Distribution of seasonal training intensity in competitive masters-level cross country skiers
Ranta, Emily Christian
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Professionals have long debated the optimal distribution of training volume and intensity necessary for improved performance by endurance athletes. Although researchers have studied the training distributions of high-level cross country (XC) skiers, the unique population of Masters-level XC skiers has been largely overlooked. Therefore, the primary purpose of this study was to characterize the changes in Masterslevel skiers' training volume and intensity from the fall to mid-winter seasons using telemetry-based heart rate (HR) monitoring. The secondary purpose was to determine the relationship between winter training variables and race speed within the same population. Fifty-six Masters-level skiers volunteered to don a HR monitor and utilize a training log to record all bouts of physical activity over two 14+ day periods designed to correspond with the preparatory (fall) and pre-competition (mid-winter) seasons. After the midwinter collection period, the same subjects recorded HR data while competing in a 34.4 km ski race. All HR data were downloaded to a computer and summarized by absolute training time (T, min) and relative time (%T) spent within six HR zones (Z) which were calculated as percentages of age-predicted maximum HR (APMHR). Training variables were compared using two-factor and three-factor multivariate repeated measures ANOVAs, whereas winter training variables and race HR variables were correlated with race speed using the Pearson product-moment correlation. Only 13 men (Mean±SD: 62±5 yrs.) and 15 women (50±5 yrs.) completed all of the study requirements. From the fall to winter seasons, weekly training volume was maintained (Mean±SE: 515.7±24.2 vs. 514.8±31.7 min/week, respectively), but average training HR significantly increased (117±2 vs. 123±2 bpm, respectively). Moreover, there was a significant decrease in the %T spent training <70% of APMHR and a significant increase in the %T spent training > or =70% from the fall to winter seasons (53.0±3.6% vs. 40.2±3.1% and 47.0±3.6% vs. 59.8±3.1%, respectively). Additionally, the skiers' distribution of training intensity within each season tended to follow a threshold based model, as opposed to the polarized model followed by high-level endurance athletes. While characterizing these training practices helps build the knowledge base necessary for improved coaching of this population, further observational and experimental research is warranted.