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Summer Training Equipment for Para-Nordic Skiers

Thu, Aug  20, 2009 - By Jeff Whiting & Margaret Barron

From Cross Country Canada.

Sit skier doublepollingThe coaching strategies used to train able-bodied athletes are applicable to training athletes who have amputations or are blind. However, coaches need to consider a number of factors when designing a training program for athletes with a disability.  For athletes who use wheelchairs, the differences are greater because you are dealing primarily with the abdomen and above, or non-weight bearing activities.
Although double poling ergometers have been shown to be sport specific in able-bodied skiers, marked physiological differences may exist between able and disabled skiers. For example, because of the limited lower body involvement, a greater upper body power output may be required in sit skiers and lower leg amputees when compared to able-bodied skiers. Vo2 peak (Peak oxygen consumption) arm values can reach 66% to 88% of Vo2 max (maximum amount of oxygen in milliliters, one can use in one minute per kilogram of body weight) in standing skiers.

Vo2 peak values have been reported to be lower in subjects with paraplegia than in able-bodied subjects due to reduced active muscle mass.  Hence, mountain boards or skate boards on "steroids" are a good alternative to ski specific summer training.
Compared to able-bodied individuals, people with spinal cord injuries (SCI's) respond to submaximal (The athlete works below maximum effort) and maximal arm exercise with lower stroke volumes and higher heart rates due to the decreased venous return (the blood returning to the heart via the inferior and superior venae canae).

Coaches need to explore the physiological differences in cross-country sit skiers with varying disabilities to able-bodied cross-country skiers.

If you would like more information on training tips, or equipment available to train athletes with a SCI, contact Jeff Whiting at