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Review ARTICLE Provisionally accepted The full-text will be published soon. Notify me

Front. Sports Act. Living | doi: 10.3389/fspor.2019.00028

‘Question your categories’: the misunderstood complexity of middle-distance running profiles with implications for research methods and application

  • 1School of Kinesiology, University of British Columbia, Canada
  • 2Canadian Sport Institute Pacific, Canada
  • 3Athletics Canada, Canada

Middle-distance running provides unique complexity where very different physiological and structural/mechanical profiles may achieve similar elite performances. Training and improving the key determinants of performance and applying interventions to athletes within the middle-distance event group are probably much more divergent than many practitioners and researchers appreciate. The addition of maximal sprint speed and other anaerobic and biomechanical based parameters, alongside more commonly captured aerobic characteristics, shows promise to enhance our understanding and analysis within the complexities of middle-distance sport science. For coaches, athlete diversity presents daily training programming challenges in order to best individualize a given stimulus according to the athletes profile and avoid ‘non-responder’ outcomes. It is from this decision making part of the coaching process, that we target this mini-review. First we ask researchers to ‘question their categories’ concerning middle-distance event groupings. Historically broad classifications have been used (from 800m (~1.5min) all the way to 5000m (~13-15min). Here within we show compelling rationale from physiological and event demand perspectives for narrowing middle-distance to 800m and 1500m alone (1.5-5 minute duration), considering the diversity of bioenergetics and mechanical constraints within these events. Additionally, we provide elite athlete data showing the large diversity of 800m and 1500m athlete profile, a critical element that is often overlooked in middle-distance research design. Finally, we offer practical recommendations on how researchers, practitioners and coaches can advance training study designs, scientific interventions and analysis on middle-distance athletes/participants to provide information for individualized decision making trackside and more favorable and informative study outcomes.

Keywords: anaerobic speed reserve, Training science, Fiber type, Research Design, Individualisation

Received: 13 May 2019; Accepted: 02 Sep 2019.

Copyright: © 2019 Sandford and Stellingwerff. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) and the copyright owner(s) are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.

* Correspondence: Dr. Gareth N. Sandford, School of Kinesiology, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, V6T 1Z1, British Columbia, Canada,