Short-Term Heat Acclimation and Precooling, Independently and Combined, Improve 5-km Time Trial Performance in the Heat

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Abstract

James, CA, Richardson, AJ, Watt, PW, Willmott, AGB, Gibson, OR, and Maxwell, NS. Short-term heat acclimation and precooling, independently and combined, improve 5-km time trial performance in the heat. J Strength Cond Res 32(5): 1366–1375, 2018—Following heat acclimation (HA), endurance running performance remains impaired in hot vs. temperate conditions. Combining HA with precooling (PC) demonstrates no additive benefit in intermittent sprint, or continuous cycling exercise protocols, during which heat strain may be less severe compared to endurance running. This study investigated the effect of short-term HA (STHA) combined with mixed methods PC, on endurance running performance and directly compared PC and HA. Nine amateur trained runners completed 5-km treadmill time trials (TTs) in the heat (32° C, 60% relative humidity) under 4 conditions; no intervention (CON), PC, short-term HA (5 days—HA) and STHA with PC (HA + PC). Mean (±SD) performance times were; CON 1,476 (173) seconds, PC 1,421 (146) seconds, HA 1,378 (116) seconds and HA + PC 1,373 (121) seconds. This equated to the following improvements versus CON; PC −3.7%, HA −6.6% and HA + PC −7.0%. Statistical differences were only observed between HA and CON (p = 0.004, d = 0.68, 95% CI [−0.27 to 1.63]) however, similar effect sizes were observed for HA + PC vs. CON (d = 0.70, 95% CI [−0.25 to 1.65]), with smaller effects between PC vs. CON (d = 0.34, 95% CI [−0.59 to 1.27]), HA vs. PC (d = 0.33, 95% CI [−0.60 to 1.26]) and HA + PC vs. PC (d = 0.36, 95% CI [−0.57 to 1.29]). Pilot testing revealed a TT typical error of 16 seconds (1.2%). Precooling offered no further benefit to performance in the acclimated individual, despite modest alleviation of physiological strain. Maintenance of running speed in HA + PC, despite reduced physiological strain, may indicate an inappropriate pacing strategy therefore, further familiarization is recommended to optimize a combined strategy. Finally, these data indicate HA, achieved through cycle training, yields a larger ergogenic effect than PC on 5-km running performance in the heat, although PC remains beneficial when HA is not possible.

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