How can I lose weight by running?

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Some do it for aesthetical reasons, some for reasons of health – losing weight. Especially in spring, people try to get rid of some extra kilos. Can running help? Yes, if you follow some simple rules!

A lot of people are constantly concerned with how they can lose weight. It is commonly known that, in order to lose weight, you need to burn more calories than you eat. This can either happen through a reduced intake of food, or trough increased physical activity, by which we can burn more calories. It is all about the calorie balance, really. So, how can I achieve a negative calorie balance through running? And what do I have to take into account? Gommaar D’Hulst, Post doc in the Laboratory of Exercise and Health at the Department of Health Sciences and Technology, ETH Zurich, has helped us answer these questions.

1) In what way does running help people to lose weight?

Increasing your energy expenditure by any form of physical activity, including running, can help to decrease body weight.

2) Can anyone lose weight with the help of running? 

Anyone can lose weight, as long as he/she expends more energy (kcals) than he/she consumes. The difference between people will be how hunger is regulated after (or in between) running sessions. People who get very hungry and compensate for the expended calories will have a harder time losing weight (more on this in question 6).

3) Can you continue eating normally when you start running (or run more than before) and still lose weight, or do you always have to change your eating habits as well?

No, you do not necessarily have to change your diet. It all depends where you come from. If you already eat healthy and stay away from processed food, there is no need for change. However, if you have an unhealthy diet, it might be worth to see a registered dietitian who can put you on the right track. A healthy eating pattern, of course, makes it easier to lose weight with running.

4) So, what do you think is the ideal diet if you want to lose weight but still have enough energy for running?

Adherence is the most important thing in any diet. If you want to choose a diet, choose one you can stick to. However, as already mentioned, I would not drastically change much when the eating pattern is already healthy. By healthy I mean 35-40% carbs, 25-30% fat, 1.4g/kg protein, little sugar and a varied eating pattern. I am not in favour, and also the research is inconclusive, in completely deleting one macronutrient (like carbohydrates).

5) Is it true that you lose weight faster if you don’t eat anything a few hours before and after your runs?

This is a slippery slope since this kind of eating pattern can induce food cravings (and weight gain). Another route worth considering is intermittent fasting. Here you will have all your food intake in 8-10h time-span, for instance from 9AM to 7PM. Research is very positive (certainly in animals) about intermittent fasting. In fact, even when total calories were matched, metabolic health parameters such as the sensitivity to insulin and certain liver parameters are positively influenced by intermittent fasting. This is certainly an interesting area of research, but the combination of intermittent fasting and exercise are not fully elucidated yet.

6) Is there any formula for how many calories you burn by running?

There are probably a lot, but here is one:

MEN: Calories Burned = [(Age x 0.2017) + (Weight x 0.09036) + (Heart Rate x 0.6309) — 55.0969] x Time / 4.184.

WOMEN: Calories Burned = [(Age x 0.074) — (Weight x 0.05741) + (Heart Rate x 0.4472) — 20.4022] x Time / 4.184.

However, I personally think these formulas are mostly nonsense because there are big differences between people (large standard deviations). Generally, people tend to think that they burn more than they actually do. That is, the food compensation after a run (or other type of activity) is often too high, by which the negative calorie balance is destroyed. This is something people MUST be aware of if they want to lose weight.

7) Will your body at some point adapt to increased physical activity and not burn calories as fast anymore, like it is with diets sometimes?

There is some data indicating that very active people unconsciously adapt to the increased physical activity in two ways: 1/ they start moving around less, decrease ‘fidgeting’ and 2/ get more efficient in using the energy for a variety of bodely functions such as food digesting and immune system, thereby decreasing basal metabolic rate (what you burn in a resting state). Moreover, one of the adaptations to exercise is that the muscle will be more efficient in producing energy for a given amount of oxygen. So, after a while, people will burn less calories for a given speed than before (also because they lose body weight and therefore use less energy to move their body). Thus, in order to keep the weight loss going, a person will have to run slightly faster (and longer) over time (or, of course, eat less).

8) Is it better to run fast, slow, for a short or a long period of time if you want to lose weight?

In general, it does not matter much. Losing weight is almost exclusively determined by energy balance. Some people will like interval training more, while others will opt for long easy runs. Again, it all comes down to adherence. Of note, because the intensity is higher, interval training will burn as many calories as longer slow runs, making it perhaps a more time-efficient method for losing weight.

9) What role does your heart rate play in terms of what your body burns or how fast?

Heart rate will be an indication for when the body is in the ‘aerobic’ zone (low HR) or in the more anaerobic (high HR) zone. So, it is a good measurement of intensity.

However, that you have to stay in the ‘easy’ zone to lose weight is a myth. Let me explain briefly by the following graph:

   

It represents fuel utilization at different exercise intensities, 40% is easy and 75% is hard. While muscle glycogen and plasma glucose are carbohydrate related energy sources (sugar taken from the muscle and blood), muscle and plasma TG (triglycerides within the muscle or derived from the blood, “other fat sources” in the graph) and plasma FFA (blood derived fatty acids) are fat related energy sources. As it is true that at easy pace you are RELATIVELY burning more fat (around 50% carbs and 50% fats) compared to running fast (85% carbs and 15% fat), ABSOLUTELY you are still burning less or the same amount of fat than when you are exercising at harder paces. In fact, at a harder pace, the relative contribution of carbohydrates is increased and together with the fact that you are expending more energy, you will 1/burn more or a similar amount of fat and 2/ burn way more carbohydrates at high intensities as compared to lower intensities.

A side effect of high intensity training this is that the emptied energy stores will have to be refilled and your body has to recover more from a hard run. The body thus taps the energy savings in form of fat. The aerobic energy systems (fat burning) will thereofre be increased the hours after a hard training session, meaning that your body is still burning more calories than normally when at rest. This will positively influence the energy balance for weight loss.

10) Is there a certain time of the day which is best for our body to run in order to lose weight?

There is recent research indicating that PM exercise might be better performance wise, but these studies did not look into weight loss. Fasted training (after a long period without food intake, i.e. before breakfast) is popular indeed, because the body will learn to rely more (albeit slightly) on free fatty acids (fat) for energy and it will increase metabolic pathways which rely more on fat oxidation (mitochondria and select enzymes). BUT: Solely because the body gets better in metabolizing fat, that the person will NOT lose fat more quickly! You still only lose it when your overall energy balance is negative. Think about it, it is similar as with the ketogenic diet. On the ketogenic diet, you will oxidize (burn) more fat, than on a normal diet, BUT you also take in much more fat. Thus, again, it winds down to energy balance, on the ketogenic diet or when training fasted, you can gain weight if you eat more than what you expend.

11) Should one combine running with a different form of exercise in order to achieve the biggest effect?

I would suggest that strength training should always be incorporated in a training scheme of a runner. Not only because its possible beneficial effects on losing weight, but most surely because of its effect on injury prevention. Stronger muscles, together with better biomechanics will have a positive effect on the longevity of a runner’s career. Additionally, proper strength training can lead to a more favourable body composition, meaning more muscles and less fat. On the long term, this will result in a slightly higher resting metabolic rate and thus more efficient weight loss.

 

Gommaar D’Hulst studied Sport Sciences and Biomedical Kinesiology at the University of Leuven, Belgium where he also gained his PhD. Currently he is working as a post-doctoral researcher at state-of-the-art “Exercise and Health” lab at ETH Zürich where his research concentrates on topics like muscle health and nutrient sensing. In his spare time you can find him in CrossFit Kreis9 for his daily Workout Of the Day. Follow Gommaar and his colleague Henning Langer on their Instagram-Account (@wod_science) for daily posts about the science behind strength training, endurance and CrossFit.

 

Edited  by: Marion Aebi

Interview with marathon champion Eliud Kipchoge

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Interview and pictures: Jürg Wirz – this blog entry was provided to us by the Swiss magazine FIT for LIFE.

He ran the marathon faster than anybody else before him – and he believes he can become even faster. FIT for LIFE visited the 34-year-old Kenyan at the training camp in Kaptagat in preparation for the London Marathon.

Eliud Kipchoge, at the latest since your fantastic world record last September in Berlin in 2:01:39 hours you are the biggest marathon runner of all times, unbeaten in the last ten marathons, including the Olympic victory in Rio and 2:00:25 at the Breaking2 attempt in Monza. What has changed in your life since then?

It’s gotten a little difficult. Every new achievement, every record comes with a new responsibility. Many people want something from me: sponsors, media people, but also the fans. I try to meet their wishes as well as possible, but I can’t make myself available for every single one of the sponsor appearances, interviews, autograph requests or selfies. I have to be selective. I hope my fans understand that. In the end they are also only happy if I show a good performance.

Does this increased attention also bring more pressure?

No, I’m not feeling any more pressure than before. I am the same as before Berlin. I am still primarily a runner. I only make other commitments if the training doesn’t suffer from it. During the week I am at the camp in Kaptagat where it is only about focusing on the training and nothing else.

If you think back to the race in Berlin: was this the perfect competition, the optimal result? Your coach Patrick Sang said that you had reached the top of your form at exactly the right time this time.

I can’t and won’t comment on what Patrick says. He is the teacher, I am the student. He dictates the training and I implement it. We never discuss the training, I trust him one hundred percent. He is the best coach I can wish for – and he has been for almost 20 years. But he is also a friend and my life coach. Was it the perfect race? On that day with these conditions: yes.

In Berlin you were already ahead after 25 kilometers without a pacemaker, you ran the second half in 60:33 minutes, 33 seconds faster than the first and you became faster and faster on the last kilometers; would you even have had more reserves?

Let’s not speculate, please. As I said, on that day it was the optimum. But I never said I didn’t believe I could run any faster. However, it depends on so many factors: I have to be in top form again at the decisive moment, the weather has to fit.

Your motivation is still unabated then?

I am convinced that I can continue running at this level for at least two more years, but I have no guarantee. I need to stay healthy and get through training without injuries. There is no lack of motivation; I am still very hungry. I want to go down in history as the best marathon runner, and for future generations I want to be a role model as a runner as well as a person.

You keep stressing this: it is the love of running and challenge that drives you, and the fact that you want to leave a legacy behind. But you have already achieved everything. What are the remaining goals?

I love running, it’s that simple. The Olympic Games next year in Tokyo are still a big goal for me – and yes, I might be able to improve the world record even further. Every day is a challenge, you’re always faced with a new one. And when I have achieved something, I look forward to the next goal. That’s the way to go. That’s my way of thinking, my character, that’s how I work.

On April 28, you will run the London Marathon, which you have already won three times. Was it easy to choose London again, or was there another option up for discussion?

This is the work of the management and the coach. They look at the different possibilities and tell me which one they think is best. After Berlin they thought London was a good choice and I agreed. I am happy to be able to run again in London. Especially since it comes to a meeting with Mo Farah. He is one of the greatest runners of all time. What he has achieved on the track is incredible, and now he is also a top-drawer marathon runner. It will be a real challenge, but that’s what I love. And for the fans it will be great to watch the race.

How has the preparation been going so far? Any changes, maybe new training impulses?

Everything has been going according to plan. And no, no changes. Again, we stuck to the training program that has worked for the last few years. For track training or driving games there may be small adjustments from time to time, but nothing of great importance. Before I start with the three-month training program, I just go jogging for a month and go to the gym three times a week, where I do strength training and aerobics for two hours.

What about nutrition, any supplements?

I still eat normally like any other Kenyan and do not take any supplements. The only exception is sports drinks.

And what about performance tests or other scientific training aids?

I often run with a heart rate monitor because I want to know how my heart behaves under the various strains. But I never analyze it with any specialists, it’s just for me. Before the Breaking2 project, the Nike people measured my oxygen volume and other things – I had to run on a treadmill for the first time in my life – but that was actually more for them than for me. It didn’t affect my training.

Since the Breaking2 project, your shoe, the Nike Zoom Vaporfly Elite, has been a constant source of discussion and speculation, not least because Nike himself claims that the shoe would save four percent of energy. What do you think?

All I can say is that the shoe that I have assisted developing is the best marathon shoe I have ever had. In London, I’m going to run with the Vaporfly 4% Flyknit, the same model as in Berlin. Last year in London the stock material came from a 3D printer. But to be honest, to me, the whole shoe discussion is pretty boring. The biggest advantage is not during running, but in the recovery. It relieves the muscles and allows you to train at a high level more often. Progress does not come from the shoe, but from the head. If the shoe was so much better than others, why am I the only one running the marathon under 2:02 hours?

 

Change of subject. What does a training day look like in the camp in Kaptagat?

I get up at a quarter to six and prepare for the morning training, which usually starts at 06.10 or 06.20, unless we are going to Eldoret for trainings or for a long run outside Kaptagat. When I come back, I take a shower and then have breakfast with my colleagues. Afterwards I rest a bit, either on the campground or I lie down again. Then it’s time for lunch. After lunch I often have a massage. Before the second training begins at 16 o’clock, we rest again. Then once more a shower and waiting for dinner. At 21 o’clock I am in bed. This is what my day looks like. On Tuesday we have track training, on Thursday the long run, which can go up to 40 kilometers, and on Saturday a driving game. On Saturday afternoon we go home and spend the weekend with the family. On Monday morning we go back to the camp.

Let’s talk about the young Swiss Julien Wanders. European record over 10 kilometers and in the half marathon and now even the first official world record holder over five kilometers on the road. Are you following his performance?

Yes, of course. He’s a member of the Nike NN team and has the same manager. I’ve never met him since he’s been one of the pacesetters at the Breaking2 attempt in Monza, but I’ve been following his performance very closely. Running the half marathon in 59:13 is really fantastic, especially for a European. I admire him and I’m happy for him. After the London Marathon I would like to sit down and have a chat with him. For me, Julien Wanders is proof that East Africans have no genetic advantages. If a European decides to concentrate entirely on sport and live in the heights, he can just as well reach the top. It’s just a question of talent, training and the head. Wanders is already a role model for other Europeans. I am sure that many will follow his example.

What is your opinion on the doping problem in Kenya? Are many runners not informed enough about what is allowed and what is not, or why are cases increasing?

I am convinced that most athletes know about the issues around doping. There has been a lot of education in recent years, especially from the Kenyan federation. I think in most cases it’s about someone wanting to make money faster. Which is very regrettable, because of course it also casts a shadow over all clean athletes. Maybe it also has something to do with the African mentality. Unfortunately, cheating is in the DNA of many people.

Do you think that a country like Kenya will continue to produce world-class athletes in the future? In Kenya, too, technical progress can be seen everywhere and living conditions are improving. A life full of hardship as a runner may soon no longer be in demand or necessary in order to achieve something.

I don’t spend much time thinking about this. Progress comes and cannot be withheld. And with it also technological development. It’s true that many children today take a bus to school or are taken there by their parents in a car. I think that in Kenya and other countries there is a need for sports academies where talented young people can go to school, train and prepare for competitions. Where they can train and are mentally formed. Too much is left to chance at the moment. But there will always be young people everywhere who want to achieve something in sports.

A few keywords at the end:

Breaking2?

I ran 2:00:25 under special conditions and I have the official world record. With the experience from the first time the chance would be bigger now to run under two hours. But I never chase two rabbits, only one at a time. Right now, I’m concentrating on London, nothing else.

City marathons?

I think they are fine the way they’re organized for us elite runners right now. There are people who are involved in the organization and administration of the marathons; it’s their job to think about it. My job is to run as fast as possible.

Your children?

I try to raise them like other parents do, even though their father may be a little better known than others. I think that I – and my wife – have succeeded quite well so far. Our children don’t get every single thing they want. They should know that nothing should be taken for granted, and they are to try out different kinds of sports.

Religion?

Religion plays a very important role in my life. It keeps me from doing things that could keep me from my goals. On Sundays I go to church with my family and I pray regularly, even in the mornings before a race.

THE REASONS FOR ELIUD KIPCHOGE’S SUCCESSES

Childhood:

Eliud Kipchoge grew up in a village called Kapsisisywa in Nandi County as the youngest of five children. His father died early. The mother, a teacher, showed the children the right way into life.

Coach:

Eliud was lucky Patrick Sang lived nearby. Sang, once one of the best obstacle runners in the world (and a member of LC Zurich), has been his coach and mentor for 18 years. Sang holds the highest IAAF trainer diploma.

Track running career:

Before switching to marathon at the end of 2012, he was one of the best track runners of his generation. At the age of 18 he beat Hicham El Guerrouj and Kenenisa Bekele over 5000 meters at the World Championships in Paris; for nine years he ran the course for less than 13 minutes.

Body concept:

For 16 years at the highest level, Eliud Kipchoge had very few injuries as he has been taking good care of his body: Strength training in the gym and aerobics at the beginning of a preparation, then hill runs for strength and always incorporating stretching and massages.

Problem solving:

He is also able to master challenges during a race: the high temperatures at last year’s London Marathon, the rain in Berlin in 2017 or 2015 also in Berlin when he won despite the insoles having slipped out of his shoes.

Peace of mind:

His calm and serene nature proves to be ideal in extremely emotional high-performance sports. Those who remain calm can think more clearly, concentrate better and prepare for the challenges of a race.

Humbleness:

Despite his success, Eliud Kipchoge has remained very modest. In the camp he participates like everyone else in the cleaning work and he lives in a simple single-family house; his children should not grow up differently than others.

Planning:

The right planning is key to success. As soon as the next marathon has been determined together with the management, he sits together with the coach and gets informed about the rough plans, starting from the day of the race.

Eagerness to learn:

He’s a curious man by nature. He reads many motivation and business books. He is never satisfied with what he has achieved. As an athlete and also as a person, he always wants to learn new things, become even better and always looks to the future.

Training partners:

He has excellent training partners at his side, including Geoffrey Kamworor (multiple Half Marathon and Cross-Country World Champion), Stephen Kiprotich (Olympic Marathon Champion 2012 and World Champion 2013) and Abel Kirui (double Marathon World Champion).

Training:

As far as training is concerned, he trusts his coach Patrick Sang one hundred percent, whom he calls his coach for both training and life. Training programs are not subject to argument: Sang is the teacher, Kipchoge the student.

Self-confidence:

Over the years, especially since the 2:00:25 hours of the 2017 Breaking2 trial in Monza, he has built up an unshakeable self-confidence. He knows, no matter what happens in the race, he’s ready. He has been undefeated for ten races.

Burning fat – but how?

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The ideal fat burning pace does not mean that you burn the most fat at that speed. Myths and facts about fat burning.

It is easier than you think: With slow trainings the economy of the fat metabolism is trained, with intensive and fast units most calories and therefore the most fat is burned in absolute terms. There are two different forms of training with two different objectives.

No weight loss without a negative energy balance

Let’s start with weight loss. If you want to reduce fat, you have to work on your energy balance. What you put into your body also has to go out again, otherwise the fat pads will swell out of the trousers. Unused calories are stored by the body as fat. The energy balance is therefore the decisive criterion for losing weight. Only when input (calories consumed with the diet) minus output (calories burned) is negative, i.e. the energy consumption is greater than the energy intake, only then do we lose weight.

One can increase the output with increased exercise or decrease the input with a cleverly planned diet. There are two starting points when it comes to contributing to weight loss through sports. Either you can try to burn as many calories as possible in a short time. The motto here is: Whoever wants to burn as many calories as possible also has to put in their maximum effort. Or one increases the duration of sports and adjusts the intensity to become able to sustain a pace for as long as possible, which is possible only with a middle intensity. Here, not predominantly the carbohydrates are needed for the energy supply, but – by means of oxygen – also fat is used.

In percentage terms, the less intense the physical activity, the more fat you burn. Therefore, this intensity level is often referred to as the “fat burning zone”. However, this only applies as a percentage, because due to the low total energy turnover, the absolute amount of burned fat in the fat burning area is still lower than when you are doing intensive trainings.

Fat metabolism for more economy

The training mode in the low “fat burning zone” has another special meaning in endurance sports. The burning of carbohydrates (= glycogen burning, sugar burning) provides about twice as much energy per time as the burning of fat, but the fats burn for much longer and are practically available without limit in the body. The glycogen reserves are only sufficient for a strain of about 90 minutes.

A regular training in the moderate fat metabolism zone is therefore the essential foundation the other trainings can be built on. In addition, less intensive training sessions require less regeneration time and can be repeated more often.

By accessing the fat metabolism, our body improves the more economical of the two main metabolic processes in endurance sports. This can protect the glycogen reserves, which are only available in limited quantities. With the fat metabolism, one can run for hours to days – with the glycogen metabolism in the best case one to two hours without refilling carbohydrates. The better the fat metabolism is trained, the more it helps to preserve the carbohydrates from the start and to maintain the desired speed longer at the end. And the less you will fall into that dreaded “bonk” from one moment to the next.

What are the benefits of metabolic training?

The training of fat metabolism makes sense not only for (marathon) runners, but for all endurance athletes who perform during long trainings. Cyclists and triathletes also explicitly train their fat metabolism during the preparation for the upcoming season. The longer the strain during competition, the more important it becomes. Fat metabolism training improves long-term endurance. The organism forms more blood in order to transport oxygen more efficiently, the number of energy power stations of the muscles (mitochondria) increases, so that the cells can gain energy even better. By adapting the organism, the body can process training strains more quickly. And last but not least, in addition to the muscles and blood, the cartilage surfaces, tendons and ligaments also develop, so that the training can be better coped with and is better protected against overloading.

When does metabolic training start?

The fat metabolism is demanded at almost all intensities. But only when the duration of the strain is long and the intensity is chosen to be low we can actually speak of a classic fat metabolism training. Long units from 60 up to 180 minutes (depending on your goals) should be planned once a week in running. In combination with other extensive endurance runs, this builds the necessary foundation. The extensive units are supplemented by intensive training in a ratio of 1:3. Every third extensive unit is followed by intensive training.

If you want to be successful, you should invest in fat metabolism training all year round. The positive thing about this is that these training sessions are not very intensive and are only challenging due to their long duration. In order to break through the monotony somewhat, it is recommended to do the long round with training colleagues or to do a new round every now and then.

Examples of fat metabolism trainings

  • Long jog: Long slow run up to 3 hours if the goal is to do a marathon. Otherwise you can also do “only” 80 minutes up to 2 hours. Motto: The slower, the better!
  • Long run: Long, brisk run (90% of the marathon speed) up to 3 hours or a maximum of 38 kilometers in the specific preparation for a marathon. In the case of shorter distances up to 2 hours or a maximum of 28 kilometers.
  • Cross-training: Long strains in one or more alternative sports with low intensity. Example: 3 hours cycling or 5 hours hiking. Ideally, a short running workout of 30-45 minutes is added at the end to enable the transfer to the target discipline (running).

The two metabolic systems fat metabolism and carbohydrate metabolism are always both involved in endurance strains, but not to the same extent. During intensive exercise, carbohydrate metabolism is primarily used; with increasing training duration and a lower pulse rate, fat metabolism makes up the largest proportion of the energy supply. Training in the ideal fat burning area does not mean burning a maximum of calories (more calories are burned during intensive training than during loose training) but improving the economy of the fat metabolism with low intensities so that it can also participate in the energy supply during more intensive training.

This blog post by Andreas Gonseth was provided by Fit for Life. Fit for Life is the Swiss magazine for fitness, running and endurance sports.

Our new running.COACH ambassador Paula Radcliffe

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Former top runner and marathon world record holder Paula Radcliffe is our new running.COACH Ambassador. We are happy to have her incorporate her knowledge and training philosophy into our training plan.

Since 2005, Paula Radcliffe has been holding the world record for the marathon distance (2:15:25 hours), which the Englishwoman ran at the London Marathon. She won this marathon as well as the New York Marathon three times.

During her 23-year career, she ran very successfully at various distances (5,000 meters, 10,000 meters, marathon). We are delighted that all those years of training and competition experience are going into the running.COACH training plan and that we can let you benefit from it.

In the interview with running.COACH she already gives us an insight.

Last year, Eliud Kipchoge broke the men’s world record at the Berlin Marathon and raised it to a seemingly unattainable level like you did 15 years ago. How far will this men’s world record go?

I think it was already a big step forward from Kipchoge. Maybe since Monza, we saw the possibility that he was going to really advance the world record a long way. Now he did that, so I think he’s a little bit ahead of the others for the moment. So that record may last a little while. If anyone can get closer to 2 hours for the moment, it’s him. So I think the breaking 2 hours will still take some time. This record will stand for a while.

While we’re talking about records: How many more years will your record last?

I don’t know – already, I’m grateful that it stood for this long. The longer I keep it,  the more proud I become of it and also the luckier I am that I was able to be set on that day because everything came together. Because for the marathon you need to have good conditions, a good shape, the weather needs to be good, everything needs to be right on that day. It was a good day in London. I’m grateful that I was able to get that. But also the longer I keep it, the longer I like keeping it.

What has running given you personally over all those years?

It has given me so much. From fun, pleasure, and enjoyment to the personal sense of fulfillment. Learning more about my body and psyche. Becoming a stronger person. Meeting so many interesting people and traveling to such amazing places. Learning the value of teamwork and preparation and perseverance. How to overcome setbacks. Being a healthier person and gaining a good perspective on life.

In 2015, you ended your successful career. What would you do differently if you could turn back the clock (e.g. in training, recovery, nutrition, competition/career planning)?

I’m a big believer in “no regrets” – you give everything the best shot and you’re proud of the things that work out and the things that didn’t work out you kind of learn something from and you accept them. So obviously, I would’ve liked to not get injured before the Olympic Games in Athen and Bejing. But I think for most of the others I was lucky. It worked out more often than it didn’t.

How did your body react after ending your career?

I think for me I am lucky since, as a distance runner, we retire from competition but don’t have to retire from running. So I miss competing but also value the fact that I had a long career and enjoy being able to just get out and run still for pleasure. So my body copes very well because when I want to run I do and if my body is tired I don’t need to push it anymore. I was able to be very patient in building back up after my foot surgery and really listen to my body.

Has your attitude toward running changed since then?

Running was always my enjoyment and stress release but now it can be more so. I can really use the run for whatever I want to get out of it mentally as well as physically now, whereas before there was also a training purpose to the run. Now, I can run hard to clear my head and feel good if I feel like it, or I can just run easy and enjoy the scenery or company and use the run as thinking time or problem-solving time!

 

What does a typical Paula Radcliffe training week look like today? How much/how often do you still run?

I mostly run every day now and generally for about an hour. I very rarely start my watch though and I don’t really have a plan for the run when I start. I run how I feel and include impromptu tempo runs, fartleks or hill sessions if I feel like it. I often also just decide on the actual route during the run depending on where I feel like going.
What is your favourite training? 

It was the long run, it was very important and I liked it. I also loved the fartlek and hill training and somehow track sessions when I was in shape. So I watched out that these trainings are included in the running.COACH as well.

What are your training principles? Can they also be used by hobby athletes?

Yes, it’s mostly to enjoy running. That’s the biggest thing. To enjoy running and to have fun. But also to work on your strengths as well as on your weaknesses. We have to work on our weaknesses but we also have to recognize where we are strong and change the training and racing to suit where we are strong. And then it’s also important to have a plan and stick to it.

Can you give us some tips for the last preparation before a race?

Especially for a marathon or longer distance race, it’s really important to make some training runs or strides in the shoes and in the kit you’re going to wear on the race day. That’s really important. By then, the last main preparations are done so the last bit is to feel good to recover from the hard work. I think it’s more easy runs with some fast strides and some refueling, stretching, massages. And of course, good sleep during the race week because often people don’t sleep well during the night before. So you need to stock up before. And eat well!

Is there a secret tip you can give us? A training, nutrition or recovery tip, for example?

I think the most important thing is that sometimes rest is an important training also. People forget and only think about running – training – running – training – running – training, but if your body is tired and your mind is tired, sometimes rest day is the best training.

What convinces you personally about the running.COACH online training schedule?

I think the flexible nature that adapts to every runner. The fact that it is planned by people who understand running, and what runners want to get out of their training. The experience of the team and the holistic planning of it all come together to help the individual runner get the best from themselves and their training and racing.

Performance diagnostics for runners

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Performance tests are not only for professional athletes. Even beginners and athletes with little free time often get important insights from taking them.

Author: Raphael Huber, MSc, Movement and Sports Science, MAS in Nutrition & Health, Medbase Winterthur WIN4

 

 

Where do I stand in my training? How well is my general fitness? How do I train most efficiently despite little free time? And what is the best way to achieve my goal, for example, the half marathon? Those who ask themselves questions like the ones above are candidates for performance diagnostics since it provides the most accurate answers.

Performance diagnostics comprises two categories: Endurance and strength diagnostics. The core element is a lactate level test. Most athletes do it on a treadmill or bicycle ergometer, rarely on a rowing ergometer or while swimming. Every three or five minutes, the speed or resistance is increased – until the athlete can no longer do it or no longer wants to continue.

Ideally, the performance level test measures three components

  • the fitness of the cardiovascular system
  • the subjective perception of stress
  • the metabolic state

The continuous measurement of the heart rate during the performance test shows how trained the heart is. At the same time, the athlete should indicate at the end of each performance level how resilient they still feel.

The “Borg Scale”, named after the Swedish physiologist Gunnar Borg, serves as a measure for the perceived exertion. Six as the lowest value of the scale corresponds to a very light strain, the highest of twenty is the effort at which the athlete reaches their limit which can’t be maintained for long.

The performance test is most meaningful if the lactate concentration in the blood is analyzed as well. Lactate (lactic acid) is produced as soon as the oxygen supply through respiration is no longer sufficient for energy production in the muscle. As a result, muscle cells increasingly switch from aerobic to anaerobic energy production, which is reflected in a sharp increase in the lactate concentration. To determine this, it is best to extract one drop of blood per performance level from the earlobe. Such a performance diagnosis takes about 1.5 hours (including training advice) and costs around 250 Swiss francs.

Individual training areas

The measured values – heart rate, subjective perception and lactate – can be used to determine when the runner is still training in the range of their basic endurance, when the aerobic (first lactate increase) and anaerobic threshold values are reached and when the athlete starts running in the interval range. This varies from person to person.

If, for example, the heart rate and lactate values are already high, but the perceived exertion is still in the middle range, this may indicate that the athlete tends to “bite their way through”. Those runners are mentally strong but often overtax their bodies.

Athletes who know their performance values, strengths and weaknesses can focus their training on what is important for their type of sport: Marathon runners, for example, need a good basic endurance, while 800-meter runners have to cope with high lactate values.

Good long-distance runners have low lactate values (about one millimole per liter of blood, mmol/l) in the test over several performance levels. This is partly due to the ability of their muscles to produce less lactate at a given level and partly due to the fact that their body can recycle the lactate more easily.

For good short-distance runners, on the other hand, lactate levels rise faster. However, their organism is able to continue to perform at its best despite high values of over ten mmol/l. In technical jargon, this is called “good stamina”.

Without knowledge of the individual thresholds one– in the truest sense of the word –  runs the risk of training incorrectly. This is all the more serious when the time budget is tight. If you train for a marathon alongside work, family, and commitments, it is essential to manage your time very well. Here, the performance test can help to make the training efficient and goal-oriented. The running.COACH training plan is adjusted to your individual threshold for you to train in the right training areas.

Test results and nutrition

The training plan also helps to coordinate nutrition. As long as the training is within the range of basic endurance, the body primarily uses fat reserves as a source of energy. At this stage, there is no need for an extra portion of pasta providing carbohydrates. In high-intensity training, on the other hand, the organism can hardly burn any more fat reserves. In this situation, a “low carb” diet makes it difficult to achieve the required performance.

A performance test makes sense also for amateurs and beginners

Knowing where one’s own thresholds are thus makes sense for several reasons – not only for competitive athletes but also for amateurs and especially beginners. They in particular often make the mistake of expecting too much of themselves according to the motto “Only hard training is good training”. If this happens too often, the “basis” is neglected, and the risk of injury also increases.

The right training is one that is adapted to the individual organism. And this can best be determined by the performance test.

RULE OF THUMB

A rule of thumb can help to determine the performance areas:

  • Basic endurance 1: The athlete can still talk normally without getting out of breath
  • Basic endurance 2: Only short sentences are possible
  • Threshold range: “Yes/No” only
  • Interval range: Speaking is no longer possible

 

Training despite a cold? – Yes!

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As long as you pay attention to a few things, a bit of exercise is good for the body – even when your nose is running.

Active people not only have a fitter body than couch potatoes, they also have a stronger immune system. This results from sport improving the immune system. Exercise makes the body more resistant to germs.

At some point, however, sportsmen and sportswomen might still get it: a runny nose, a sore throat, a slight headache – should you really go running now? The answer is: Yes, but take it easy!

Fit for running?

Good preparation is the be-all and end-all. It is thus advisable to dress appropriately. For example, a scarf around the mouth ensures that the cold and dry winter air is not inhaled directly.

If you have a cold, the warm-up before the run is best done in the living room. If you already feel that you are not feeling as well as you need for training, this is a good point to stop – and stay at home to get some rest.

The same applies outside, of course: If, for example, at kilometer three, you notice that you can’t perform as usual, the best way to finish the run is to walk back home.

Recovery thanks to easy exercise

Amateurs, in particular, tend to “ignore” their body feeling when it indicates an illness. However, this is not a favor to their organism.

Moderate movement supports the immune defense during a cold. A side effect of running is that the nasal mucous membrane is better supplied with blood and the respiratory tract is well “ventilated”. Both promote recovery.

However, too intensive training has the opposite effect: it weakens the body and makes it susceptible to injury and infection. In concrete terms, this means no high-intensity training during colds, no plyometric training, no interval training and of course no participation in a competition. No wrong ambition at the wrong time!

No training in case of fever

Fever is – in the truest sense of the word – a no-go. The reason: during sport, the body core temperature rises. Fever plus sport can increase body temperature to such an extent that vital proteins in the body are destroyed. Also, the body is not ready for training if it generally feels ill, experiences dizziness, a sore throat, breathing problems or if the cough increases during activity. If at least one of these symptoms persists, it is better to pause.

Optimal recovery depends on many factors. Sufficient fluid, enough sleep and a balanced diet are the keys to a rapid return to your training routine.

Training during colds

In general, it is important not to push the limits during training if you have a cold. Slight sweating during running is good in this situation, but full sweating would be too much for the body.

A good guideline is the pulse rate. If the resting pulse in the morning is higher than usual, it might indicate that the body is still occupied with the immune defense. In this case, it is better to skip a workout.

People who know their heart rate zones (training pulse) on the running track, can orient themselves towards it during training. If the heart beats faster or the stage feels more strenuous than usual, then the body needs more protection – and this immediately, not after completing the run.

In addition to running, casual strength training, gymnastics or stretching can also be useful. Swimming would also be suitable from the point of view of physical exertion but is not advisable during a cold. The disinfectant in the water can irritate the respiratory tract additionally and the germs in the warm indoor pool will do the rest.

Tips:

  • Highly intensive training sessions and competitions are forbidden during colds
  • If it’s cold outside, it’s better to put on a layer more than usual if you have a cold.
  • If you have a severe cold, drink enough, sleep enough, eat healthy, give yourself time and ensure that stress is kept within limits.
  • A good training plan improves both your fitness and the immune system. Exercising at the right time and at the right intensity is more effective than always putting the pedal to the metal during training.

Author: Raphael Huber, MSc. Movement and Sports Science, MAS in Nutrition & Health, Medbase Winterthur WIN4

 

Achieving the 3 Hour Marathon Dream

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Running a marathon below 3 hours – a dream that came true for our running.COACH User Chris Howard. Together with our Gold Coach Gabriel he improved his form to be a more efficient runner and less prone to injury. Very sucessful, as you can read here in his personal report about his journey to the Valencia Marathon.

I started running 5 years ago once I hit 40 years old – either this was due to a mid-life crisis or to just generally get fit and remove the storage space around the tummy. My first marathon in Lucerne of just over 4 hours was hard but the feeling at the end got me hooked for more.

Running Dream and injuries

Over the next few years I got better by adding the miles and then signed up with running.COACH silver subscription and was able to bring my time down over the next 2 years to 3.14 in Berlin and then 3.09 in London. I was following the plan, obtaining excellent advice and was really happy with my progress. However, I then wanted to achieve the next level and achieve under 3 hours. This became the running dream.

Training with a Coach: less kilometres

Unfortunately, I had a few injuries which kept on pushing me back and then I did Chicago and got a 3.32. Why was I getting further away from 3 hours and not closer? A friend recommended me to have a personal coach and use the running.COACH Gold subscription. I signed up in June 2018 for a 6 month subscription and Gabriel Lombriser would be my coach for the next 6 months. I was advised at the beginning about a running day being conducted in Nottwil and I learned more in that day about running style, efficiency, mobilisation, specific training etc. than I had done by looking at over 100 Youtube videos.

At the beginning of the subscription I had a detailed discussion with Gabriel about injuries, aims, personal lifestyle, nutrition etc. Gabriel then created a plan for me. Gone were the 6 days of training over 100km per week and I was shocked to see only 60km per week and 5 trainings. Gabriel fully understood my injury history and accommodated my plan to this to ensure I had continuous training and not to be constantly interrupted by injuries. Throughout the next 6 months I could have an easily accessible view of my plan on my phone and receive detailed tips per run.

Journey as a Team

The training got easier and then more intensive as time went by. Constant communication with Gabriel ensured I was on this journey as a team and not by myself (every question asked was answered quickly with excellent advice). I was advised which test runs to do and these were built into the plan. Constant feedback after the test runs was given by Gabriel as to how I could improve in the next run and by putting this advice to practice, I noticed constant improvement. However, it was the constant change to the norm in runs which I was advised to do which helped me significantly.

Valencia Marathon

Valencia marathon then arrived and I felt good. A detailed discussion took place between Gabriel and myself a week before about tapering, nutrition and marathon pacing strategy. I felt confident. Then the day before the marathon, Gabriel called again to provide me with some key tips and encouragement.

The marathon went like a dream. The splits were the same for every 5km and when I felt tired at after 30 kilometres I kept on repeating the advice Gabriel had given me and I found some new energy. When I hit 40km I knew I could do this if I hanged in there and suddenly I was able to run the last 2km in 3.51min/km – this was due to the change to the norm training Gabriel had advised me to do.

The feeling of running up to the finishing line and seeing the clock being under 3 hours was highly emotional. All the training had been worth it and the dream was fulfilled when I crossed the line in 2.59.

I have learned that you don’t need to do 120km+ per week training to achieve under 3 hours. Instead, you need a brilliant coach who understands injuries, plans, lifestyle etc. and is fully with you on the journey to achieve a running dream. This was teamwork. I thank Gabriel and running.COACH so much for making this happen and being a core part of this amazing journey.

The online coaching platform at running.COACH is great for individualized training programs. It allows you to find your own time to run and you know the workout was made just for you based on your training progress and goals.  With the silver subscription you can ask our coaches two questions by email per month. If you want to have a personal coach on your side the whole time, then benefit from our Gold Coaches and their long-time experience in running and coaching. Sign up and test running.COACH for free. 

New Year’s Resolutions Light: Start 2019 with Joy

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Year after year… The year 2018 is about to end, 2019 is awaiting and everyone is shooting for the moon. People have their resolutions – fair enough. However, lots of them are unrealistic and almost impossible to achieve, which, eventually, only leads to frustration and despair. We therefore plead for less resolutions and more fun! We would here like to provide you with a couple of tips, which should spice up and facilitate your running routines without major effort. This should help you to switch focus to what you have achieved and to preserving it, instead of pursuing unrealistic goals. It is only as soon as you have managed this that you can go on to setting up new resolutions.

Run for fun

Due to all the planning, all our goals and stressful everyday lives, it is easy to forget why we run: for pleasure (at least, that’s what we hope)! Before training, try to consciously reflect on your personal motivation for running.

  • Is it moving out in nature and in the fresh air? Then enjoy it! Consciously breathe the air in and out, take in the surroundings in which you move and let the good feeling spread in your body.
  • Is it the tuning out of the stress in everyday life? When this everyday stress is especially present, we sometimes have trouble to switch it off. BUT: This is exactly when we need it the most! The time spent on running will be gone anyways, so, what’s the use in being concerned about time running away? Instead, try to consciously draw a line when tying your shoes and to tell yourself “this is a treat for myself”. We are convinced that, after this personal timeout, all the other stuff will be a bit easier, too.
  • Is it, after all, mostly knowing that it gets you closer to your goals? Then try to formulate that in a positive way: instead of always thinking where you want to go, you should also pat yourself on the back from time to time and look at how far you’ve come already.
  • Is it for other reasons? No matter what they are: keep reminding yourself of your personal motivation and formulate it positively, so that, even in 2018, you can say with conviction: I’ll keep on running!

Recovery

Even longer, even faster, even further… Runners have numerous goals. However, we often forget that progress only comes with recovery. We therefore encourage you to invest enough time in it. The following tips should help you with this:

Stretching

Yes, it is sometimes annoying if you have to take your time for stretching after training. I mean, really, you should do this and that, too. However, try to take your time for stretching 1-2x a week. It helps you to relax your muscles, to stay flexible and to recover more quickly. In our online running.COACH training plan, ideas for stretching exercises are displayed automatically. Here are two ideas, which may make it a bit easier for you:

  • Multitasking: You are desperate to check your Facebook and your Intagram, too? There is a journal article you have been wanting to read for a long time? One thing does not necessary exclude the other! There are a lot of stretching exercises which can be executed while reading or writing. Here you can find an example of such efficient stretching.
  • Music: You think it’s boring to just do stretching? Well then, spice it up with music! Compile your own playlist or listen to radio. Watching TV works, too, of course. For the jokers amongst you, we here have a refreshing example of a musical backdrop. (ATTENTION: For stretching after training, we normally recommend to keep the position for 20-30 seconds. More serious stretching tips can be found directly in our training plan.)

Blackroll

Another evergreen is the blackroll (or foam roller). It is used in order to massage and to unblock your muscular fascia. This can cause quite some pain at the beginning. However, you get used to the pain from time to time. In this video you can see how to use it the best way. Here, too, it might all become a lot more endurable with accompanying music or some other kind of entertainment. You don’t need to use it everyday! But aside from the 1-2x stretching, there would theoretically be around 1-2x a week left for the foam roller, wouldn’t there…? And if you fail to get used to the pain anyhow, then treat yourself with a massage from time to time. Pain gets more endurable if you don’t have to inflict it onto your body yourself.

Bath

Your muscles will thank you for it! Especially in winter, it can be nice to treat yourself with a warm bath after training, in order to get warm again. Okay, if you already have to cover stretching AND foam rolling, there is really no time for a bath. We understand that, of course. BUT: Just see it as a reward, which you give to yourself from time to time. For example, after an especially tough or an especially long session. You decide for yourself, how often this should be!

Running food

Running makes you hungry. Therefore, it is important that we always keep our energy storage well filled. What does well mean? For us, this means with wholesome, healthy and delicious food. However, in our everyday lives, it can be a challenge to find the time for coming up with new recipes all the time. We therefore recommend you the following:

  • Make a plan for the week! On the weekend, think about what you would like to eat the upcoming week. You don’t have to plan for each day, since this might possibly stress you too much. Pick the days on which you have the most time and plan certain running menus for those specific days. If you already know what you will be cooking later in the week, you can consider that in your shopping at the start of the week. These specific days for running food do not provide you with running food menus for a whole week, however, it should make it easier for you to get your own ideas. You could, for example, simply swap certain ingredients in a recipe with different ones and thereby create something new in no time.

You can find some ideas for recipes here:

Runner’s breakfast

Runner’s lunch

Runner’s dinner

Last but not least…

… stop comparing yourself to others! Your best friend runs at a lower average pace than you do? Your younger brother has started running later than you have, and still, he can already keep up with you? SO WHAT? There are always people who are faster than yourself. Except, maybe, if your name is Usain Bolt or Mo Farah. We can get inspired by those people, but we should not let ourselves get too wound up by it. Do you belong to the people who tend to start cursing themselves if someone runs past them? Then let us tell you: DON’T! Be proud of what you have achieved and focus on your own progress!

And now, we wish you the best possible start to 2019 and a Happy New Year! And don’t forget: Keep on running!

 

Running according to training plan: 10 reasons

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Fancy a new challenge? Maybe you already have a big running goal for 2019 in mind. You might want to master a certain distance. The finish of a certain run is important to you or you even want to reach a certain target time. Or you simply want to run regularly and – above all – in a structured way.

Whether you are a beginner or want to improve your personal best at running, we have training plans for all distances – from 5km to a marathon. Our training plan is now available in five languages. With our training philosophy, we have moved up to 100,000 runners in recent years and accompanied them on their way to achieving their goals.

“A GOAL WITHOUT A PLAN IS JUST A WISH.”
Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

#run4goals – so tackle your goal. Are you already training according to a plan? Why does such a plan enrich your running training? With running training according to a specific training plan, you can improve your performance and become faster. But have you also considered that a training plan offers much more and can spice up your running training in various areas? We’ll show you the ten advantages of training according to plan.

Guidance in the confusion of advisors

The flood of tips and good advice in the running area is huge: Here a book, there an online article, there a Facebook contribution and not to forget the well-intentioned collegial advice. All this can be a bit too much, right? That’s why it makes sense to rely on a plan that gives you a red thread in your everyday training routine and is reliable.

Goal-oriented and individual training

A main goal cannot be reduced to a day X, but accompanies you in your preparation during weeks, months or even years. A training plan can be specifically tailored to a particular goal and accompanies you on your way to that goal. In order to end up at the starting line with the optimal conditions, the running units are specifically aligned to this goal as well as the individual conditions. Intermediate goals, for example in the form of test or preparation competitions, are small stages on the way to a big goal. At the beginning, a plan takes up the actual state – is individual – and then adapts to the changes over time. Accordingly, it is very dynamic.

Correct training areas and sequence

Often, you run in the same training area without a plan and, generally, too fast as well. Neither very slowly, nor very intensively, but at a medium speed and if possible still the same house round. Caught red-handed? The body gets used to this quite quickly and at some point no longer reacts to these training stimuli. Performance stagnates and progress stops. If you want to get ahead, you should train in different training areas (regenerative area, basic area, medium speed and intensive area), which use different energy systems. The distribution, the sequence and the dosage of the trainings play an important role. A good plan takes this into account.

Alternation

Such a running plan brings momentum and variety into your training. No week looks exactly the same as the other – there are more intensive and less intensive ones. In addition, there are also suggestions around the actual training: Warm-up exercises, tips for uphill and coordination runs as well as hill sprints, stability exercises and catering information. Individual units can also be practiced in alternative sports (cycling, swimming, cross-country skiing, inline skating, aqua-fit, walking) at any time. Even for those, the plan specifies the appropriate duration.

Commitment and gentle pressure

Sometimes you just don’t feel like it and prefer to spend the evening on the couch – who hasn’t been there? But the plan accepts no excuses. Gentle pressure like that can’t hurt to get yourself ready for a workout. In retrospect, you’re usually happy about it. In addition, one also conducts trainings which one would otherwise perhaps do less gladly or never at all and postpone. From time to time, you have to leave the comfort zone if you want to get further.

Playing with the training data

Only for nerds? No, documenting your training and keeping statistics is also a kind of gimmick one likes to get involved with. With which running shoe did you cover how many kilometers? In which region did you train particularly often? How does the pulse rate behave during different training sessions? Do I reach a similar value at the anaerobic threshold (AT) in different competitions? How high is my VO2max? Where is my strength? How have I improved in the last six months? These and many other gadgets can be found in the training plan and in the statistics.

Motivation thanks to documentation

In the training plan, you continuously document the training data and thus have a direct and honest feedback, which is why is it more likely that you keep your focus. The data shows your own running history and the development over time. Small progresses and individual training successes are immediately visible, which motivates additionally. You can also see how much you have to work for achieving your goal. The goal guidance is realistic and therefore rather promising. Once you have low motivation, you can browse through the training documentation and see what you have trained and achieved so far.

Roll on the regeneration

Do you have trouble taking a break and tend to always want too much? The plan includes relaxation as well as the exercise load. Because regeneration is important in order to improve (super compensation) and not risk overtraining. From now on, it’s time to put your feet up and do nothing. After all, this is what the plan says.

Training plan and community as partners

Admittedly, running can also be a rather lonely affair. With the plan, however, you have an online “partner” with whom you are in exchange. Even better, one can also exchange oneself in the forum with like-minded people. And it’s just the truth: RUNNING CONNECTS. With the silver subscription, you have the opportunity to ask us two personal questions per month about your training.

Joy

Running is more than collecting kilometers. Running is versatile and consists of many different puzzle pieces. Running is a quality of life that can give you a lot of pleasure. With the right plan at your side, your goals will be achieved with joy.  Are you ready for all the running pleasure? We’ll be happy to assist you with it!

Until 31 October 2018, you can benefit from our silver promotion: The silver subscription is available at the price of the bronze subscription. This way to the SILVER PROMOTION.

VO2max – maximal oxygen uptake

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Do you know your own VO2max value? This value is an important parameter when classifying your endurance performance. In the running.COACH training plan, you can calculate your VO2max on the basis of previous finishing times. This will help you to track your performance over a longer period of time.

In this blog entry you will learn what VO2max stands for, how it can be calculated and what is needed to improve your personal VO2max rate.

What is VO2max?

The VO2max rate is the maximum rate of oxygen uptake measured in a human during incremental exercise. It’s about the oxygen taken up, transported to the cells and, ultimately, utilised. Further, it is specified in mL/min/kg and shows how many millilitres of oxygen your body can take up per minute per kg body weight at maximum exercise strain to metabolise it in the cells. Hence, the value shows the endurance performance of an athlete. Generally speaking: The higher the VO2max value, the better the athlete’s endurance performance.

The maximal oxygen uptake (VO2max) is the measure for:

  • Oxygen supply
  • Oxygen transport
  • Oxygen metabolization

What lies behind this formula?

V is the volume, O2 is the chemical notation for oxygen and max stands for maximum. It becomes clear: We are calculating the maximal volume of oxygen. As it is about a measure mainly concerning volume and time, it could be expressed in litres (of oxygen) per minute. However, to couple it with physical activity, it’s necessary to include the variable of weight. It is for this reason that VO2max is normally expressed in millilitres of oxygen an athlete can metabolise per kilogram and minute.

How can I profit from knowing my VO2max value?

Knowing your VO2max value, it’s possible to rank your endurance performance and deduce your overall state of fitness. The table below shows an overview over fitness states according to the VO2max value. The value also depends on age and gender.

The value shows every athlete their limits and makes training planning easier. It can thus be used to plan future competitions in an optimal manner.

How to calculate your VO2max

The most precise method is to determine the value with a spiroergometric test (breath gas analysis). The test is incremental, which means that the resistance is raised gradually until maximal strain is reached. This can be done on the treadmill or on an ergo bike. With a mask over nose and mouth during the test, the consumption of oxygen is measured, which is how the maximum value is determined.

The more intense the activity, the more oxygen the body needs. Measuring the VO2max permits an athlete to know their limits.

There are also other methods that are indirect (and a bit less accurate) to get indicative results.

  • Cooper test: 12 minutes at maximal intensity and using the following formula to determine the VO2max value: (distance in meters-504.9):44.73*
  • Rockport test (or Mile test): A complicated formula that is often referred to on the internet, but it’s not very accurate.
  • Various GPS-enabled sport watches display a VO2max value for every workout. The watch manufacturers use algorithms from firstbeat.com require personal data (gender, age, weight, training experience) and effective data from your workouts (velocity in relation to heart rate). Often, these calculations are quite accurate. However, this method is less reliable in hilly terrain, challenging ground (e.g. trails) and in trainings with interruptions.
  • Competition results: With the running.COACH training plan and the statistical evaluations we can analyse your competition results.

Calculating your VO2max with running.COACH

There are a few parameters from your competition considered in the calculations of running.COACH. With a GPS file from your competition as a basis, the results will be even more precise. The following parameters are included in the calculations:

Distance, uphill, downhill, steepness, height above sea level (whether a competition takes place 200 meters above sea level or on sea level is a significant factor)

Of course, these calculations are still an approach to lab results. Still, a very accurate one, as has been shown. To date, inaccuracies exist when it comes to technical trails, ultramarathons and measurement errors of the watch (e.g. measurement inaccuracies).

By the way, the calculations and statistical evaluations are also part of the freemium version on running.COACH and freely available there. The data are used for the planning of individual trainings in the running.COACH training program.

And that’s how you can easily calculate your VO2max:

  1. Log in to your account on running.COACH (if you don’t have an account yet, register here for free).
  2. Enter various previous competition results of yours. This can also be done by exporting the stopped GPX file from the platform of your watch and manually importing it to running.COACH à change the type of training to competition and name your entry (e.g. Berlin Marathon).
  3. Go to Statistics and scroll down to the competitions. Next to the ANS (anaerobic threshold, green line), there is a column for the VO2max value (yellow line). Besides, these two values correlate. The graph also shows the development of your form over months and years.

More about VO2max

The VO2max value is a useful measure for the aerobic energy metabolism. Even though the value does not account for a good endurance performance, it lies at the base of it. Crucial factors are also the technique, the discipline and the mental component.

VO2 in everyday life

The table below shows which activities in everyday life or which workouts need how much oxygen. The more intensive the activity, the higher the VO2max value. In order to achieve a certain pace when running over a longer period of time, a certain VO2 value is required.

VO2max and running

In order to run a marathon at world record pace, a VO2max of around 84 mL/kg/min is required. Which marathon finish time would you be able to achieve based on your personal VO2max value?

Further, it is possible to observe your VO2max value over a longer period of time. Thus, you can analyse your own performance curve and see if the training suits your goals. On the basis of the VO2max value you can make a prediction for your next competition for a particular distance. In the following table, though, altitude profiles are excluded.

If you are interested in a prognosis for a particular run taking into account altitude, gradient and meters above sea level, please consult our running calculator. If the competition you are interested in is not in our database yet, don’t hesitate to let us know (support@runningcoach.me).

Higher VO2max value = faster?

A higher VO2max value does not in itself mean that your performance is better than the performance of a person with a lower VO2max value. Significant factors in this equation are also the technique, the type of sport and the mental constitution.

Also competitive athletes, the VO2max value is an important parameter. In the following, we present you an overview (information supplied without liability, based on internet research) over the highest VO2max values among competitive athletes. Cross-country skiers generally tend to have higher VO2max values as they use their whole body for this type of sport.

How can I improve my VO2max value?

The less trained a body is, the easier it is to improve its VO2max value. For very well trained runners, it gets harder to make big steps of improvement in this domain. At some point, genetic and physiological factors inhibit pushing the limits further and further.

To make progress nonetheless, we recommend you run in a structured and differentiated way. A good mixture incorporated in your training will bring progress and challenge your body on various levels. Longer and shorter units, rapid long jogs and intensive workouts should alternate.

For the increase of the VO2max value, there are a few typical intensive trainings. For example, you can do hill sprints (5x4min) or intermittent workouts of 15 seconds fast, 15 seconds easy over 10 minutes.

Our running.COACH training plan provides you with structured everyday trainings and shows the optimal intensity for you. Check your individual and dynamic plan for free here!

Blog entry written by: Stefanie Meyer and Gabriel Lombriser

Source:

https://www.topendsports.com/testing/records/vo2max.htm

 https://assets.firstbeat.com/firstbeat/uploads/2017/06/white_paper_VO2max_30.6.2017.pdf

*https://www.brianmac.co.uk/gentest.htm