In a heartbeat: Prospective control of cardiac responses for upcoming action demands during biathlon.
Peer reviewed, Journal article
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Original versionEcological psychology. 2021, .
Biathlon is an Olympic winter sport combining the endurance sport of cross-country skiing with precision rifle shooting. Here, the need to prepare the body for upcoming events is particularly evident. As a high heart rate can be detrimental to shooting performance, it might be beneficial for biathletes to decrease their heart rate when approaching the shooting range, whereas heart rate should ideally be increased at the start and when facing an uphill section to cater for physiological demands. Ten national-level, junior male biathletes skied 6–8 laps in a standardized 2 km biathlon course with competition intensity, where each lap was followed by 5 shots in the standing position. Electrocardiography was continuously measured, and changes in heart rate during the 30 s leading up to the start, the uphill section, and the shooting event were analyzed. Instantaneous heart rate (IHR) increased significantly before the start and before the beginning of the uphill, whereas IHR decreased significantly before arriving at the shooting range. These findings provide evidence that biathletes anticipate forthcoming events by prospectively adjusting their heart rate upwards and downwards depending on task demands. Being able to use perceptual predictive information to optimally prepare the body for challenges that lie ahead, may have implications for expert performance in several different sports, as well as in other fields where purposeful regulation of heart rate is important for success.