From science to practice: the application of interval-training and wearable technology to improve performance in trained distance runners

Parmar, Arran (2024) From science to practice: the application of interval-training and wearable technology to improve performance in trained distance runners. Doctoral thesis, Northumbria University.

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Competitive distance runners aim to complete a specific race distance in the shortest time possible, with their performance limited by the interaction of various physiological, biomechanical, and psychological factors. In well-trained and elite distance runners, optimising the interaction of these factors is pivotal to success.

Methods to improve VYO2max have been studied with various training protocols developed and implemented in research and practice. Training methods to improve VO2max are typically characterised in two schools; continuous training (CT) and interval training (IT). Utilising IT allows high intensities to be sustained stressing the oxygen delivery and utilisation systems to a greater extent than CT methods. A large body of research exists exploring the demands and effectiveness of IT for improving VO2max. This research however has largely been conducted in populations other than well-trained distance runners. Moreover, the IT methods that have been studied appear to differ in several aspects to those typically implemented in practice. The research and evidence to support the use of IT in well-trained distance running populations is therefore unclear.

The first study of this thesis aimed to identify the IT methods used by well-trained distance runners in practice. Based upon the findings, IT methods are implemented year-round for 1-2 sessions of the 5-6 training sessions coached per week. Combinations of short (> 90 s), medium (90 s to 3 mins), and long (≤ 3mins) work intervals are utilised, typically going from longer work intervals (LWI) in the winter to shorter work intervals (SWI) in the summer. The IT sessions identified typically consist of lower intensities, longer recoveries, and lower total running volumes than those recommended in research to develop VO2max.

The second study of this thesis aimed to systematically review current literature on the efficacy of IT for eliciting changes in VO2max in well-trained distance runners. The findings of this review demonstrate that a lack of evidence exists to support the efficacy of IT sessions that are intended to improve VO2max in well-trained running populations. Nevertheless, the novel method of training load analysis used in this review suggests IT interventions consisting of a high total IT session TRIMP provide an effective stimulus for improvements in VO2max. The recommendation provided in this study however appears to differ to the IT sessions implemented in practice to develop VO2max.

The third study of this thesis examined the evidence available related to the mechanisms responsible for changes in VO2max in response to running-based training interventions in trained endurance populations. The findings of this review demonstrate that no evidence exists to support changes in central and peripheral mechanisms responsible for improvements in VO2max in trained endurance populations performing running-based training interventions. This study shows that further research in trained endurance populations performing running-based training interventions is therefore required to confirm the mechanisms responsible for changes in VO2max.

The fourth study examined the utility of a wearable device called STRYD that provides a measure of power output (STRYD PO) during running. The findings of this study demonstrate that STRYD PO is representative of the metabolic demand of running as running speed increases at submaximal speeds. The STRYD PO systematically underestimated the metabolic PO, though this agreement is strengthened when expressed relative to a fixed submaximal work intensity. Based upon these findings, STRYD PO can be used as a field-based measurement tool to quantify and monitor IT in practice.

The final study explored the application of wearable technologies in trained distance running populations. A survey was conducted to evaluate how wearable devices and the data provided are used for training and racing. The results of this survey demonstrated that the data recorded is only used to record, track, and monitor training and racing, rather than to prescribe and inform training and racing decisions. The metrics runners and coaches utilise and place the most importance and value on are pace, distance, HR, and time, despite wearable devices offering a variety of other insightful metrics. This suggests that barriers other than the limited applicable evidence available may exist that are preventing runners and coaches from utilising wearable devices to their full potential so that training and racing can be optimised.

In conclusion, the current research landscape on IT methods does not match what is implemented in practice by well-trained distance runners and coaches. A gap between research and practice is present, meaning there is insufficient evidence to inform the translation of science to practice. The evidence that is available is not specific to well-trained distance runners due to several reasons. This thesis shows that wearable technology provides an opportunity to conduct ecologically valid research in the applied environment. Wearable technology offers runners and coaches the ability to implement evidence-based recommendations, however, the data is not currently used to inform training and racing. The findings of this thesis challenge the current literature and its ability to inform applied practice as it relates to the use of IT in trained-distance runners.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Uncontrolled Keywords: applied exercise physiology, endurance training, sport and exercise science, endurance athletes, training load monitoring and analysis
Subjects: C600 Sports Science
Department: Faculties > Health and Life Sciences > Sport, Exercise and Rehabilitation
University Services > Graduate School > Doctor of Philosophy
Depositing User: John Coen
Date Deposited: 15 Apr 2024 13:47
Last Modified: 15 Apr 2024 14:00

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