships Between Science and Sport: Application in Triathlon
Gregoire P. Millet, David J. Bentley, and Veronica E. Vleck
The relationships between sport sciences and sports are complex and changeable, and it is not clear how they reciprocally influence each other. By looking at the relationship between sport sciences and the “new” (~30-year-old) sport of triathlon, together with changes in scientific fields or topics that have occurred between 1984 and 2006 (278 publications), one observes that the change in the sport itself (eg, distance of the events, wetsuit, and drafting) can influence the specific focus of investigation. The sport-scientific fraternity has successfully used triathlon as a model of prolonged strenuous competition to investigate acute physiological adaptations and trauma, as support for better understanding cross-training effects, and, more recently, as a competitive sport with specific demands and physiological features. This commentary discusses the evolution of the scientific study of triathlon and how the development of the sport has affected the nature of scientific investigation directly related to triathlon and endurance sport in general.