These days, long-distance running events are popping up like mushrooms – from the usual ones such as the Sundown Marathon and the Standard Chartered Singapore Marathon to fancy ones such as the North Face 100. There are also gruelling races that combine distance running with challenging obstacles, which can certainly push running enthusiasts to their limits as well as give casual pavement-pounders a run for their money.

However, just because you think you can stomach 42km or more does not mean you should. Recent times have seen seemingly healthy individuals collapse and pass away after long-distance running, some of them seasoned runners. So it is best to consult your physician before you put on your running shoes and lace-up.

Maximal Physiological Testing

Go for physiological and biomechanical assessments, such as maximal physiological testing. Maximal physiological testing includes two assessments done separately. It requires maximal effort or output from the participant to ascertain accurate and precise fitness levels and how good a distance runner the person is.

Through the use of an incremental treadmill test, things like heart rate, breathing patterns, oxygen consumption, and blood lactate can be measured against exercise intensities.

With these readings, exercise physiologists are able to interpret and help make sense of how one’s body responds to exercise and tailor a training programme specific to each runner.

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Lactate Profiling

Runners experience difficulty maintaining their pace when lactate levels are too high.

Lactate profiling is a maximal test that determines the intensity at which a runner begins to produce a lot more blood lactate than the body can reuse. At this point, the blood lactate concentration will make it hard for the runner to sustain his current running speed for a prolonged period.

Blood lactate refers to lactic acid that appears in the blood when the body does not have enough oxygen for energy metabolism. In lactate profiling, one will be asked to do a running test on a treadmill with incremental running speeds. The doctor will measure the runner’s blood lactate levels before the test, during each stage, and after the test.

Lactate profiling enables an individual to find out the speed or intensity he or she will be able to sustain in a long-distance event before experiencing the onset of physiologically debilitating effects. Appropriate training intensities can then be created. This aids in the planning of effective training plans or programmes for athletes.

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Runners can take the VO2max test to measure their aerobic capacity.

The term “VO2maxˮ refers to the maximum amount of oxygen consumed by our body during maximal exercise. It is also the measurement of one’s present state of aerobic fitness or aerobic capacity. This maximal test comprises treadmill running with increasing intensity accompanied by a gas analysis conducted through an attached face mask. 

This maximal test is important for serious runners or individuals looking to improve their performance. Without an objective measurement of one’s fitness level, most runners become unsure of the right intensity at which they should be training at.

Training at a randomly selected intensity can lead to under-training or over-training, which may result in reduced performance or injury.

The VO2max test solves that problem by providing information on an athlete’s current state of fitness, maximum heart rate, and his or her ventilatory (aerobic and anaerobic) thresholds. It also allows the prediction of training zones of varying intensities to optimise training programmes and maximise training benefits.

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Running GAIT Analysis

Training plans for athletes can include exercises to improve running gait patterns.

Unlike the two maximal tests mentioned above, a biomechanical assessment such as gait analysis does not require a participant to put in a maximal effort or “go all out”. The participant is only required to jog at a comfortable pace. Running gait analysis uses video capturing and analysis tools (both hardware and software) to check an athlete’s running pattern.

While an experienced therapist can eye-ball and spot errors in an athlete’s gait, the video of an athlete running allows a more detailed and systematic study of his gait patterns. Both positive and negative points could then be discussed with the athlete, and these could be incorporated in certain exercises guided by an exercise physiologist to prevent potential injuries.

Interested to know more about your maximum running capabilities and how you can achieve your next personal best? Come talk with our exercise physiologists at the Changi Sports Medicine Centre for a full lowdown on maximal physiological testing today or call 6850 1569/70 to schedule an appointment with us.

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