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An Online Training-Monitoring System to Prevent Nonfunctional Overreaching

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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Pacing and Hazard Score of Elite Open Water Swimmers During a 5-km Indoor Pool Race

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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The Road to Rio: A Brief Report of Training-Load Distribution of Open-Water Swimmers During the Olympic Season

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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The Use of Session-RPE Method for Quantifying Training Load in Diving

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; R 2 range: 0.50–0.92; P < 0.01) and for divers (r range: 0.67–0.96; R 2 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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Monitoring Physical and Cognitive Overload During a Training Camp in Professional Female Cyclists

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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Characteristics and Challenges of Open-Water Swimming Performance: A Review

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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Are the World Junior Championship Finalists for Middle- and Long-Distance Events Currently Competing at International Level?

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.

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The Gender Gap in Sport Performance: Equity Influences Equality

Laura Capranica, Maria Francesca Piacentini, Shona Halson, Kathryn H. Myburgh, Etsuko Ogasawara, and Mindy Millard-Stafford

Sport is recognized as playing a relevant societal role to promote education, health, intercultural dialogue, and the individual development, regardless of an individual’s gender, race, age, ability, religion, political affiliation, sexual orientation, and socioeconomic background. Yet, it was not until the 2012 Summer Olympic Games in London that every country’s delegation included a female competitor. The gender gap in sport, although closing, remains, due to biological differences affecting performance, but it is also influenced by reduced opportunity and sociopolitical factors that influence full female participation across a range of sports around the world. Until the cultural environment is equitable, scientific discussion related to physiological differences using methods that examine progression in male and female world-record performances is limited. This commentary is intended to provide a forum to discuss issues underlying gender differences in sport performance from a global perspective and acknowledge the influence of cultural and sociopolitical factors that continue to ultimately affect female performance.

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To Sleep Dreaming Medals: Sleep Characteristics, Napping Behavior, and Sleep-Hygiene Strategies in Elite Track-and-Field Athletes Facing the Olympic Games of Tokyo 2021

Jacopo A. Vitale, Stefano Borghi, Maria Francesca Piacentini, Giuseppe Banfi, and Antonio La Torre

Purpose: Few data are available on sleep characteristics of elite track-and-field athletes. Our study aimed to assess (1) differences in sleep between sexes and among different track-and-field disciplines, (2) the effect of individualized sleep-hygiene strategies on athletes’ sleep parameters, and (3) daytime nap characteristics in track-and-field athletes. Methods: Sleep characteristics of 16 elite Olympic-level track-and-field athletes (male: n = 8; female: n = 8) were assessed during the preseason period, at baseline (T0), and during the in-season period, after the adoption of individualized sleep-hygiene strategies (T1). Sleep parameters were objectively monitored by actigraphy for a minimum of 10 days, for each athlete, at both T0 and T1. A total of 702 nights were analyzed (T0 = 425; T1 = 277). Results: Female athletes displayed better sleep efficiency (88.69 [87.69–89.68] vs 91.72 [90.99–92.45]; P = .003, effect size [ES]: 0.44), lower sleep latency (18.99 [15.97–22.00] vs 6.99 [5.65–8.32]; P < .001, ES: 0.65), higher total sleep time (07:03 [06:56–07:11] vs 07:18 [07:10–07:26]; P = .030, ES: 0.26), earlier bedtime (00:24 [00:16–00:32] vs 00:13 [00:04–00:22]; P = .027, ES: 0.18), and lower nap frequency (P < .001) than male athletes. Long-distance runners had earlier bedtime (00:10 [00:03–00:38] vs 00:36 [00:26–00:46]; P < .001, ES: 0.41) and wake-up time (07:41 [07:36–07:46] vs 08:18 [08:07–08:30]; P < .001, ES: 0.61), higher nap frequency, but lower sleep efficiency (88.79 [87.80–89.77] vs 91.67 [90.95–92.38]; P = .013, ES: 0.44), and longer sleep latency (18.89 [15.94–21.84] vs 6.69 [5.33–8.06]; P < .001, ES: 0.67) than athletes of short-term disciplines. Furthermore, sleep-hygiene strategies had a positive impact on athletes’ total sleep time (429.2 [423.5–434.8] vs 451.4 [444.2–458.6]; P < .001, ES: 0.37) and sleep latency (14.33 [12.34–16.32] vs 10.67 [8.66–12.68]; P = .017, ES: 0.19). Conclusions: Sleep quality and quantity were suboptimal at baseline in Olympic-level track-and-field athletes. Large differences were observed in sleep characteristics between sexes and among different track-and-field disciplines. Given the positive effect of individualized sleep-hygiene strategies on athlete’s sleep, coaches should implement sleep education sessions in the daily routine of top-level athletes.

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Monitoring Rating of Perceived Exertion Time in Zone: A Novel Method to Quantify Training Load in Elite Open-Water Swimmers?

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.