The running analysis and VO2 max tests are excellent ways to measure how you are currently training. The running analysis assesses your mechanics to see if there are any bio mechanical faults in your form. It’s important to have these checked so that you can recognize mistakes with your gait pattern and help reduce your injury risk. It’s also a great way to get a handle on repetitive injuries that keep getting aggravated. Oftentimes these chronic injuries are due to running-mechanics issues. IT-band syndrome and runner's knee are common biomechanical problems caused by poor mechanics that can be fixed after a running analysis.
VO2 max testing is another great idea. This metabolic assessment helps measure your physiologic response to exercise–specifically your body’s ability to consume and utilize oxygen. During endurance exercise, your body absorbs oxygen at a high rate for a sustained period of time. It’s important to know your body’s baseline rate so that you understand how to adjust your training.
Abbreviated versions of both the running analysis and VO2 max test are often offered at various running expos. They will give you a good snapshot of a problem but not the entire picture. I recommend a thorough analysis, which includes photos and video, so that you can get a true understanding of what's going on with your body. The tests can be administered by a sports medicine physician, physical therapist, or exercise physiologist. Also keep in mind that while VO2 max testing is available to the general public, it is really for more experienced runners who want to take their training to the next level. These tests are not covered by insurance, but occasionally flex spending can be used. If you’re interested in scheduling a running analysis or VO2 max test, you can contact the James M. Benson Sports Rehabilitation Center at Hospital for Special Surgery at (212) 606-1005.
Michael Silverman, PT, MSPT, USATF-1, is a physical therapist at Hospital for Special Surgery’s James M. Benson Sports Rehabilitation Center, specializing in the rehabilitation of runners and other performance athletes. He has a special interest in running-form analysis, which he performs at the Tisch Performance Center at Hospital for Special Surgery.