Document Type


Publication Date



Mary Stenson, Exercise Science & Sport Studies


Human endurance performance is most commonly predicted from variables such as maximal oxygen consumption, lactate threshold, and running economy. Cross-country running success, specifically at the 6 km distance, depends on interactions of these physiological variables. Proper endurance training combines variations in running speed and distance with appropriate rest to stress the body and develop physiological adaptations. PURPOSE: The purpose of this study was to assess how physiological variables change over a competitive cross-country season in Division III female athletes. METHODS: Eleven female distance runners (Ht:162.89 ±7.46 cm; Wt: 58.22 ±8.91 kg; Body fat: 21.5 ±1.65 %; VO2Max: 47.84 ±3.62 ml/kg/min) performed a series of physiological laboratory tests at the start and end of a 10-12 week cross-country season. Testing included maximal oxygen uptake (VO2Max), blood lactate threshold, running economy, and a maximal vertical jump test. Paired samples t-tests were used to analyze differences in all variables and average race pace from pre-season to post-season (p < 0.05). RESULTS: Lactate threshold as a percentage of VO2Max decreased significantly from pre-season (87.63 ±4.23 %) to post-season (85.35 ±3.93 %; t(10) = 2.44, p = .04). No significant changes were found from pre season to post season for all other physiological measurements including VO2Max (t(10) = .77, p = .46), running economy at steady state (t(10) = .80, p = .44), running economy at race pace (t(10) = .76, p = .46), and vertical jump (t(10) = 1.59, p = .15). Post-season average race pace (404.82 ±28.44 s) was not significantly faster than pre-season season (414.27 ±28.83 s; t(10) = 1.37, p = .20). CONCLUSION: Despite a decrease in race pace, 10-12 weeks of cross-country training does not induce significant physiological improvements in trained distance runners. The addition of high intensity and interval training to pre-season training volume likely increased anaerobic capacity in Division III cross-country runners.