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Autonomic markers of adaptation to moderate altitude and sea level training in elite swimmers
Provided they are found valid, reliable and specific, markers derived from standardized heart rate variability (HRV) measurements could become a simple and expeditious method of monitoring training adaptation at altitude and at sea level, contributing with new theoretical knowledge and answering practical demands in training design, planning and control in high level athletes.
This investigation aims to identify autonomic and cardiac markers of adaptation to moderate altitude (“live high-train high”, Hi) compared to conventional training at sea level (“live low-train low”, Lo) in high level swimmers
24 swimmers of the Spanish national team (RFEN) and 16 swimmers of the Dutch national team (KNZB) participated. The first part of the study consisted of a controlled, group-matched, balanced experiment, in which subjects will be assigned to one of two groups: Hi or Lo. Daily, during a 9- week period, training load, health status and fatigue was monitored, and the ECG recorded to allow for RR heart rate variability analysis (HRV). Along the 9-week period, swimming performance tests were administered (n=24) and, following a tapering phase, competitive performance in an official competition was recorded and compared to previous personal records. In the second part of the study, the Dutch group was monitored during 3 weeks at altitude (Hi) and, successively, during 10 more days at sea level
Heart rate variability monitoring
Three times per week (each day during altitude acclimatization) along a 9 week period subjects will be monitored with beat-by-beat heart rate monitors (Polar RS800CX, Kempele, Finland). Recordings will be taken first thing in the morning, in a calm and mostly dark environment (sleeping room)
Swimmers will undergo an 8-week training block (mesocycle) according to the official training plans proposed by the technical staff of the RFEN, under the control of their own personal coaches:
1 week preparatory block (specific work)
3 weeks training block at sea level (Lo group) or at 2,230 m (Hi group)
1-2 weeks loading block at sea level
1-2 weeks tapering
3 day competition
Training performed by each swimmer was recorded in training logs (series, reps, times, recovery, dry-land training, etc. ), and heart rate monitored during training at the end of each swim/task. Session-RPE scores were also recorded after every training season. Training intensity was quantified by calculating TRIMPs (Bannister et al. 1975) by means of different updated procedures
Training logs (see above) contained relevant clinical information including body weight, perceived training intensity (Session-RPE10), fatigue (modified Training Fatigue Score, TFS10 questionnaire), Lake Louis questionnaire for acute mountain sickness, as well as annotations relating to any alteration of swimmers’ health status (clinical symptoms, injury, infection, etc.), which was consulted with the medical staff.
A preliminary research report has been produced for the Higher Spanish Sports Council. Scientific articles are currently in preparation. First communications are planned for the ECSS Annual Congress in Liverpool 2011.
For information please send an email to Prof. Ferran A. Rodríguez: