Perform For Life: Run Lab Part 1
Written by Scott Benbow. Scott is a 2019 Biofreeze San Francisco Marathon Ambassador and avid runner. You can read more from him on Instagram at @scottbenbow
With a royal blue silicone mask strapped over my nose and mouth and the conveyor belt on a treadmill beneath me beginning to spin, Trevor Short of the Perform For Life Run Lab in San Francisco asked if I was ready to run. I gave him a thumbs up and stepped onto the treadmill while Trevor monitored my heart rate and began to conduct a comprehensive analysis of my cardiorespiratory fitness.
Incrementally, over the next few minutes, Trevor increased both the speed and incline of the treadmill to get my heart rate up to its maximum. As the workout became more intense, my running form gradually deteriorated. Instead of powering efficiently forward, I began to bounce, wasting important energy in what exercise physiologists call vertical oscillation. The inefficient bounce was most noticeable to me because the blue mask covered my eyes for a moment every time one of my feet landed on the treadmill. When I sensed my form was really breaking down, I signaled to Trevor to end the test.
As I removed the mask and caught my breath, Trevor surprised me with a question that indicated both the sensitivity of the equipment he was using and his capacity to decipher the data produced by the test. He asked, “You had carbs for breakfast, didn’t you?” Indeed, seven hours prior to the test, I had eaten two fried eggs on a single carbohydrate-packed piece of toast. Somewhere in my progression from burning mostly fat while jogging slowly on the treadmill to burning mostly carbohydrates when I was approaching exhaustion, a variety of indicators on the monitor in front of Trevor revealed that I had eaten something loaded with carbs six hours earlier.
The Run Lab has been open since late 2018 and is providing runners like me with valuable information about their athletic strengths and weaknesses. I sought Trevor’s help in undoing some damage I sustained in 2018. A year ago at the Big Sur International Marathon, I got a PR on a challenging course. Three months later at the equally challenging San Francisco Marathon, I was fit and ready, but everything fell apart. I had one of my worst races ever, exacerbated a couple of overuse injuries and vowed to determine where I had gone wrong.
The Run Lab’s approach is fourfold. First, Trevor assessed my body composition with an InBody test, which provides interesting insights on percentage and locations of body fat, muscle distribution and body water balance. Each InBody assessment is a snapshot, so I plan to mark my improvement in a couple of areas when I get another assessment in several months.
Next, we discussed my diet. Using the answers to a number of questions posed by the clinic, Trevor discussed the relative merits of proper fueling with healthy fats, healthy carbohydrates, and healthy proteins.
After that, Trevor assessed my mobility, posture, strength, and flexibility with a series of tests in which I was standing, seated, or lying on a padded table. He and an assistant put neon dots on my feet, ankles, knees, back, and hips. In a video of me running very slowly on the treadmill, Trevor pointed out a few aspects of my running form that are strong and several others that were not.
But the part of the assessment I was looking forward to was the blue mask and the cardiorespiratory assessment. Results from this test reveal a lot about a runner’s fitness. I was particularly interested in determining the highest heart rate I could sustain while burning all fat and no carbohydrates, my lactate threshold, and my anaerobic threshold.
Stay tuned for part two of this blog. I will tell you what mysteries I was hoping to unlock with that data, and I’ll report on Trevor’s prescription for me to become a better runner.
The Perform For Life Run Lab is San Francisco’s training hub for runners. The Run Lab supports the local running community through running analysis, VO2 Max Testing, personalized training programs, nutrition, and running-specific group classes. The Run Lab empowers runners to optimize performance, and prevent / overcome injuries through education and community.
Contact us here to receive a FREE Run Lab Group Class or schedule an analysis.