Case study

Research to help runners go the distance

Callum Thomas is helping distance runners improve their performance and go for racing glory, giving his masters study a practical and rewarding focus.

Improving performance

As part of his MSc Applied Sport and Exercise Science, Callum has been carrying out research in the Human Performance Unit (HPU) at our Kedleston Road Sports Centre.

“We have been working with a business called Running with Jake to provide lactate measurements to help half and full marathon runners cope better with the demands of exercise and improve their performance,” he says.

Lactate is a substance produced in the body that can affect your muscles when you exercise.

Jake Lowe, of Running with Jake, explains: “Everybody produces lactate in the body all the time and, at low levels of intensity, it doesn't cause a problem. It only causes a problem when the amount of lactate being produced increases and our body struggles to process it and use it, so it starts to affect the muscle contraction.

“It's that feeling when people run and they feel like their legs are lead and they start to breathe much harder and they just know they're going to slow down. So, if we can find out exactly which heart rates and speeds those points occur, we can then programme effectively for them so they increase their chances of achieving their goal.”

Lactate testing in the Human Performance Unit

View lactate testing video transcript

Planning training

The measurements that Callum has taken during the project are being used to plan the runners’ training for better results, finding the ‘zones’ in which they can train without their muscles being overcome by lactate.

Callum says: “By using the lactate and heart-rate results, we can plan training zones for the runners. They can then train in these zones by tracking their heart rate while they are out running.

“When we re-test them, we hope that their endurance zones will have become greater and they take longer to reach their lactate turning point. This tells us that the body has adapted to meet the demands being made of it. They will then be able to push themselves further, resulting in better race-day performance.”

Callum Thomas research project
Callum presenting some of his previous research

Developing skills

In addition to the lab work, Callum has also been involved in events organised by the HPU. “We have invited Running with Jake clients and the public to talks about marathon nutrition and race day preparation,” he says. “I presented on what we do in the lab and why – this helped me develop my presentation skills and pushed me out of my comfort zone, something I expect to do a lot in the future.”

With his sights firmly set on a career in sport and exercise physiology, Callum is certain that his experiences will stand him in good stead.

“I’ve developed my critical thinking, lab-based skills and practitioner qualities, and I believe the real-world experience I’ve gained will put me in a strong position when I’m ready to take my next steps.”

Running package

Our Human Performance Unit

The Human Performance Unit (HPU) is a dedicated space focused on providing sport science services to coaches, individuals and teams wanting to enhance their performance.

Find out more about our Human Performance UnitFind out more about our Human Performance Unit