The Science Behind Running

The special test monitors athletes on a treadmill, tracking the amount of oxygen taken in and how much carbon dioxide is being produced.

DULUTH, Minn.- The lakewalk has been full of runners and with Grandma’s Marathon just two weeks away let’s take look at the science behind running.

For some running is fun but for others it’s an intense sport.

“It’s amazing to see the numbers change and their skill development as well,” St. Scholastica’s Head Cross Country Coach Chad Salmela said.

To improve training for St. Scholastica’s collegiate endurance athletes, cross country runners and cross-country skiers are among those using what’s called a VO 2 Max test.

“To really identify how your body is reacting to the stress of exercise,” assistant professor in exercise physiology John Dargan said.

The special test monitors athletes on a treadmill, tracking the amount of oxygen taken in and how much carbon dioxide is being produced.

“Looking at the ratio of those two things and that tells us how much fat a person is burning or how much carbs a person is burning,” Dargan said.

Athletes start out at a steady pace but every minute the treadmill speed increases. Overall the test typically lasts 10 minutes or until athletes are unable to push themselves anymore.

“It always amazes me we put them on the treadmill, we run them to exhaustion, and the first thing they do when we pull the mask off is they look up and say thank you,” Dargan said.

There are many ways to improve training, but Saint Scholastica’s Head Cross Country Coach Chad Salmela believes the test gives a better metabolic sense instead of just using a pacing rate on a road

“It’s a universal language for which a coach and an athlete can communicate on intensity from workout to work out,” Salmela said.

“We’ve had some really good success and I think a part of it is the numbers and what the coaches do with that,” Dargan said.

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