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Sarah J. Willis, Grégoire P. Millet and Fabio Borrani

Purpose: To assess tissue oxygenation, along with metabolic and physiological responses during blood flow restriction (BFR, bilateral vascular occlusion) and systemic hypoxia conditions during submaximal leg- versus arm-cycling exercise. Methods: In both legs and arms, 4 randomized sessions were performed (normoxia 400 m, fraction of inspired oxygen [FIO2] 20.9% and normobaric hypoxia 3800 m, FIO2 13.1% [0.1%]; combined with BFR at 0% and 45% of resting pulse elimination pressure). During each session, a single 6-minute steady-state submaximal exercise was performed to measure physiological changes and oxygenation (near-infrared spectroscopy) of the muscle tissue in both the vastus lateralis (legs) and biceps brachii (arms). Results: Total hemoglobin concentration ([tHb]) was 65% higher (P < .001) in arms versus legs, suggesting that arms had a greater blood perfusion capacity than legs. Furthermore, there were greater changes in tissue blood volume [tHb] during BFR compared with control conditions (P = .017, F = 5.45). The arms elicited 7% lower tissue saturation (P < .001) and were thus more sensitive to the hypoxia-induced reduction in oxygen supply than legs, no matter the condition. This indicates that legs and arms may elicit different regulatory hemodynamic mechanisms (ie, greater blood flow in arms) for limiting the decreased oxygen delivery during exercise with altered arterial oxygen content. Conclusions: The combination of BFR and/or hypoxia led to increased [tHb] in both limbs likely due to greater vascular resistance; further, arms were more responsive than legs. This possibly influences the maintenance of oxygen delivery and enhances perfusion pressure, suggesting greater vascular reactivity in arms than in legs.

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Sarah J. Willis, Jules Gellaerts, Benoît Mariani, Patrick Basset, Fabio Borrani and Grégoire P. Millet

Purpose: To examine the net oxygen cost, oxygen kinetics, and kinematics of level and uphill running in elite ultratrail runners. Methods: Twelve top-level ultradistance trail runners performed two 5-min stages of treadmill running (level, 0%, men 15 km·h−1, women 13 km·h−1; uphill, 12%, men 10 km·h−1, women 9 km·h−1). Gas exchanges were measured to obtain the net oxygen cost and assess oxygen kinetics. In addition, running kinematics were recorded with inertial measurement unit motion sensors on the wrist, head, belt, and foot. Results: Relationships resulted between level and uphill running regarding oxygen uptake (V˙O2), respiratory exchange ratio, net energy, and oxygen cost, as well as oxygen kinetics parameters of amplitude and time delay of the primary phase and time to reach V˙O2 steady state. Of interest, net oxygen cost demonstrated a significant correlation between level and uphill conditions (r = .826, P < .01). Kinematics parameters demonstrated relationships between level and uphill running, as well (including contact time, aerial time, stride frequency, and stiffness; all P < .01). Conclusion: This study indicated strong relationships between level and uphill values of net oxygen cost, the time constant of the primary phase of oxygen kinetics, and biomechanical parameters of contact and aerial time, stride frequency, and stiffness in elite mountain ultratrail runners. The results show that these top-level athletes are specially trained for uphill locomotion at the expense of their level running performance and suggest that uphill running is of utmost importance for success in mountain ultratrail races.

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Laurent Mourot, Nicolas Fabre, Erik Andersson, Sarah Willis, Martin Buchheit and Hans-Christer Holmberg

Postexercise heart-rate (HR) recovery (HRR) indices have been associated with running and cycling endurance-exercise performance. The current study was designed (1) to test whether such a relationship also exists in the case of cross-country skiing (XCS) and (2) to determine whether the magnitude of any such relationship is related to the intensity of exercise before obtaining HRR indices. Ten elite male cross-country skiers (mean ± SD; 28.2 ± 5.4 y, 181 ± 8 cm, 77.9 ± 9.4 kg, 69.5 ± 4.3 mL · min−1 · kg−1 maximal oxygen uptake [VO2max]) performed 2 sessions of roller-skiing on a treadmill: a 2 × 3-km time trial and the same 6-km at an imposed submaximal speed followed by a final 800-m time trial. VO2 and HR were monitored continuously, while HRR and blood lactate (BLa) were assessed during 2 min immediately after each 6-km and the 800-m time trial. The 6-km time-trial time was largely negatively correlated with VO2max and BLa. On the contrary, there was no clear correlation between the 800-m time-trial time and VO2, HR, or BLa. In addition, in no case was any clear correlation between any of the HRR indices and performance time or VO2max observed. These findings confirm that XCS performance is largely correlated with VO2max and the ability to tolerate high levels of BLa; however, postexercise HRR showed no clear association with performance. The homogeneity of the group of athletes involved and the contribution of the arms and upper body to the exercise preceding determination of HRR may explain this absence of a relationship.