D.P. Heil, FACSM1, J.G. Kask2, and N. Michaud3

1Montana State University – Bozeman, MT, USA; 2University of Minnesota – Duluth, MN USA; 3US Paralympics Nordic Skiing and Crosscut Mountain Sports Center Elite Team – Bozeman, MT USA

Para cross-country skiing and para biathlon – collectively referred to as para Nordic – are sports that have been Paralympic events since 1976 and 1988, respectively. PURPOSE: Given the complete lack of published VO2MAX testing protocols reported in the literature for para Nordic athletes, the purpose of this pilot study was to document the development of treadmill-based roller skiing graded exercise test (GXT) protocols for para Nordic athletes. METHODS: 3 women and 5 men (Mean±SD: 22±3 yrs age), including 3 sit (LW 12 disability classifications) and 5 standing (4x LW 8; 1x LW 5-7) skiers, volunteered and were training with the U.S. Paralympics Nordic Skiing Team at the time of testing. First, skiers warmed up roller skiing for 10-20 mins on an oversized treadmill (2.44 m wide x 3.05 m long belt size) using either skate roller skis (standing skiers) or roller skis mounted to their sit-ski buckets (sit skiers). Skiers were protected from falls with an overhead harnessing system during warm-up and testing periods. The GXT protocol, which was modelled after a protocol used with able-bodied skiers, started with the treadmill at a fixed grade (2-4%) and then increased in speed by 0.8 KPH (0.5 MPH; variable starting speed 6.4-8.0 KPH) for each stage until “threshold”, after which speed dropped by 0.8 KPH and grade increased by 1.0% for each stage until volitional exhaustion. Without metabolic testing, test success was based upon satisfying at least 2 of 3 criteria: 1) HRMAX ≥95% age predicted HRMAX; 2) Immediate post-blood lactate ≥8.0 mmol/dl. 3) RPE ≥9 (0-10 scale). With metabolic testing, test success was based upon satisfying at least 3 of 4 criteria: Same first two criteria; 3) RER≥1.15; 4) VO2 “plateau”. RESULTS: For the tests without metabolic testing, 2 satisfied all 3 criteria, 1 with 2 criteria, and 1 test failed with 0 criteria. For tests with metabolic testing, 2 satisfied all 4 criteria, 1 with 3 criteria, and 1 test failed with 1 criterion. CONCLUSIONS: Use of standardized test completion criteria, as well as a modified roller-skiing treadmill GXT, were successful at taking 6 of the 8 para Nordic athletes to volitional exhaustion. Further testing and exploration of testing protocols is needed to determine how both maximal and submaximal GXT testing may be beneficial to training and performance enhancement of para Nordic skiers.

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