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Philo U. Saunders, Amanda J. Cox, Will G. Hopkins and David B. Pyne

It is unclear whether physiological measures monitored in an incremental treadmill test during a training season provide useful diagnostic information about changes in distance running performance.


To quantify the relationship between changes in physiological measures and performance (peak running speed) over a training season.


Well-trained distance runners (34 males; VO2max 64 ± 6 mL⋅kg-1⋅min-1, mean ± SD) completed four incremental treadmill tests over 17 wk. The tests provided values of peak running speed, VO2max, running economy, and lactate threshold (as speed and %VO2max). The physiological measures were included in simple and multiple linear regression models to quantify the relationship between changes in these measures and changes in peak speed.


The typical within-subject variation in peak speed from test to test was 2.5%, whereas those for physiological measures were VO2max (mL⋅min-1⋅kg-1) 3.0%, economy (m⋅kg⋅mL–1) 3.6%, lactate threshold (%VO2max) 8.7%, and body mass 1.8%. In simple models these typical changes predicted the following changes in performance: VO2max 1.4%, economy 0.8%, lactate threshold –0.3%, and body mass –0.2% (90% confidence limits ~±0.7%); the corresponding correlations with performance were 0.57, 0.33, –0.05, and –0.13 respectively (~±0.20). In a multiple linear regression model, the contribution of each physiological variable to performance changed little after adjustment for the other variables.


Change in VO2max in an incremental test during a running season is a good predictor of change in peak running speed, change in running economy is a moderate predictor, and lactate threshold and body mass provide little additional information.