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Martin J. Barwood, Joe Kupusarevic, and Stuart Goodall

Purpose: Exercise performance is impaired in the heat, and a contributing factor to this decrement is thermal discomfort. Menthol spraying of skin is one means of alleviating thermal discomfort but has yet to be shown to be ergogenic using single-spray applications. The authors examined whether repeated menthol spraying could relieve thermal discomfort, reduce perception of exertion, and improve exercise performance in hot (35°C), dry (22% relative humidity) conditions, hypothesizing that it would. Methods: A total of 8 trained cyclists completed 2 separate conditions of fixed-intensity cycling (50% maximal power output) for 45 min before a test to exhaustion (TTE; 70% maximal power output) with 100 mL of menthol spray (0.20% menthol) or control spray applied to the torso after 20 and 40 min. Perceptual (thermal sensation, thermal comfort, and rating of perceived exertion) performance (TTE duration), thermal variables (skin temperature, rectal temperature, and cardiac frequency), and sweating were measured. Data were compared using analysis of variance to .05 alpha level. Results: Menthol spray improved thermal sensation (cold sensation cf warm/hot after first spraying; P = .008) but only descriptively altered thermal comfort (comfortable cf uncomfortable; P = .173). Sweat production (994 [380] mL cf 1180 [380] mL; P = .020) and sweat rate (827 [327] mL·h−1 cf 941 [319] mL·h−1; P = .048) lowered. TTE performance improved (4.6 [1.74] cf 2.4 [1.55] min; P = .004). Menthol-spray effects diminished despite repeated applications, indicating increased contribution of visceral thermoreceptors to thermal perception. Conclusion: Repeated menthol spraying improves exercise capacity but alters thermoregulation, potentially conflicting behavioral and thermoregulatory drivers; care should be taken with its use. Carrying and deploying menthol spray would impose a logistical burden that needs consideration against performance benefit.

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Gavin Cowper, Martin Barwood, and Stuart Goodall

Purpose: Rowers can be in marshaling areas for up to 20 to 25 min before the start of a race, which likely negates any benefits of an active warm-up, especially in cold environments. It is unknown if using a heated jacket following a standardized rowing warm-up can improve 2000-m rowing performance. Methods: On 2 separate occasions, 10 trained male rowers completed a standardized rowing warm-up, followed by 25 min of passive rest before a 2000-m rowing time trial on a rowing ergometer. Throughout the passive rest, the participants wore either a standardized tracksuit top (CON) or an externally heated jacket (HEAT). The trials, presented in a randomized crossover fashion, were performed in a controlled environment (temperature 8°C, humidity 50%). Rowing time-trial performance, core body temperature, and mean skin temperature, along with perceptual variables, were measured. Results: During the 25-min period, core body temperature increased in HEAT and decreased in CON (Δ0.54°C [0.74°C] vs −0.93°C [1.14°C]; P = .02). Additionally, mean skin temperature (30.22°C [1.03°C] vs 28.86°C [1.07°C]) was higher in HEAT versus CON (P < .01). In line with the physiological data, the perceptual data confirmed that participants were more comfortable in HEAT versus CON, and subsequently, rowing performance was improved in HEAT compared with CON (433.1 [12.7] s vs 437.9 [14.4] s, P < .01). Conclusion: The data demonstrate that an upper-body external heating garment worn following a warm-up can improve rowing performance in a cool environment.

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Susan Y. Kwiecien, Malachy P. McHugh, Stuart Goodall, Kirsty M. Hicks, Angus M. Hunter, and Glyn Howatson

Purpose: To evaluate the effectiveness between cold-water immersion (CWI) and phase-change-material (PCM) cooling on intramuscular, core, and skin-temperature and cardiovascular responses. Methods: In a randomized, crossover design, 11 men completed 15 min of 15°C CWI to the umbilicus and 2-h recovery or 3 h of 15°C PCM covering the quadriceps and 1 h of recovery, separated by 24 h. Vastus lateralis intramuscular temperature at 1 and 3 cm, core and skin temperature, heart-rate variability, and thermal comfort were recorded at baseline and 15-min intervals throughout treatment and recovery. Results: Intramuscular temperature decreased (P < .001) during and after both treatments. A faster initial effect was observed from 15 min of CWI (Δ: 4.3°C [1.7°C] 1 cm; 5.5°C [2.1°C] 3 cm; P = .01). However, over time (2 h 15 min), greater effects were observed from prolonged PCM treatment (Δ: 4.2°C [1.9°C] 1 cm; 2.2°C [2.2°C] 3 cm; treatment × time, P = .0001). During the first hour of recovery from both treatments, intramuscular temperature was higher from CWI at 1 cm (P = .013) but not 3 cm. Core temperature deceased 0.25° (0.32°) from CWI (P = .001) and 0.28°C (0.27°C) from PCM (P = .0001), whereas heart-rate variability increased during both treatments (P = .001), with no differences between treatments. Conclusions: The magnitude of temperature reduction from CWI was comparable with PCM, but intramuscular temperature was decreased for longer during PCM. PCM cooling packs offer an alternative for delivering prolonged cooling whenever application of CWI is impractical while also exerting a central effect on core temperature and heart rate.

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Mehdi Kordi, Len Parker Simpson, Kevin Thomas, Stuart Goodall, Tom Maden-Wilkinson, Campbell Menzies, and Glyn Howatson

Purpose: To assess the association between the W′ and measures of neuromuscular function relating to the capacity of skeletal muscle to produce force in a group of elite cyclists. Methods: Twenty-two athletes specializing in a range of disciplines and competing internationally volunteered to participate. Athletes completed assessments of maximum voluntary torque (MVT), voluntary activation, and isometric maximum voluntary contraction to measure rate of torque development (RTD). This was followed by assessment of peak power output (PPO) and 3-, 5-, and 12-minute time trials to determine critical power. Pearson correlation was used to examine associations with critical power and W′. Goodness of fit was calculated, and significant relationships were included in a linear stepwise regression model. Results: Significant positive relationships were evident between W′ and MVT (r = .82), PPO (r = .70), and RTD at 200 milliseconds (r = .59) but not with RTD at 50 milliseconds and voluntary activation. Correlations were also observed between critical power and RTD at 200 milliseconds and MVT (r = .54 and r = .51, respectively) but not with PPO, voluntary activation, or RTD at 50 milliseconds. The regression analysis found that 87% of the variability in W′ (F 1,18 = 68.75; P < .001) was explained by 2 variables: MVT (81%) and PPO (6%). Conclusions: It is likely that muscle size and strength, as opposed to neural factors, contribute meaningfully to W′. These data can be used to establish training methods to enhance W′ to improve cycling performance in well-trained athletes.

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Javier T. Gonzalez, Martin J. Barwood, Stuart Goodall, Kevin Thomas, and Glyn Howatson

Unaccustomed eccentric exercise using large muscle groups elicits soreness, decrements in physical function and impairs markers of whole-body insulin sensitivity; although these effects are attenuated with a repeated exposure. Eccentric exercise of a small muscle group (elbow flexors) displays similar soreness and damage profiles in response to repeated exposure. However, it is unknown whether damage to small muscle groups impacts upon whole-body insulin sensitivity. This pilot investigation aimed to characterize whole-body insulin sensitivity in response to repeated bouts of eccentric exercise of the elbow flexors. Nine healthy males completed two bouts of eccentric exercise separated by 2 weeks. Insulin resistance (updated homeostasis model of insulin resistance, HOMA2-IR) and muscle damage profiles (soreness and physical function) were assessed before, and 48 h after exercise. Matsuda insulin sensitivity indices (ISIMatsuda) were also determined in 6 participants at the same time points as HOMA2-IR. Soreness was elevated, and physical function impaired, by both bouts of exercise (both p < .05) but to a lesser extent following bout 2 (time x bout interaction, p < .05). Eccentric exercise decreased ISIMatsuda after the first but not the second bout of eccentric exercise (time x bout interaction p < .05). Eccentric exercise performed with an isolated upper limb impairs whole-body insulin sensitivity after the first, but not the second, bout.