Running may seem as normal and regular as anything that we do. Human beings have been running for a long time, for different purposes in different periods in time, and in the time that we live today, running is mostly only done as a form of exercise or movement. Running is second nature to some people, and some others may need to put in more effort to be able to run well and enjoy it. Why does running seem relatively easy to some and seem difficult to some others? What are some things that professional runners know that regular runners don’t?
Approaching any activity that we do scientifically significantly changes the way we do it and the results we derive from it. Running is no different. Learning the science behind running will help you understand various aspects of it that you probably have been ignoring, and in turn, may be affecting your performance. For instance, forces have a significant effect on the ability to run. Gravity pulls us down to the ground, our muscles work to propel us forward, and air drag slows us down. This and some physiological factors of running that you may not know may be holding you back from being the runner you want to be.
Read on to understand some scientific terms related to running and their meanings, to help you increase performance and endurance and minimize injuries.
VO2 max and Genetics
VO2 max is one of the most important factors to understand when you learn about the science of running. It is the maximum amount of oxygen that the body can absorb and use during exercise. When looking to increase aerobic fitness, improve endurance and efficiency in performance, one should look at maximising one’s VO2 max or the oxygen uptake. While this can be done through training, VO2 max is to a large extend, determined genetically. Increasing aerobic fitness also depends on the genetic makeup of the aerobic muscle fibres. Hence, understanding the science behind how genes affect the way you run can help increase running endurance.
Understanding lactate threshold and training accordingly is another technique that professional runners do to improve their running efficiency. As opposed to the largely genetic nature of VO2 max, the lactate threshold in a person can be increased with a good personalized training programme. The lactate threshold is a point at which the body produces more lactate than it can absorb or expel. This usually happens during high-intensity exercises, like running. When this point is reached during running, the runner is fatigued quickly and will have to slow down. Having a higher lactate threshold implies that a person can continue to run at good paces for a longer time, without being exhausted.
Understanding the meaning of lactate threshold and using it to maximise endurance is important.