Smith, T. B., Hopkins, W. G., & Lowe, T. E. (2010). Are there useful physiological or psychological markers for monitoring overload training in elite athletes? Presentation 873 at the 2010 Annual Meeting of the American College of Sports Medicine, Baltimore, Maryland; June 2-5.

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This study examined the relationship between changes in performance and changes in physiological and psychological markers during and following a period of overload training in elite rowers (M = 10; F = 10) preparing for a world championship. Performance was assessed with a rowing ergometer as mean power in a 30-minute time-trial and as power at a blood-lactate concentration of 4 mmol/l in an incremental test. The time-trial provided changes in performance during the four weeks of overload, while the incremental test was undertaken at the beginning of the study and following a one-week taper after the overload. The following markers were assayed throughout the overload: mood state, sleep quality, perception of fatigue, and concentrations of cortisol, testosterone, dehydroepiandrosterone, creatine kinase, lactate dehydrogenase, 14 cytokines, and C reactive protein in saliva and/or plasma. Plots of change in performance versus the four-week change in each marker were examined for evidence of an inverted-U relationship that would characterize under- and over-training.

An inverted-U was apparent only for performance in the incremental test versus some plasma cytokines, and the relationship arose only because of relative underperformance of one rower who later excelled in competitions. Many changes considered to predict over-training (e.g., worsening mood, decreasing morning testosterone, increasing inflammation) actually had small to large positive linear relationships with performance.

Implication. The markers investigated in this study were not useful for identifying excessive training in elite rowers but could indicate the need for an increase in training load.

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