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The Race Has Begun! But How to Learn How to Race and Pace?

Florentina J. Hettinga

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The Impact of Different Competitive Environments on Pacing and Performance

Marco J. Konings and Florentina J. Hettinga

Purpose: In real-life competitive situations, athletes are required to continuously make decisions about how and when to invest their available energy resources. This study attempted to identify how different competitive environments invite elite short-track speed skaters to modify their pacing behavior during head-to-head competition. Methods: Lap times of elite 500-, 1000- and 1500-m short-track speed skating competitions between 2011 and 2016 (N = 34,095 races) were collected. Log-transformed lap and finishing times were analyzed with mixed linear models. The fixed effects in the model were sex, season, stage of competition, start position, competition importance, event number per tournament, number of competitors per race, altitude, and time qualification. The random effects of the model were athlete identity and the residual (within-athlete race-to-race variation). Separate analyses were performed for each event. Results: Several competitive environments, such as the number of competitors in a race (a higher number of competitors evoked most likely a faster initial pace; coefficient of variation [CV] = 1.9–9.3%), the stage of competition (likely to most likely, a slower initial pace was demonstrated in finals; CV = −1.4% to 2.0%), the possibility of time qualification (most likely a faster initial pace; CV = 2.6–5.0%), and competition importance (most likely faster races at the Olympics; CV = 1.3–3.5%), altered the pacing decisions of elite skaters in 1000- and 1500-m events. Stage of competition and start position affected 500-m pacing behavior. Conclusions: As demonstrated in this study, different competitive environments evoked modifications in pacing behavior, in particular in the initial phase of the race, emphasizing the importance of athlete–environment interactions, especially during head-to-head competitions.

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Preexercise Cycling Protocol Alters Pacing Behavior in Competitive Time Trials

Marco J. Konings and Florentina J. Hettinga

Purpose: The behavior of an opponent has been shown to alter pacing and performance. To advance our understanding of the impact of perceptual stimuli such as an opponent on pacing and performance, this study examined the effect of a preexercise cycling protocol on exercise regulation with and without an opponent. Methods: Twelve trained cyclists performed 4 experimental, self-paced 4-km time-trial conditions on an advanced cycle ergometer in a randomized, counterbalanced order. Participants started the time trial in rested state (RS) or performed a 10-min cycling protocol at 67% peak power output (CP) before the time trial. During the time trials, participants had to ride alone (NO) or against a virtual opponent (OP). The experimental conditions were (1) RS-NO, (2) RS-OP, (3) CP-NO, and (4) CP-OP. Repeated-measures analyses of variance (P < .05) were used to examine differences in pacing and performance in terms of power output. Results: A faster pace was adopted in the first kilometer during RS-OP (318 [72] W) compared with RS-NO (291 [81] W; P = .03), leading to an improved finishing time during RS-OP compared with RS-NO (P = .046). No differences in either pacing or performance were found between CP-NO and CP-OP. Conclusions: The evoked response by the opponent to adopt a faster initial pace in the 4-km time trial disappeared when cyclists had to perform a preceding cycling protocol. The outcomes of this study highlight that perceived exertion alters the responsiveness to perceptual stimuli of cyclists during competition.

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Objectifying Tactics: Athlete and Race Variability in Elite Short-Track Speed Skating

Marco J. Konings and Florentina J. Hettinga

Purpose: To objectively capture and understand tactical considerations in a race, the authors explored whether race-to-race variation of an athlete and the variation of competitors within a race could provide insight into how and when athletes modify their pacing decisions in response to other competitors. Methods: Lap times of elite 500-, 1000-, and 1500-m short-track speed-skating competitions from 2011 to 2016 (N = 6965 races) were collected. Log-transformed lap and finishing times were analyzed with mixed linear models. To determine within-athlete race-to-race variability, athlete identity (between-athletes differences) and the residual (within-athlete race-to-race variation) were added as random effects. To determine race variability, race identity (between-races differences) and the residual (within-race variation) were added as random effects. Separate analyses were performed for each event. Results: Within-athlete race-to-race variability of the finishing times increased with prolonged distance of the event (500-m, CV = 1.6%; 1000-m, CV = 2.8%; 1500-m, CV = 4.1%), mainly due to higher within-athlete race-to-race variability in the initial phase of 1000-m (3.3–6.9%) and 1500-m competitions (8.7–12.2%). During these early stages, within-race variability is relatively low in 1000-m (1.1–1.4%) and 1500-m (1.3–2.8%) competitions. Conclusion: The present study demonstrated how analyses of athlete and race variability could provide insight into tactical pacing decisions in sports where finishing position is emphasized over finishing time. The high variability of short-track skaters is a result of the decision to alter initial pacing behavior based on the behavior of other competitors in their race, emphasizing the importance of athlete–environment interactions in the context of pacing.

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The Effect of Preceding Race Efforts on Pacing and Short-Track Speed Skating Performance

Marco J. Konings and Florentina J. Hettinga

Purpose: To examine whether preceding high-intensity race efforts in a competitive weekend affect pacing behavior and performance in elite short-track speed skaters. Methods: Finishing and intermediate lap times were gathered from 500-, 1000-, and 1500-m short-track speed skating world cups during the seasons 2011–2016. The effect of preceding races on pacing behavior and performance was explored using 2 studies. Study I: The effect of competing in extra races due to the repechage (Rep) system, leading to an increased number of high-intensity race efforts prior to the subsequent main tournament race, was explored (500-m, n = 32; 1000-m, n = 34; and 1500-m, n = 47). Study II: The performance of skaters over the tournament days was evaluated (500-m, n = 129; 1000-m, n = 54; and 1500-m, n = 114). For both analytic approaches, a 2-way repeated-measures analysis of variance was used to assess differences in pacing and performance within skaters over the races. Results: An additional number of preceding high-intensity race efforts due to the Rep system reduced the qualification percentage in the first main tournament race for the next stage of competition in all events (500-m, direct qualification = 57.3%, Rep = 25.0%; 1000-m, direct = 44.2%, Rep = 28.3%; and 1500-m, direct = 27.1%, Rep = 18.2%) and led to a decreased pace in the initial 2 laps of the 500-m event. By contrast, tournament day (Saturday vs Sunday) only affected the pacing behavior of female skaters during the 1500-m event. Conclusion: High-intensity race efforts earlier in the day affected pacing and performance of elite skaters, whereas the effect of high-intensity race efforts from the previous day seemed to be only marginal.

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Pacing and Self-regulation: Important Skills for Talent Development in Endurance Sports

Marije T. Elferink-Gemser and Florentina J. Hettinga

Pacing has been characterized as a multifaceted goal-directed process of decision making in which athletes need to decide how and when to invest their energy during the race, a process essential for optimal performance. Both physiological and psychological characteristics associated with adequate pacing and performance are known to develop with age. Consequently, the multifaceted skill of pacing might be under construction throughout adolescence, as well. Therefore, the authors propose that the complex skill of pacing is a potential important performance characteristic for talented youth athletes that needs to be developed throughout adolescence. To explore whether pacing is a marker for talent and how talented athletes develop this skill in middle-distance and endurance sports, they aim to bring together literature on pacing and literature on talent development and self-regulation of learning. Subsequently, by applying the cyclical process of self-regulation to pacing, they propose a practical model for the development of performance in endurance sports in youth athletes. Not only is self-regulation essential throughout the process of reaching the long-term goal of athletic excellence, but it also seems crucial for the development of pacing skills within a race and the development of a refined performance template based on previous experiences. Coaches and trainers are advised to incorporate pacing as a performance characteristic in their talent-development programs by stimulating their athletes to reflect, plan, monitor, and evaluate their races on a regular basis to build performance templates and, as such, improve their performance.

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Successful Pacing Profiles of Olympic and IAAF World Championship Middle-Distance Runners Across Qualifying Rounds and Finals

Brian Hanley, Trent Stellingwerff, and Florentina J. Hettinga

Purpose: This was the first study to analyze high-resolution pacing data from multiple global championships, allowing for deeper and rigorous analysis of pacing and tactical profiles in elite-standard middle-distance racing. The aim of this study was to analyze successful and unsuccessful middle-distance pacing profiles and variability across qualifying rounds and finals. Methods: Finishing and 100-m-split speeds and season’s best times were collected for 265 men and 218 women competing in 800- and 1500-m races, with pace variability expressed using coefficient of variation. Results: In both events, successful athletes generally separated themselves from slower athletes in the final 200 m, not by speeding up but by avoiding slowing compared with competitors. This was despite different pacing profiles between events in the earlier part of the race preceding the end spurt. Approximately 10% of athletes ran season’s best times, showing a tactical approach to elite-standard middle-distance racing and possible fatigue across rounds. Men’s and women’s pacing profiles were remarkably similar within each event, but the previously undescribed seahorse-shaped profile in the 800-m (predominantly positive pacing) differed from the J-shaped negative pacing of the 1500-m. Pacing variability was high compared with world records, especially in the finals (coefficient of variation: 5.2–9.1%), showing that athletes need to be able to vary pace and cope with surges. Conclusions: The best athletes had the physiological capacity to vary pace and respond to surges through successive competition rounds. In competition-specific training, coaches should incorporate several sessions in which pace changes frequently and sometimes unexpectedly.

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Biomechanics in Paralympics: Implications for Performance

Floor Morriën, Matthew J. D. Taylor, and Florentina J. Hettinga


To provide an overview of biomechanical studies in Paralympic research and their relevance for performance in Paralympic sports.


The search terms paralympic biomechanics, paralympic sport performance, paralympic athlete performance, and paralympic athlete were entered into the electronic database PubMed.


Thirty-four studies were found. Biomechanical studies in Paralympics mainly contributed to performance enhancement by technical optimization (n = 32) and/or injury prevention (n = 6). In addition, biomechanics was found to be important in understanding activity limitation caused by various impairments, which is relevant for evidence-based classification in Paralympic sports (n = 6). Distinctions were made between biomechanical studies in sitting (41%), standing (38%), and swimming athletes (21%). In sitting athletes, mostly kinematics and kinetics in wheelchair propulsion were studied, mainly in athletes with spinal-cord injuries. In addition, kinetics and/or kinematics in wheelchair basketball, seated discus throwing, stationary shot-putting, hand-cycling, sit-skiing, and ice sledge hockey received attention. In standing sports, primarily kinematics of athletes with amputations performing jump sports and running and the optimization of prosthetic devices were investigated. No studies were reported on other standing sports. In swimming, mainly kick rate and resistance training were studied.


Biomechanical research is important for performance by gaining insight into technical optimization, injury prevention, and evidence-based classification in Paralympic sports. In future studies it is advised to also include physiological and biomechanical measures, allowing the assessment of the capability of the human body, as well as the resulting movement.

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Racing an Opponent: Alteration of Pacing, Performance, and Muscle-Force Decline but Not Rating of Perceived Exertion

Marco J. Konings, Jordan Parkinson, Inge Zijdewind, and Florentina J. Hettinga

Purpose: Performing against a virtual opponent has been shown to invite a change in pacing and improve time-trial (TT) performance. This study explored how this performance improvement is established by assessing changes in pacing, neuromuscular function, and perceived exertion. Methods: After a peak-power-output test and a familiarization TT, 12 trained cyclists completed two 4-km TTs in randomized order on a Velotron cycle ergometer. TT conditions were riding alone (NO) and riding against a virtual opponent (OP). Knee-extensor performance was quantified before and directly after the TT using maximal voluntary contraction force (MVC), voluntary activation (VA), and potentiated doublet-twitch force (PT). Differences between the experimental conditions were examined using repeated-measures ANOVAs. Linear-regression analyses were conducted to associate changes in pacing to changes in MVC, VA, and PT. Results: OP was completed faster than NO (mean power output OP 289.6 ± 56.1 vs NO 272.2 ± 61.6 W; P = .020), mainly due to a faster initial pace. This was accompanied by a greater decline in MVC (MVC pre vs post −17.5% ± 12.4% vs −11.4% ± 10.9%, P = .032) and PT (PT pre vs post −23.1% ± 14.0% vs −16.2% ±11.4%, P = .041) after OP than after NO. No difference between conditions was found for VA (VA pre vs post −4.9% ± 6.7% vs −3.4% ± 5.0%, P = .274). Rating of perceived exertion did not differ between OP and NO. Conclusion: The improved performance when racing against a virtual opponent was associated with a greater decline in voluntary and evoked muscle force than riding alone, without a change in perceived exertion, highlighting the importance of human–environment interactions in addition to one’s internal state for pacing regulation and performance.

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Muscle Fatigability After Hex-Bar Deadlift Exercise Performed With Fast or Slow Tempo

Jay A. Collison, Jason Moran, Inge Zijdewind, and Florentina J. Hettinga

Purpose: To examine the differences in muscle fatigability after resistance exercise performed with fast tempo (FT) compared with slow tempo (ST). Methods: A total of 8 resistance-trained males completed FT and ST hexagonal-barbell deadlifts, consisting of 8 sets of 6 repetitions at 60% 3-repetition maximum, using a randomized crossover design. Each FT repetition was performed with maximal velocity, while each repetition during ST was performed with a 3-1-3 (eccentric/isometric/concentric) tempo (measured in seconds). Isometric maximal voluntary contraction, voluntary muscle activation, and evoked potentiated twitch torque of the knee extensors were determined using twitch interpolation before, during (set 4), and after exercise. Displacement–time data were measured during the protocols. Results: The mean bar velocity and total concentric work were higher for FT compared with ST (995 [166] W vs 233 [52] W; 0.87 [0.05] m/s vs 0.19 [0.05] m/s; 4.8 [0.8] kJ vs 3.7 [1.1] kJ). Maximal voluntary contraction torque, potentiated twitch, and voluntary muscle activation were significantly reduced after FT (−7.8% [9.2%]; −5.2% [9.2%], −8.7% [12.2%]) and ST (−11.2% [8.4%], −13.3% [8.1%], −1.8% [3.6%]). Conclusion: The decline in maximal voluntary force after both the FT and ST hexagonal-barbell deadlifts exercise was accompanied by a similar decline in contractile force and voluntary muscle activation.