This is your heart rate monitor calling

FasterSkierSeptember 30, 2005

It is always a good time at the end of each season to sit down and review what happened and how we could modify our training to produce better results next season. As a masters skier with family and job commitments I don’t have access to the latest laboratory testing. A lot of review is done by feel and being honest with myself. Oh yes and my wife helped me by giving me a heart rate monitor for my birthday last year.

I am unwilling to put in anymore time into training other than my daily hour in the mornings (a little bit more on weekends). So in the interest of getting more “bang for my buck” I have been using my heart rate monitor during the pre-season and the season itself in Australia to get some feedback. As a result I have been getting some interesting results that may help others or provide a point for discussion.

First of all, the search for the maximum heart rate. A physiologist at a lecture I attended told me to find my maximum without the use of a laboratory was to do a thorough warm-up and run a flat out 400 metres. He said that should get the heart rate up there. Well it gave me a reading of 180. At the age of 42 using the formula of 220 minus your age, I thought that was about right. Then a few months later I ran a 10km road race over a hilly course. My max got up to 188 and I averaged for the race 182! That little thing sure was pumping! Subsequently I found out another method of finding your heart rate is finding a slight incline that takes you 3 minutes to get up. After a thorough warm-up you do three bursts up this incline. The first one should be controlled, then the next two should increase to maximum effort by the end.

This method seemed to ring true when my skiing started when I noticed that it took a few hard hills in short early season races to get my heart rate up to max. It when it came to skiing I noticed differences between techniques and length of races. On the same course at altitude (1700-1800m) my max heart rate skating was 189, in classic 182. During the season this actually improved over the same course to 182 and 179. Through my reading I have found out that max heart rate can vary through activities. Theoretically the more limbs you use and resistance you have (e.g. swimming) the lower your max heart rate will be. Localised muscle fatigue will prevent you from reaching your max.

I found this out in my pre-season where in running intervals and races I could put my heart rate up into 180’s but the maximum I ever got to rollerskiing was 176 before I would fall down in exhaustion on my poles. As the diagonal stride is considered from a physiological point of view the most inefficient of techniques it probably rings true that I could never get my heart rate up to same level as with other activities like skating or running.

The other interesting feedback from the heart rate monitor is the differences in how energy is consumed in ski races of different profiles and distances. Using the Karnoven method I worked out that critical zone for endurance athletes of 85-90% of max (e.g. max heart rate 190 less resting heart rate of 48 x .85 plus resting heart rate). For me it was 168 —176 b.p.m. In hilly 10km races I spent most of the race over that range. In the Snowy Mountains Classic, a tough, hilly 30km skate race, I spent 50 minutes under that range, 52 minutes within that range and 12 minutes over with a max heart rate of 179. In the Kangaroo Hoppet a 42km skate race on a flatter course, one hour 40 minutes under that range, 30 minutes within that range and only two minutes over with a max heart rate of 177.


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