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Purpose: In long-track speed skating, drafting is a commonly used phenomenon in training; however, it is not allowed in time-trial races. In speed skating, limited research is available on the physical and psychological impact of drafting. The aim of this study was to determine the influence of “skating alone,” “leading,” or “drafting” on physical intensity (heart rate and blood lactate) and perceived intensity (perceived exertion) of speed skaters. Methods: Twenty-two national-level long-track speed skaters with a mean age of 19.3 (2.6) years skated 5 laps, with similar external intensity in 3 different conditions: skating alone, leading, or drafting. Repeated-measures analysis of variance showed differences between the 3 conditions, heart rate (F2,36 = 10.546, P < .001), lactate (F2,36 = 12.711, P < .001), and rating of perceived exertion (F2,36 = 5.759, P < .01). Results: Heart rate and lactate concentration were significantly lower (P < .001) when drafting compared with leading (heart rate Δ = 7  beats·min–1, 4.0% [4.7%]; lactate Δ = 2.3 [2.3] mmol/L, 28.2% [29.9%]) or skating alone (heart rate Δ = 8 [7.1] beats·min–1, 4.6% [3.9%]; lactate Δ = 2.8 [2.5] mmol/L, 33.6% [23.6%]). Rating of perceived exertion was significantly lower (P < .01) when drafting (Δ = 0.8 [1.0], 16.5% [20.9%]) or leading (Δ = 0.5 [0.9], 7.7% [20.5%]) versus skating alone. Conclusions: With similar external intensity, physical intensity, as well as perceived intensity, is reduced when drafting in comparison with skating alone. A key finding of this study is the psychological effect: Skating alone was shown to be more demanding than leading, whereas leading and drafting were perceived to be similar in terms of perceived exertion. Knowledge about the reduction of internal intensity for a drafting skater compared with leading or skating alone can be used by coaches and trainers to optimize training conditions.
van den Brandt, Stoter, and Elferink-Gemser are with the Dept of Human Movement Sciences, University Medical Center Groningen, University of Groningen, Groningen, the Netherlands. Stoter is also with the Innovation Lab Thialf, Heerenveen, the Netherlands. Otter is with the School of Sport Studies, Hanze University of Applied Sciences, Groningen, the Netherlands, and the Dept of Biomedical Sciences of Cells & Systems, Section of Anatomy & Medical Physiology, University of Groningen, University Medical Center Groningen, Groningen, the Netherlands.