This study compared markers of muscle damage and inflammation elevated by a matched-intensity interval running session on soft sand and grass surfaces. In a counterbalanced, repeated-measures and crossover design, 10 well-trained female athletes completed 2 interval-based running sessions 1 week apart on either a grass or a sand surface. Exercise heart rate (HR) was fixed at 83-88% of HR maximum. Venous blood samples were collected pre-, post- and 24 h post-exercise, and analysed for myoglobin (Mb) and C-reactive protein (CRP). Perceptual ratings of exertion (RPE) and muscle soreness (DOMS) were recorded immediately post- and 24 h post-exercise. A significant time effect showed that Mb increased from pre- to post-exercise on grass (p = .008) but not on sand (p = .611). Furthermore, there was a greater relative increase in Mb on grass compared with that on sand (p = .026). No differences in CRP were reported between surfaces (p > .05). The HR, RPE and DOMS scores were not significantly different between conditions (p > .05). These results suggest that in response to a matched-intensity exercise bout, markers of post-exercise muscle damage may be reduced by running on softer ground surfaces. Such training strategy may be used to minimize musculoskeletal strain while still incurring an equivalent cardiovascular training stimulus.
Keywords: Team sport; physiology; recovery.