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the Energy Demands of Ultimate

June 5, 2010

How and in what way does Ultimate tax our energy systems? The answer to this would probably help figure out how to balance “cardio strength training” with sprints, circuit training (or not?) with just playing Ultimate.

I can’t say I know the answer to these questions but I can throw a single (set of) data point into the fray, later in this post, and note that running and playing more efficiently is one way to reduce these demands, whereas inner game/mental game and inner toughness is one way to “up” your endurance if you can hack it.

Tournament nutrition in some other post, I’m still figuring that one out, I just know that goo and gel tastes nasty, Gatorade is getting into the carbs+protein recovery drink biz to follow Accelerade, and that just swishing carb/sugar solutions (even subliminally sweet!) can increase endurance without having to drink it down.

On the Huddle, Xi Xia argues convincingly that for the elite men’s game, longer track workouts (past 200m) might not be of much benefit.

But, I have to wonder if at the college level (rather than let’s say elite club level), and for women’s Ultimate, would we get the same results? I watched a strong women’s college team play at USA Nationals 2010 this year in Wisconsin, and my watch told me that their first point in three different games lasted about five minutes, which is quite a different sort of number than the ones you see on XX’s graphs… Of course, at the elite level, games and points are probably shorter, and both Oregon and UCSB scored quickly on possessions at this years Natties final.

Hard to say without more data (maybe one day, or perhaps someone can estimate using USA Ultimate’s twitter feed) how much more strategic or endurance-based the women’s game is at the college level, but here’s that single n=1 data point I’ve mentioned before but not really fleshed out.

Data point being n=1 me, my rookie year, where I wore a Polar F11 HRM for pretty much the whole year to see what the data would look like. It added up to some 113,549 calories over 1 year, 85,513 during the 32 week Ultimate subset of the school year.

Of course, it’s hard to say how accurate this is, but some, bad, numbers are better than none at all.

I crunched the Regionals & Sectionals HRM-estimated numbers and got 4433 Calories / tournament, 5118 Calories / tournament respectively.

The week prior to a tournament, Calories per 2.5 or so hour practice ranged from 1074 to 1359 for an average of 1200 Calories per practice, with an average of 480 Calories / practice hour (stddev 60), from the low of 423/hr to the high of 585/hr.

On a tournament day, including stoppages, 400 Calories / tournament hour (stddev 84), low of 283/hr to high of 555/hr.

[About 27.6 hours of Polar F11 HRM logging over two weeks, where in general I did not pause the HRM during stoppages.]

Interestingly on Saturday of Regionals, I burned 3724 Calories, 1278 of that in a single warmup+game (our best game of the year arguably).

The takeaway of this? I don’t really know, and I don’t have data from 2010 or from other athletes / sports to cross-reference, but it’s probably worth thinking a little bit about (1) how to properly / safely periodize (i.e. plan) the calorie expenditure curves per week over time so as not to burn out / get injured, (2) how to get enough calories in during the day / after the game (and before the tourney!), and (3) informing trainers / coaches about the (estimated) energy demands of Ultimate, both in terms of intensity and endurance.

Okay, just writing this makes me feel out of shape since it’s the end of our academic year and I should be studying for finals (ahem) but am instead calculating averages and standard deviations, looking forward to running again come the summer.

An African proverb says, “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.” Maybe with a little Ultimate we can have the both of best worlds and the best of both worlds? Run fast, run far, if you will, and I’ll try to do the same.

One Comment leave one →
  1. BCR permalink
    June 6, 2010 6:46 pm

    In many ways it really depends on your playing style. In a recent tournament game I spent no more than 5 minutes at more than jogging pace. It wasn’t a typical game, but you’d be surprised just how much rest time is built into the game. Between points, between turns, during discussions… It all adds up.

    Of course I’m a handler and the O was flowing well so I wasn’t cutting much. If you’re one of those cutters that just never stops running… It’s a different game.

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