Link to publisher version (URL)
Pacing is critical for athletic endeavors, and the strategies used by athletes are often modified after practice. The importance of practice when completing occupational assessments has been established; however, the effect of load carriage and discrete subtask activities on strategies to modulate physical exertion to complete a work task simulation is currently unknown. Therefore, we sought to investigate the effect of practice on pacing strategies used to complete a physiological aptitude assessment circuit. Twenty-five participants completed an assessment designed for firefighters on 3 occasions. The circuit comprised 6 disparate tasks (including unilateral load carriage, static holds and fire-hose drags) with lap and task completion times recorded. Pacing strategies were examined relative to the effect of practice throughout (globally) and within the assessment (discrete tasks). By the second visit, overall test performance and discrete task performance of the first, fourth, and fifth tasks improved, respectively, by 12.6% (95% confidence interval: ±3.6%, p < 0.01), 12.4% (±6.0%, p < 0.01), 11.7% (±4.9%, p < 0.01), and 17.8% (±10.0%, p < 0.03). Compared with visit 1, significant improvements in performance were observed on the second and third visit. However, no significant additional improvement was noted between visits 2 and 3. Therefore, to reliably assess performance of the occupational test, 1 practice session (2 visits) is required. Practice is important to allow individuals to optimize their pacing strategy for successful performance.