Sunday, December 5, 2010

Effects of frequent stops on level 1 training

(click on graph for larger image)

it is important to remember a few things that level one is not. It is not (and I have been as guilty of this as anyone) standing around on skis talking to your friends - Justin Freeman, NH native, Bates College alum, 2006 Olympian

We get faster because our neural, muscle, skeletal, and cardiovascular systems adapt to the stresses of training. One way to measure this stress is with a heart rate monitor. The above graph shows my speed (red) and heart rate (blue) during a 53 minute level 1 roller ski Saturday afternoon at the Woodlands. Every 10 minutes I came to a full stop for 1 minute, the goal being to see how long it took my heart rate to return to it's pre-stop levels. I was trying to replicate a very common group dynamic during practice: the frequent stopping of the group, en masse, because one athlete (each time a different one) needs to adjust a pole strap or remove a jacket, or pee, or whatever.

Notice that it took 7 minutes for my HR to rise to a typical level 1 exercise level (135-140 bpm). This means that the first 7 minutes of my workout is not really doing much to stimulate adaptation. Following each stop, the HR returns to a basic actively level very quickly (20-30s) but takes much longer to return to pre-stop levels. The times to recover level 1 exercise heart rate for each of the 5 stops were 2+, 2+, 2, 1, and 2 minutes. Because of the five stops, in my 53 minute ski, my HR was at level 1 levels for only about 31 minutes. The more fit the athlete, the longer the stopping effect because the HR will recover more quickly and take more time to get to level 1 levels after starting again.

James and I want to encourage a "no stop" training ethic this season. This means that you will need to prepare before starting. Shed jackets before starting. Fix ski pole straps the night before practice. If you're skiing in a group and reach an intersection, do not stop and discuss directions. The first one to the intersection should just choose the route and everyone else follow.

We'll need to talk about group dynamics if someone in the group needs to stop. We need to be very careful about leaving a lone skier behind, and this can never happen in cold conditions or on unfamiliar trails. So one good group response could be, If someone must stop, that person should call out that they are stopping and why they are stopping (to insure everyone that they aren't sick or injured). One person in the group should ski 100 yards up and down the trail, repeating this until the stopper is ready to go. Everyone else should keep skiing but at a slower pace (this is a good time for a double pole). The two left behind should be able to catch up within a few minutes. If the main group reaches an intersection, then everyone can turn around back to the two left behind.

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