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Maria Francesca Piacentini and Romain Meeusen

Purpose:

This longitudinal case study evaluated the effectiveness of an online training-monitoring system to prevent nonfunctional overreaching (NFOR).

Methods:

A female master track and field athlete was followed by means of a daily online training diary (www.spartanova.com) and a weekly profile of mood state (POMS). The online diary consists of objective training data and subjective feelings reported on a 10-cm visual analog scale. Furthermore, parameters that quantify and summarize training and adaptation to training were calculated. The novelty consists in the inclusion of a specific measuring parameter tested to detect NFOR (OR score).

Results:

During track-season preparation, the athlete was facing some major personal changes, and extratraining stress factors increased. Despite the fact that training load (TL) did not increase, the or score showed a 222% and then a 997% increase compared with baseline. POMS showed a 167% increase in fatigue, a 38% decrease in vigor, a 32% increase in depression scores, and a total mood increase of 22%, with a 1-wk shift compared with the OR score. A 41% decrease in TL restored the OR score and POMS to baseline values within 10 d.

Conclusion:

The results demonstrate that immediate feedback obtained by “warning signals” to both athletes and coaches, based on individual baseline data, seems an optimal predictor of FOR/NFOR.

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Roberto Baldassarre, Cristian Ieno, Marco Bonifazi, and Maria Francesca Piacentini

Purpose: The sensation of fatigue experienced at a certain point of the race is an important factor in the regulation of pacing. The rating of perceived exertion (RPE) is considered one of the main mediators utilized by athletes to modify pacing. The aim was to analyze the relationship between pacing and RPE of elite open water swimmers during national indoor pool championships. Methods: A total of 17 elite open water swimmers (males, n = 9; females, n = 8) agreed to provide RPE every 500 m during the finals of the national championships 5-km indoor pool race. Time splits, stroke rate, and RPE were collected every 500 m. The Hazard score was calculated by multiplying the momentary RPE by the remaining fraction of the race. Athletes were placed in one of two categories: medalists or nonmedalists. For all variables, separate mixed analysis of variances (P ≤ .05) with repeated measures were used considering the splits (ie, every 500 m) as within-subjects factor and the groups (ie, medalists and nonmedalists) as between-subjects factor. Results: Average swimming speed showed a significant main effect for split for both males and females (P < .001). A significant interaction was observed between average swimming speed and groups for females (P = .032). RPE increased in both groups (P < .001) with no difference observed between groups. However, the female nonmedalists showed a disproportionate nonlinear increase in RPE (5.20 [2.31]) halfway through the event that corresponded to the point where they started significantly decreasing speed. Conclusions: The results of the present study show different pacing strategies adopted by medalists and nonmedalists despite a similar RPE.

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Roberto Baldassarre, Marco Bonifazi, Romain Meeusen, and Maria Francesca Piacentini

Purpose: The 10-km open-water swimming race is an endurance event that takes place in lakes, rivers, or sea and has been an Olympic event since 2008. The aim of the present brief report is to describe training volume and intensity distribution of elite open-water swimmers during the 2016 Olympic season, verifying if, in order to maximize performance, most of the training would be performed at low intensities. Methods: Eight elite Italian open-water swimmers (3 male and 5 female; 25 [2] y, 1.74 [0.05] m, 68.26 [8.17] kg) specialized in distances between 5 and 25 km participated in the study. Training load was determined using an online training diary. Training intensity was categorized according to the 3-zone model: Z1, light intensity; Z2, moderate intensity; and Z3, high intensity. Session rating of perceived exertion was used to quantify training-intensity distribution. This method assigns the entire session into a single intensity zone based on the rating of perceived exertion recorded 30 min posttraining. Results: Total yearly training volume was 3576.93 (272.390) km (3220.80–4041.97), distributed across 446 (37) (397–484) sessions monitored during the 2016 Olympic season. Training-intensity distribution in each zone was 76.83% (8.11%) in Z1, 17.70% (6.79%) in Z2, and 5.47% (5.93%) in Z3. Conclusions: High volumes in Z1 appear to be an important training method used by elite open-water swimmers. However, future research is necessary to study the effects of different training-intensity distribution on open-water swimming performances.

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Lieselot Decroix, Maria Francesca Piacentini, Gerard Rietjens, and Romain Meeusen

Purpose:

High training loads combined with other stressors can lead to performance decrements. The time needed to recover determines the diagnosis of (non)-functional overreaching or the overtraining syndrome. The aim of this study was to describe the effects of an 8-day (intensified) training camp of professional female cyclists on physical and cognitive performance.

Methods:

Nine subjects performed a 30-min time trial (TT), cognitive test, and Profile of Mood States questionnaire before, during, and after a training camp (49% increased training volume). On data collection, cyclists were classified as “overreached” (OR) or “adapted” (A) based on TT performance. Two-way repeated-measures analysis of variance was used to detect changes in physical and cognitive parameters.

Results:

Five cyclists were described as OR based on decreased mean power output (MPO) (–7.03%) on day 8. Four cyclists were classified as A (increased MPO: +1.72%). MPO and maximal heart rate were significantly different between A and OR groups. A significant slower reaction time (RT) (+3.35%) was found in OR subjects, whereas RT decreased (–4.59%) in A subjects. The change in MPO was negatively correlated with change in RT in the cognitive test (R 2 = .52).

Conclusions:

This study showed that the use of objective, inexpensive, and easy-to-interpret physical and cognitive tests can facilitate the monitoring of training adaptations in professional female athletes.

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Carlo Minganti, Laura Capranica, Romain Meeusen, and Maria Francesca Piacentini

Purpose:

The aim of the present study was to assess the effectiveness of perceived exertion (session-RPE) in quantifying internal training load in divers.

Methods:

Six elite divers, three males (age, 25.7 ± 6.1 y; stature, 1.71 ± 0.06 m; body mass, 66.7 ± 1.2 kg) and three females (age, 25.3 ± 0.6 y; stature, 1.63 ± 0.05 m; body mass, 58.3 ± 4.0 kg) were monitored during six training sessions within a week, which included 1 m and 3 m springboard dives. The Edwards summated heart rate zone method was used as a reference measure; the session-RPE rating was obtained using the CR-10 Borg scale modified by Foster and the 100 mm visual analog scale (VAS).

Results:

Significant correlations were found between CR-10 and VAS session-RPE and the Edwards summated heart rate zone method for training sessions (r range: 0.71–0.96; R2 range: 0.50–0.92; P < 0.01) and for divers (r range: 0.67–0.96; R2 range: 0.44–0.92; P < 0.01).

Conclusions:

These findings suggest that session-RPE can be useful for monitoring internal training load in divers.

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Roberto Baldassarre, Marco Bonifazi, Paola Zamparo, and Maria Francesca Piacentini

Context: Although the popularity of open-water swimming (OWS) events has significantly increased in the last decades, specific studies regarding performance of elite or age-group athletes in these events are scarce. Purpose: To analyze the existing literature on OWS. Methods: Relevant literature was located via computer-generated citations. During August 2016, online computer searches on PubMed and Scopus databases were conducted to locate published research. Results: The number of participants in ultraendurance swimming events has substantially increased in the last 10 y. In elite athletes there is a higher overall competitive level of women than of men. The body composition of female athletes (different percentage and distribution of fat tissue) shows several advantages (more buoyancy and less drag) in aquatic conditions that determine the small difference between males and females. The main physiological characteristics of open-water swimmers (OW swimmers) are the ability to swim at high percentage of V ˙ O 2 max  (80–90%) for many hours. Furthermore, to sustain high velocity for many hours, endurance swimmers need a high propelling efficiency and a low energy cost. Conclusion: Open-water races may be characterized by extreme environmental conditions (water temperature, tides, currents, and waves) that have an overall impact on performance, influencing tactics and pacing. Future studies are needed to study OWS in both training and competition.

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Luca Filipas, Emiliano Nerli Ballati, Matteo Bonato, Antonio La Torre, and Maria Francesca Piacentini

Purpose: To analyze the pacing profiles of the world’s top 800-m annual performances between 2010 and 2016, comparing men’s and women’s strategies. Methods: A total of 142 performances were characterized for overall race times and 0-to-200-m, 200-to-400-m, 400-to-600-m, and 600-to-800-m split times using available footage from YouTube. Only the best annual performance for each athlete was considered. Overall race and split speed were calculated so that each lap speed could be expressed as a percentage of the mean race speed. Results: The mean speed of the men’s 800-m was 7.73 (0.06) m·s−1, with the 0-to-200-m split faster than the others. After the first split, the speed decreased significantly during the 3 subsequent splits (P < .001). The mean speed of the women’s 800-m was 6.77 (0.05) m·s−1, with a significative variation in speed during the race (P < .001). The first split was faster than the others (P < .001). During the rest of the race, speed was almost constant, and no difference was observed between the other splits. Comparison between men and women revealed that there was an interaction between split and gender (P < .001), showing a different pacing behavior in 800-m competitions. Conclusions: The world’s best 800-m performances revealed an important difference in the pacing profile between men and women. Tactics could play a greater role in this difference, but physiological and behavioral characteristics are likely also important.

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Cristian Ieno, Roberto Baldassarre, Maddalena Pennacchi, Antonio La Torre, Marco Bonifazi, and Maria Francesca Piacentini

Purpose: To analyze training-intensity distribution (TID) using different independent monitoring systems for internal training load in a group of elite open-water swimmers. Methods: One hundred sixty training sessions were monitored in 4 elite open-water swimmers (2 females and 2 males: 23.75 [4.86] y, 62.25 [6.18] kg, 167 [6.68] cm) during 5 weeks of regular training. Heart-rate-based methods, such as time in zone (TIZ), session goal (SG), and hybrid (SG/TIZ), were used to analyze TID. Similarly to SG/TIZ, a new hybrid approach, the rating of perceived exertion (RPE)/TIZ for a more accurate analysis of TID was used. Moreover, based on the 3-zone model, the session ratings of perceived exertion of the swimmers and the coach were compared. Results: Heart-rate- and RPE-based TID methods were significantly different in quantifying Z1 (P = .012; effect size [ES] = 0.490) and Z2 (P = .006; ES = 0.778), while no difference was observed in the quantification of Z3 (P = .428; ES = 0.223). The heart-rate-based data for Z1, Z2, and Z3 were 83.2%, 7.4%, and 8.1% for TIZ; 80.8%, 8.3%, and 10.8% for SG/TIZ; and 55%, 15.6%, and 29.4% for SG. The RPE-based data were 70.9%, 19.9%, and 9.2% for RPE/TIZ% and 41.2%, 48.9%, and 9.7% for the session rating of perceived exertion. No differences were observed between the coach’s and the swimmers’ session ratings of perceived exertion in the 3 zones (Z1: P = .663, ES = −0.187; Z2: P = .110, ES = 0.578; Z3: P = .149, ES = 0.420). Conclusion: Using RPE-based TID methods, Z2 was significantly larger compared with Z1. These results show that RPE-based TID methods in elite open-water swimmers are affected by both intensity and volume.

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Giulia De Ioannon, Giuseppe Cibelli, Sergio Mignardi, Agnese Antonelli, Laura Capranica, and Maria Francesca Piacentini

Purpose:

To evaluate the pacing strategy, rating of perceived exertion (RPE), and mood during a 78.1-km solo ultraendurance open-water swim.

Methods:

Before and after the event, anthropometric parameters, cortisol, and the profile of mood state (POMS) of 1 male athlete (age 48 y, height 172 cm, body mass 68 kg, body fat 7.2%, athletic achievement: Italian record holder of the Channel Swim) were ascertained. Every 3 h during the event, average swimming speed (SS), stroke rate, stroke length (SL), and RPE were recorded.

Results:

The athlete completed the event in 23:44 h:min. Compared with the first 3 h of swimming, decreases in SS (−33%) and SL (−25%) were observed between 18 h and 21 h. Thereafter, the athlete increased SS (+41%) and SL (+17%) between 21 h and the end. RPE steadily increased from the beginning to the last 6 h of swimming. Cortisol showed a 23-fold increase. After the event, POMS showed a 500% increase in fatigue, 44% decrease in tension, and 77% decrease in vigor.

Conclusion:

For the first time ever an athlete crossed the Adriatic Sea. This case study shows that the athlete adopted a variable pacing strategy to complete 78 km. Despite the athlete perceiving his effort at maximum during the last 6 h, the observed increases in SS at the end of the event might substantiate his high potential motivation to accomplish this challenging and unique event.

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Federico Pizzuto, Matteo Bonato, Gialunca Vernillo, Antonio La Torre, and Maria Francesca Piacentini

Purpose:

To analyze how many finalists of the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) World Junior Championships (WJCs) in the middle- and long-distance track events had dropped out from high-level competitions.

Methods:

Starting from 2002, the 8 male and the 8 female finalists in the middle- and long-distance events of 6 editions of the WJC were followed until 2015 to evaluate how many missed the IAAF rankings for 2 consecutive years starting from the year after WJC participation. For those still competing at elite level, their careers were monitored.

Results:

In 2015, 61% of the 2002, 54.8% of the 2004, 48.3% of the 2006, 37.5% of the 2008, 26.2% of the 2010, and 29% of the 2012 WJC finalists were not present in the IAAF rankings. Of the 368 athletes considered, 75 (20.4%) were able to achieve the IAAF top 10 in 2.4 ± 2.2 y. There is evidence of relationships between dropout and gender (P = .040), WJC edition (P = .000), and nationality (P = .010) and between the possibility to achieve the IAAF top 10 and dropout (P = .000), continent (P = .001), relative age effect (P = .000), and quartile of birth (P = .050).

Conclusions:

Even if 23 of the finalists won a medal at the Olympic Games or at the World Championships, it is still not clear if participation at the WJC is a prerequisite to success at a senior level.