Physiology testing for endurance runners

What is it?

Laboratory physiology testing is systematically conducted within the sportscotland institute of sport’s support to Scotland’s top endurance runners in order to assess progression and to provide a benchmark on key physiological variables that have an influence on performance.

When do we test athletes?

Athletes are tested 3-5 times per year. We typically schedule a test during each training phase and also before and after altitude training camps.

Why test in the laboratory?

We conduct testing in the laboratory as it is a controlled environment. This means that we can control the environmental conditions for each test which increases the test-retest reliability.

What tests are used?

Two tests are regularly performed:

1. Lactate profiling/ VO2 max treadmill test protocol

The treadmill test is administered in two parts. The first part of the test is a multistage incremental test for the determination of oxygen uptake, fuel consumption, heart rate and blood lactate responses to a range of running speeds. The second phase of the test, a maximal ramp, is used to measure maximal oxygen uptake (VO2 max).

Benefits of this test:

  • Accurate training zones can be created based on the heart rate and blood lactate data.
  • Assessment of oxygen consumption at submaximal speeds determines how economical an athlete is.
  • Determination of substrate (carbohydrate or fat) utilisation at various running intensities.
  • Allows physiological profiling over the course of season against performance outcomes.
  • Results can be beneficial to other practitioners in the multidisciplinary support team (e.g. Physical preparation can use data to assess running economy; Performance nutrition can use information on fuel consumption when developing nutritional support for races). 

2. Haemoglobin mass test testing

This test accurately measures the number of red blood cells(haemoglobin mass) present in your blood. Red blood cells are the vehicle by which oxygen is transported round the body to the working muscles and is therefore a very useful marker of oxygen carrying capacity.

Benefits of this test:

  • Allows the assessment of oxygen carrying capacity before and after altitude camps.
  • Determines what is optimal for athlete in terms of altitude exposure (i.e. location, altitude, duration, phase of season), and impacts the future decisions on the use of these camps.
Date published: 28 June 2023
Date updated: 28 June 2023


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