This week I agreed to help Dan with his research by volunteering to take part in a VO2max test in the lab at the Insitute of Sport and Human Sciences at the University of Wolverhampton’s Walsall campus. The test was essentially split into two parts, the first a fairly standard VO2max test and the second a test to examine the impact of a spoken ‘intervention’ on running economy.
Part 1, the VO2max test, was a challenging but controlled (at least for the first part) test to establish my VO2max as well as my lactate readings and perceived levels of effort at different paces. This actually felt much easier than the test I did 5 years ago because for the main section of the test I was not running to exhaustion. The test I had done previously involved increasing the pace of the treadmill every minute, starting at 9km/h. This meant that by the time I couldn’t run any further, which from memory was at 22 or 23, I had been running constantly with an increasing pace for the best part of 15 minutes, the last 5 of which were very hard indeed. This test was different in two respects, though. The first was that I had a break of 30 seconds between each 3 minute effort and the second was that the end point was clearly defined at 20km/h. During this 30 second recovery period a lactate reading was taken from a small sample of blood drawn from my right ear and I was asked for a perceived level of effort on a scale of 0-10 based on descriptions for each number on a chart in front of the treadmill. The next part of the VO2max test, described as the ‘ramp test,’ involved the treadmill being set at a fixed pace, in my case 17km/h based on the data from the previous part, and the gradient of the treadmill being increased incrementally each minute. I managed just over 6 minutes on this test before I couldn’t manage the pace any more! There was a crash mat behind the treadmill during the test in case I lost control but fortunately it was not required!
Part 2, the psychological intervention section, was nowhere near as difficult as it involved running 4 sets of 3 minutes at a reasonably comfortable pace (18km/h, roughly the pace I could mantain for an hour) with 90 second static recoveries. For the sake of fairness, the same music was playing in the lab as the music that had been playing during the VO2max test, the excellent The Colour and the Shape by the Foo Fighters! For the first two efforts I was largely left to my own devices save for the odd few words of encouragement from the lab staff who were taking readings. Immediately before the third a recording was played in which I was instructed to focus on form, to relax and stand tall and during the third effort a three-word mantra of “strong, controlled, relaxed” was played intermittantly. This instruction was withdrawn for the fourth effort but I was urged to repeat the words in my head whilst running. It is hard to say whether I felt any different as a result of focusing on my form. Whilst these efforts did not feel any easier, the data may end up showing that I was using less oxygen and producing less lactate. Or maybe not! Once Dan has performed this test on a larger sample of athletes he may be able to tell what the impact of such an ‘intervention’ is.
After the conclusion of the test Dan was talking to his supervisor about the relative merits of testing a small sample of athletes on several occasions and testing a large sample of athletes only once. If it is the former I may be doing this again some time in the near future!
Monday: AM 10km easy / PM 13km easy, drills and hurdles (23)
Tuesday: AM 9km easy / PM 16km progression run at 3:40/km (25)
Wednesday: 16km easy (16)
Thursday: AM 10km easy / PM 13km progression run at 3:49/km (27)
Friday: rest (0)
Saturday: 5km warm up, vo2max test 8*3:00 off 30s increasing from 13km/h-20km/h, ‘ramp test,’ 4*3:00 at 18km/hh (17)
Sunday: 26km moderate (26)