Purpose: Previous work identified an asymmetry in tissue desaturation changes in the left and right quadriceps muscles during on-ice skating at maximal speed in males. The effect of changing race distance on the magnitude of desaturation or leg asymmetry is unknown.
Methods: Six elite male skaters (age = 23 ± 1.8 yr, height = 1.8 ± 0.1 m, mass = 80.1 ± 5.7 kg, midthigh skinfold thickness = 7 ± 2 mm) and four elite female skaters (age = 21 ± 4 yr, height = 1.6 ± 0.1 m, mass = 65.2 ± 4.3 kg, midthigh skinfold thickness = 10 ± 1 mm) were studied. Subjects completed time trials over three race distances. Blood lactate concentration and O2 uptake measurements were combined with near-infrared spectroscopy measures of muscle oxygenation (TSI) and blood volume (tHb) in the right and left vastus lateralis.
Results: Neither race distance nor gender had a significant effect on the magnitude of maximal muscle desaturation (ΔTSImax). Pattern of local changes in tHb during individual laps was dependent upon subtle differences in skating technique used for the different race distances. Linear regression analysis revealed asymmetry between the right and left leg desaturation in males during the final stages of each race distance, but not in females. At all race distances, local muscle desaturation reached maximal values much more quickly than global V˙O2peak.
Conclusion: The use of wearable near-infrared spectroscopy devices enabled measurement of muscle oxygenation during competitive race simulation, thus providing unique insight into the effects of velocity and technique changes on local muscle oxygenation. This may have implications for training and race pacing in speed skating.