Training Science

Key Concepts and Measurements

heart rate (HR)
The key values here are your resting heart-rate (in beats per minute [bpm]), taken at a regular point in the day (ideally the morning), and your maximum heart-rate (MaxHR). There is a rule-of-thumb calculation for the normal MaxHR which is 220 minus your age in years. However, this is best calculated using a heart-rate monitor when you are at your maximum exertion at the end of some very strenous activity.
lactate concentration ([La])
This measures the amount of lactic acid in the blood.
lactate threshold (LT)
This is the first increase in blood-lactate concentration [La] above baseline values. The speed at the LT is a strong predictor of the average speed that can be sustained in the marathon. The speed and heart rate at the LT are also useful in defining the transition between ‘easy’ and ‘steady’ running.
lactate turnpoint (LTP)
The LTP is the running speed at which there is a distinct ‘sudden and sustained’ breakpoint in blood [La]. Typically, this occurs at 2.0-4.0 mM. The LTP tends to occur at ~1-2 km/h above the LT (the difference is smaller in longer distance specialists and larger in middle-distance runners). The LTP can also be used to define the transition between ‘steady’ and ‘threshold’ running.
oxygen uptake (VO2)
Running economy is the VO2 required to run at sub-maximal speeds. Running economy tends to be better in elite runners (i.e. their VO2 is lower at a given speed) and it is associated with improved performance. A common method for assessing an athlete’s running economy is to look at the VO2 in ml/kg/min at 16.0 km/h and 1% grade (i.e. 6:00 min/mile pace). The average in well-trained runners at this speed is 52 ml/kg/min. Running economy can also be expressed in units of mL O2/kg/km. Irrespective of running speed, the average economy is 200 mL O2/kg/km.
maximal rate of VO2 (VO2max)
This remains an important measure of performance capability in middle and long distance running. While factors such as economy and LT/LTP can partially compensate for a relatively poor max in elite groups, entry to those elite groups is still limited by VO2max (i.e. the highest rate at which ATP can be resynthesised aerobically). It should be noted that VO2max tends to be highest in athletes who specialise in events that are run close to VO2max (that is, 3000m and 5000m). Other factors may be more important at shorter and longer distances.
speed at VO2max (VO2max)
The vVO2max can be useful in predicting performance over 3000m (and also 1500m and 5000m). vVO2max is simply calculated by multiplying the VO2max (in mL/kg/min) by 60 and divided by the mean running economy determined during the first 4-5 stages of the treadmill test (in mL O2/kg/km).

Aim of Training, 1: Raising the Lactate and Lactate Turnpoint Thresholds

Shifting the LT and/or LTP to a higher speed is an important goal of endurance training. This would be shown by three measurements:
1) The lactate concentration ([La]) at any speed should become lower (downward shift over time in the [La] curve)
2) The LT and LTP should occur at higher speeds (rightward shift in the [La] curve) with endurance training.
3) Heart rate should become lower for a given speed (downward shift over time in the HR curve).

Aim of Training, 2: Aerobic Physiology at Submaximal Pace

Generally, the most economical athletes tend to be older and to cover higher mileage in training. It is possible that the accumulation of miles is important in improving economy. If you are a young distance runner, your economy is likely to improve automatically as your training progresses.
A calculation would be done using the runner’s HR (in kg), the LT (expressed in km/h and min/mile), and the LTP (in km/h and min/mile), to find the economy pace at LTP (and expressed in mL O2/kg/km).

Physiological Analysis for Determining Training Paces

Using a series of treadmill tests, a physiologist can identify the values pertaining to the athlete above, and then determine the training paces (expressed in terms of speed or HR bpm) for each of the training zones, from an easy run to an aerobic interval session.
An example of this is recorded in this Physiology Lab Test example from Leeds in November 2012.
The aim of such a test and analysis is a clearer understanding of training zones and the effects they are likely to bring about by way of training adaptation and improved function.


From Physiological Assessment: Summary Report, 11 December 2011
Test conducted on Katie Parry (middle/long-distance runner) and report compiled by:
Dr Andi Drake
England Athletics, Leeds Metropolitan University
Headingley Campus, Leeds, LS6 2AH, UK
T: +44 113 812 3527 M: 07824 482624 E:
Dr Barry Fudge
English Institute of Sport, EIS High Performance Centre
Loughborough University, Loughborough, LE11 3TU, UK

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