What it measures: Physiological response to training
Why have it? ‘Physiological testing provides a here-and-now picture of how an athlete’s body is responding to training, which is monitored over time,’ says Paul Hough, lead sport and exercise scientist at Sports Performance Services, St Mary’s University. ‘Quicker race times only tell part of the story. Physiological testing shows the athlete and their coach why they have improved. Perhaps their running economy has got better, or their lactate turn point has increased.’
Testing may simply verify that training is having the desired effect. ‘At elite level, this is often the case, with the results only likely to lead to slight adjustments rather than wholesale changes,’ says Hough. ‘But with recreational runners, testing data can really help uncover what’s lacking and help them make their training more effective.’ Elite athletes typically undergo testing two to four times a year.
What’s it like? It’s tough, so make sure you’re rested beforehand. You’ll start with the submaximal test – donning a mask to analyse expired gas and ventilation response while blood is taken at regular intervals from the earlobe or finger, all while the pace is increasing. Heart rate and perceived exertion are also monitored.
There’s no blood involved in the maximal test, but I can assure you there’ll be sweat and possibly tears, as you need to keep going until you can’t run another step. ‘During testing we record the paces and heart rates that correspond to specific physiological points, such as lactate threshold and V02 max, which can then be used to plan specific training sessions,’ says Hough. ‘It eliminates the guesswork.’
The details: The Level 2 Assessment at St Mary’s Sports Performance Service includes lactate profile, heart-rate training zones, running economy and V02-max testing and costs £150