FIRST Lab is a comprehensive battery of assessments that provides vital information about a runner. The battery of assessments includes:
- Maximal Oxygen Consumption (VO2 MAX)
- Lactate Threshold
- Running Economy
- Body Composition
The four lab tests are completed in three sessions. The FIRST Lab is located in a separate building behind the PAC.
Maximal Oxygen Consumption (VO2 MAX)
Maximal Oxygen Consumption (VO2 MAX) is a measure of the ability of an athlete to produce energy aerobically. Normally, a higher VO2MAX indicates more work can be performed during a given time period. This simply means that an individual with a higher VO2MAX should be able to run faster than a comparable runner with a lower VO2MAX. One might say that maximal oxygen consumption gives a runner an idea of how large an engine he or she has to work with. A high maximal capacity to deliver blood (w/oxygen) means there is the potential for more muscles to be active simultaneously during exercise. Values range between 40 and 80 ml/kg/min in terms relative to body weight and between 2.5 l/min (smaller people) and 6 l/min. (larger people) in terms.
Lactate Threshold is a measure of metabolic fitness. Lactate is an organic by-product of anaerobic metabolism, and its accumulation in the blood is used to evaluate the intensity that a runner can maintain for extended periods of time, usually thirty minutes or more. Lactate threshold (LT) and maximal steady state lactate levels (MSSLL) are indications of how well one's muscles are trained to do endurance-type work. Most people, except the most highly trained athletes, are limited by metabolic fitness rather than cardiovascular fitness. Highly trained endurance athletes become "centrally limited" meaning they can work at extreme heart rates w/out severe muscle fatigue. An untrained individual might reach LT at about 50-60% of their Max Heart Rate (MaxHR), whereas a well-trained runner won't reach LT until about 80-95% of their MaxHR.
Running Economy, one of the key variables in running performance, is the amount of oxygen being consumed relative to the runner's body weight and the speed at which the runner is traveling. Unnecessary body motion results in an increase in oxygen consumption and thus a decrease in running economy. Running economy can be expressed either as the velocity achieved for a given rate of oxygen consumption or the VO2 needed to maintain a given running speed.
Body Composition refers to the chemical and tissue make-up of the body. Maximal oxygen consumption is usually defined relative to body mass and expressed in units of milliliters/ kilogram/ minutes. By lowering one's body mass, a runner increases their VO2MAX by a proportional amount. The body can be described as a two-component system, lean body mass (LBM) and fat mass (FM). The impact on running performance can be tremendous if these two components are maintained at optimal levels. Hydrostatic weighing is the gold standard for LBM and FM, and the use of this technique allows the runner to determine their optimal body mass based on well documented scientific principles. For optimal performance the runner needs optimal body mass, and this may only be obtained through body composition analysis.
A gait analysis is a biomechanical analysis of your running. High-speed video is used to film you from several angles while running on a treadmill. The video will then be analyzed using Dartfish software, which allows detailed calculations of angles, and positions of your body during running. After data collection and analysis, FIRST will review your running biomechanics with you, making suggestions regarding modifications to your gait and exercise prescription, which are intended to improve your gait. You also receive a DVD copy of your running and biomechanical analysis.