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Are There Useful Physiological or Psychological Markers for Monitoring Overload Training in Elite Rowers?

Tiaki B. Smith, Will G. Hopkins, and Tim E. Lowe

There is a need for markers that would help determine when an athlete’s training load is either insufficient or excessive. In this study we examined the relationship between changes in performance and changes in physiological and psychological markers during and following a period of overload training in 10 female and 10 male elite rowers. Change in performance during a 4-wk overload was determined with a weekly 30-min time-trial on a rowing ergometer, whereas an incremental test provided change in lactate-threshold power between the beginning of the study and following a 1-wk taper after the overload. Various psychometric, steroid-hormone, muscle-damage, and inflammatory markers were assayed throughout the overload. Plots of change in performance versus the 4-wk change in each marker were examined for evidence of an inverted-U relationship that would characterize undertraining and excessive training. Linear modeling was also used to estimate the effect of changes in the marker on changes in performance. There was a suggestion of an inverted U only for performance in the incremental test versus some inflammatory markers, due to the relative underperformance of one rower. There were some clear linear relationships between changes in markers and changes in performance, but relationships were inconsistent within classes of markers. For some markers, changes considered to predict excessive training (eg, creatine kinase, several proinflammatory cytokines) had small to large positive linear relationships with performance. In conclusion, some of the markers investigated in this study may be useful for adjusting the training load in individual elite rowers.

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Effects of Chronic Cold-Water Immersion in Elite Rugby Players

Francisco Tavares, Martyn Beaven, Júlia Teles, Dane Baker, Phil Healey, Tiaki B. Smith, and Matthew Driller

Purpose: Although the acute effects of cold-water immersion (CWI) have been widely investigated, research analyzing the effects of CWI over a chronic period in highly trained athletes is scarce. The aim of this study was to investigate the effects of CWI during an intense 3-wk preseason phase in elite rugby athletes. Methods : A total of 23 elite male rugby union athletes were randomized to either CWI (10 min at 10°C, n = 10) or a passive recovery control (CON, n = 13) during 3 wk of high-volume training. Athletes were exposed to either CWI or CON after each training day (12 d in total). Running loads, conditioning, and gym sessions were kept the same between groups. Measures of countermovement jump, perceived muscle soreness, and wellness were obtained twice a week, and saliva samples for determining cortisol and interleukin-6 were collected once per week. Results : Although no significant differences were observed between CWI and CON for any measure, CWI resulted in lower fatigue markers throughout the study as demonstrated by the moderate effects on muscle soreness (d = 0.58–0.91) and interleukin-6 (d = −0.83) and the small effects (d = 0.23–0.38) on countermovement jump in comparison with CON. Conclusions : CWI may provide some beneficial effect by reducing fatigue and soreness during an intense 3-wk training phase in elite rugby athletes.

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A 0.1% L-Menthol Mouth Swill in Elite Male Rugby Players Has Different Effects in Forwards and Backs

Marcia L. Jerram, Dane Baker, Tiaki B. Smith, Phil Healey, Lee Taylor, and Katherine Black

Purpose: Menthol mouth swills can improve endurance performance in the heat, which is attributed to attenuations in nonthermally derived thermal sensation (TS) and perception of effort. However, research in elite team-sport athletes is absent. Therefore, this study investigated the performance and TS responses to a 0.1% menthol mouth rinse (MR) or placebo (PLA) among elite male rugby union players. Method: Twenty-seven (15 Forwards and 12 Backs) elite male Super Rugby players completed two 3-minute 15-a-side rugby-specific conditioning blocks, with MR or PLA provided at the start of training (baseline), at the start of each 3-minute block (swill 1 [S1] and swill 2 [S2]), and at the end of training (swill 3 [S3]). TS was assessed using the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers 9-point Analog Sensation Scale after each swill and at baseline (preconditioning block). Acceptability was measured after baseline swill and S3 using a 5-question Likert scale. Physical performance was measured throughout training using global positioning system metrics. Results: MR attenuated TS from baseline to S1 (P = .003, SD = 1.01) and S2 (P = .002, SD = 1.09) in Forwards only, compared with PLA. Acceptability was higher only for Forwards in MR versus PLA at baseline (P = .003, SD = 1.3) and S3 (P = .004, SD = 0.75). MR had no effect on physical performance metrics (P > .05). Conclusion: MR attenuated the rise in TS with higher acceptability at S1 and S3 (in Forwards only) with no effect on selected physical performance metrics. Longer-duration exercise (eg, a match) in hot–humid conditions eliciting markedly increased body temperatures could theoretically allow favorable changes in TS to enhance performance—these postulations warrant experimental investigation.