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It is an age-old source of debate among athletes, pundits and fans alike. But, after much research, we at Pledge Sports are providing a definitive answer to the almost impossible question: “Which sport is the fittest?”
It is important to note, by “best fit” we are not only referring to an athlete’s general fitness level, but their all-round ability, fitness, and skill their sport requires.
For example, a marathon runner runs 26 miles per event, but a soccer player runs an average of 7 miles per game—including sprints, constant changes of direction, tactical awareness, physically battling opponents, dribbling, and hitting a ball. kicking is involved. Comparing skill sets is an unfair competition.
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In our seven-part series on The Fittest Sport, we’ll take each individual sport and do an in-depth analysis of whether particular athletes are more fit than the rest. We have analyzed:
Nordic skiing (also called cross-country or XC skiing) is a form of skiing, with its roots in Scandinavia. In snow-rich countries, it has evolved from its purely practical purpose of traveling across snowy terrain into a major recreational pursuit and an exhilarating racing sport.
Nordic skiing differs from alpine skiing in a few important ways. It uses lightweight equipment – trainer-like shoes cut into narrow flexible skis at the toe, allowing for a bounding run or skating action. Wax is used to provide grip for climbing hills, allowing for walking and exploring hills and mountains. Long lightweight poles help propel the upper body forward.
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Not everyone has experienced heavy snowfall, so let us ask the question – have you ever tried running on a soft beach?
Doing so increases the difficulty of running and increases the pressure on your muscles to work harder while walking through heavy sand. Now, think about doing the same thing again, wearing a pair of skis and feeling the mix of a brisk sub-zero temperature and high altitude pressure.
Cross-country skiing is an endurance sport at its core, but what sets it apart from the likes of marathon running is that it is as physically demanding of an athlete’s arms as it is their legs. Cross-country skiers are a bunch of tough nuts worthy of a spot on our list.
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Nordic skiing is almost unique from any other sport when it comes to the fitness required. Traveling uphill quickly, often using both your arms and legs, makes this a true full-body workout.
Each part of our “Fittest Sport” series has us analyze the maximum oxygen intake (VO2 max) of the athlete concerned. It is the gold standard for measuring the fitness of athletes.
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According to sports magazine, outside, The highest VO2 max ever recorded is Norwegian Nordic skier Björn Dehli. He recorded a score of 96.0 ml/min/kg!
That’s an incredible number when you remember that former cyclist Greg LeMond records 92.5 and current Tour de France champion Chris Froome’s highest is 84.6. In case you’re wondering, Lance Armstrong recorded a score of 84.0, and we’ve all learned how he managed it, so you can see the fitness of the typical Nordic skier very clearly. (Data credits: Topend Sports)
To reach this insane level of fitness, Nordic skiers put countless hours into the mountains training at the lactate threshold (LT). LT is the intensity of exercise at which blood concentrations of lactate and/or lactic acid begin to rise rapidly.
When exercising at or below LT, any lactate produced by the muscles is removed by the body without building up.
Training in the mountains not only prepares an athlete’s body to perform at altitude but also provides an incredible aerobic workout as they navigate the slopes and downhills of the terrain.
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What do experts say
Roy Young is the head coach of the British cross country team. He is an expert in his field and has a thorough understanding of the level of fitness and skills that a typical Nordic skier must achieve if they are to compete.
“Strength, speed, stamina – cross country is the most technically demanding endurance sport in the world. Along with having very high VO2 max, athletes have to spend a lot of time on technical accuracy.
“80% of the training volume is based on long aerobic and speed sessions, the other 20% at very high intensity, combined with gym sessions,” Young said.
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Callum Smith is a member of the British Nordic Ski Team. As the team prepares for the World Championships, he gave us his thoughts on what makes Nordic skiers the most qualified athletes.
“Cross-country skiing is unique in that it also has a significant technical base as a broadly physically demanding endurance sport.
“Becoming a top-level cross country skier takes years, not only to learn the technique so that it becomes as natural as running, but also to develop the heart and lungs that allow you to move quadrupedally efficiently. Yes, to power twice as many organs as possible, large lungs are needed!” Smith said.
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James Clugnet is Callum’s teammate. He repeated the words of his colleague, cementing the opinion that Nordic skiing was, in fact, the most appropriate sport.
“Cross country skiing is a very difficult sport. You need to be very explosive as well as have high endurance resistance. Where other endurance sports like cycling don’t require as much technique work, to be a good XC skier The way to go is to spend a lot of time working on your style and making it the most efficient.
“Using the upper body as much as the legs makes it work the whole body. This is the sport where you get the highest lactate concentration and VO2 max in athletes,” Clugnet said.
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