Effects of Long-Haul Travel and the Olympic Games on Heart-Rate Variability in Rugby Sevens Medalists

If success leaves clues, then there was something to learn from what Dan Howells & staff did to prepare GB 7s for the 2016 Olympics where they advanced to the gold medal final with an undefeated record.

After sorting through the data (HRV, wellness, training load) and having several video and email conversations with Dan, we decided to share the story of their Olympic expedition.

Prior to analyzing the data or obtaining specific details from Dan, I anticipated substantial decrements in status markers in response to a full day in transit (travel fatigue/jet lag, etc.), pre-tournament (arousal/anxiety), & throughout the tournament (match fatigue, sleep loss).

However, data showed minimal effects of travel (decrements mostly in non-starters), no evidence of pre-competitive anxiety (values improved pre-match), & intra-tournament decrements (small in magnitude) comparable to a previous domestic tournament.

Essentially, the data suggest that the team travelled across multiple time zones, adjusted to a foreign environment, and competed successfully on the worlds biggest stage with hardly any indication of stress or fatigue. Incredible!

Although we can’t say for sure that the strategies employed by staff can explain the findings (no control group, unfortunately), we felt that the details were worth sharing.

The paper discusses various proactive and reactive interventions that were used to support training adaptation, manage travel and competition related stress/fatigue, and aid recovery in players.

I’m very grateful to Dan and staff for the collaboration and for being open with these details. There is tremendous vulnerability in giving everyone access to how you do things. Thank you, Dan. You shared tremendous insights that many coaches and players can benefit from.

Here is the full text: