Physiological Differences Between Sprint- and Distance-Specialized Cross-Country Skiers

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Thomas Losnegard
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Jostein Hallén
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Purpose:

Sprint- (≤1.8 km) and distance-skiing (≥15 km) performance rely heavily on aerobic capacity. However, in sprint skiing, due to the ~20% higher speed, anaerobic capacity contributes significantly. This study aimed to identify the possible anthropometric and physiological differences between elite male sprint and distance skiers.

Methods:

Six sprint and 7 distance international-level cross-country skiers completed testing using the V2 skating technique on a roller-ski treadmill. Measurements included submaximal O2 cost (5°, 3 m/s) and a 1000-m time trial (6°, >3.25 m/s) to assess VO2peak and accumulated oxygen (ΣO2) deficit.

Results:

The groups displayed similar O2 cost during the submaximal load. The sprint skiers had a higher ΣO2 deficit (79.0 ± 11.3 vs 65.7 ± 7.5 mL/kg, P = .03, ES = 1.27) and VO2peak in absolute values (6.6 ± 0.5 vs 6.0 ± 0.5 L/min, P = .04, ES =1.23), while VO2peak relative to body mass was lower than in the distance skiers (76.4 ± 4.4 vs 83.0 ± 3.2 mL · kg−1 · min−1, P = .009, ES = 1.59). The sprint skiers were heavier than the distance skiers (86.6 ± 6.1 vs 71.8 ± 7.2 kg, P = .002, ES = 2.07), taller (186 ± 5 vs 178 ± 7 cm, P = .04, ES = 1.25), and had a higher body-mass index (24.9 ± 0.8 vs 22.5 ± 1.3 kg/m2, P = .003, ES = 2.05).

Conclusion:

The elite male sprint skiers showed different anthropometric and physiological qualities than the distance skiers, with these differences being directly related to body mass.

The authors are with the Dept of Physical Performance, Norwegian School of Sport Sciences, Oslo, Norway.

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