University conducts tests to help cross country course performance
Published: Friday, April 19, 2013
Updated: Friday, April 19, 2013 00:04
In the sport of running, there are a million different variables that can separate a good runner from a great runner.
Some of these include trying to get the right training volume without causing over-training or injury, all the while pushing the envelope each day trying to maximize performances and drop times.
Indiana State University seems to have that down to an exact science with the cross country team winning six of the last nine Missouri Valley Conference championships. Now they’re teaming up with the ISU Exercise Physiology department to take things a step further and make the team even more successful.
Head coach John McNichols and Neil Fleming, assistant professor in the department of kinesiology, recreation and sport, have conducted exercise testing on ISU distance runners, as well as those at Terre Haute North and South High schools to find out exactly how each runner performs and how they can maximize their potential.
“No two athletes are exactly alike, and while many coaches develop effective training programs for a team of athletes, it may not always maximize the potential of each individual within the team,” Fleming said. “Coaches at successful programs like the one here at Indiana State often have a hard time keeping track of the training programs of 50 athletes and make sure that each individual is progressing through the course of their athletic careers.”
The testing itself takes about 20 to 30 minutes to complete and forces the athletes to reach complete exhaustion in a controlled environment as they run on the lab’s treadmill. Runners also submit to finger prick blood tests every three minutes while breathing into a tube affixed to a headpiece that collects data Fleming and his exercise science majors use to create training recommendations.
McNichols has been very welcoming of this new data.
“It is excellent,” McNichols said. “Fleming is young, aggressive and comes out of an environment where he was training elite athletes and he’s been a huge asset this year. He has been great with the testing he has done on our guys and the feedback has been very practical toward our training.”
This feedback can be used to make sure that don’t overtrain and burn out.
Fleming said exercise testing allows them to examine the unique physiological make-up of each individual. By recording key physiological data, they can view the internal workings of the athlete and devise the most effective approach to fine tuning their bodies for optimal performance.
“This information can then be used by the coaches and athletes to tailor more specific training programs with individual targets and goals in mind,” Fleming said. “Such an approach to training not only improves adaptations and performance, but also reduces the risk of over-training and injury in athletes.
“Our job in the lab is to provide our Sycamore coaches and athletes with the best possible data so that they can develop the most effective programs possible to achieve success,” Fleming said.