Fitness tests sometimes have a bad reputation. If you hear the phrase ‘fitness tests’ and have flashbacks to grueling beep tests at school, you’re definitely not alone.
However, fitness tests for runners have a lot of benefits. And they don’t have to be unpleasant!
Fitness tests give a valuable insight into your current performance and can help to produce guidelines for training.
You can do these tests at set intervals – for example every 4 weeks – to use as a benchmark for progress.
Benefits of fitness tests
If you’re still unsure whether fitness tests could help you to improve your running, take a look at the list of benefits below:
- Measure your current performance levels. This gives an indication of your current level compared to previous performances
- Help to develop a training plan. Fitness tests highlight both strengths and areas for development
- Use the data from the fitness test to set performance goals
- Monitor progression over time and see how well you’re improving
- Provide motivation to see improvement in certain areas
Types of fitness tests for runners
There are lots of different fitness tests out there that you can choose from. If doing the beep test fills you with dread, thankfully you don’t have to do it.
When choosing a fitness test, think about why you’re doing it and what you will do with the results. How will you apply to data to your training in order to improve?
The best time to do a fitness test is at the start of a new block of training. Perhaps if you’re just starting a half marathon training plan or if you’ve just signed up to run your first marathon.
Sub maximal fitness tests
A sub maximal test is ideal for runners starting a new training cycle and those returning to running after a break.
It is not as intense as other fitness tests as it does not take you to your limit – hence the name ‘sub maximal’.
In general, you will stop the test at around 7 on the scale of perceived exertion, as opposed to 10 for more intense fitness tests.
Sub maximal testing can give you an idea of how your fitness level compares to other athletes in your age group.
Strength and conditioning screening
Strength and conditioning fitness tests will give an idea of your muscular function, and will take the form of set exercises.
For example, see how many squats you can do at a certain weight. You could also do a 1 Rep Max test which shows how much weight you can lift for 1 rep.
This type of testing is most suitable for exercises such as squat, deadlift, and bench press.
According to research, blood lactate concentration is one of the most often measured parameters during clinical exercise testing, as well as during performance testing of athletes.
Researchers suggest that lactate threshold testing is a better predictor of performance than VO2 max, and is a better indicator of exercise intensity than heart rate.
As an athlete, you can choose to test any training metric you like to use as a benchmark for improvement.
If you are a runner who often gets injured, it may be beneficial for you to test something like your left/right balance or your cadence.
This will help you to reduce your long-term risk of injury and make you a more efficient athlete.
Fitness test example for runners
This is an example of a fitness test for runners that you can repeat at 12-week intervals to help improve speed and performance.
- Run 5 x 800m with 2 mins standing recovery between each of the 800m repetitions.
- Measure the time it takes to complete each 800m, and then take your average time for the overall session.
- You could then go back after a training block, for example 12 weeks, and re-test to see if your average pace has improved.
- Wearing a running watch during the test will help you to capture and analyze performance data.