Historical Improvement in Speed Skating Economy

Dionne A Noordhof, Elmy van Tok, Florentine S J G M Joosten, Florentina J Hettinga, Marco J M Hoozemans, Carl Foster Jr., Jos J de Koning

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Half the improvement in 1500-m speed-skating world records can be explained by technological innovations and the other half by athletic improvement. It is hypothesized that improved skating economy is accountable for much of the athletic improvement.

PURPOSE: To determine skating economy in contemporary athletes and to evaluate the change in economy over the years.

METHODS: Contemporary skaters of the Dutch national junior team (n=8) skated 3 bouts of 6 laps at submaximal velocity, from which skating economy was calculated (in mL O2·kg(-1)·km(-1)). A literature search provided historic data of skating velocity and submaximal V̇O2 (in mL·kg(-1)·min(-1)), from which skating economy was determined. The association between year and skating economy was determined using linear regression analysis. Correcting the change in economy for technological innovations resulted in an estimate of the association between year and economy due to athletic improvement.

RESULTS: An average (±SD) skating economy of 73.4±6.4 mL O2·kg(-1)·km(-1) was found in contemporary athletes. Skating economy improved significantly over the historical timeframe (-0.57 mL O2·kg(-1)·km(-1) per year, 95% confidence interval [-0.84, -0.31]). In the final regression model for the klapskate era, with altitude as confounder, skating economy improved with a non-significant -0.58 mL O2·kg(-1)·km(-1) each year ([-1.19, 0.035]).

CONCLUSIONS: Skating economy was 73.4±6.4 mL O2·kg(-1)·km(-1) in contemporary athletes and improved over the past ~50 years. The association between year and skating economy due to athletic improvement, for the klapskate era, approached significance, suggesting a possible improvement in economy over these years.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)175-181
Number of pages7
JournalInternational Journal of Sports Physiology and Performance
Issue number2
Early online date24 Aug 2016
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2017


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