Optimal pacing strategy: from theoretical modelling to reality in 1500-m speed skating

Br J Sports Med. 2011 Jan;45(1):30-5. doi: 10.1136/bjsm.2009.064774. Epub 2009 Oct 22.


Purpose: Athletes are trained to choose the pace which is perceived to be correct during a specific effort, such as the 1500-m speed skating competition. The purpose of the present study was to "override" self-paced (SP) performance by instructing athletes to execute a theoretically optimal pacing profile.

Methods: Seven national-level speed-skaters performed a SP 1500-m which was analysed by obtaining velocity (every 100 m) and body position (every 200 m) with video to calculate total mechanical power output. Together with gross efficiency and aerobic kinetics, obtained in separate trials, data were used to calculate aerobic and anaerobic power output profiles. An energy flow model was applied to SP, simulating a range of pacing strategies, and a theoretically optimal pacing profile was imposed in a second race (IM).

Results: Final time for IM was ∼2 s slower than SP. Total power distribution per lap differed, with a higher power over the first 300 m for IM (637.0 (49.4) vs 612.5 (50.0) W). Anaerobic parameters did not differ. The faster first lap resulted in a higher aerodynamic drag coefficient and perhaps a less effective push-off.

Conclusion: Experienced athletes have a well-developed performance template, and changing pacing strategy towards a theoretically optimal fast start protocol had negative consequences on speed-skating technique and did not result in better performance.

MeSH terms

  • Athletic Performance / physiology*
  • Energy Metabolism / physiology
  • Friction
  • Humans
  • Models, Biological
  • Oxygen Consumption / physiology
  • Skating / physiology*
  • Young Adult