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3 Easy Steps for Incorporating Physiological Testing Into Coaching


VO2 testing woman treadmill

3 Easy Steps for Incorporating Physiological Testing Into Coaching

In recent years there has been an increasing interest in using the power of scientific data to achieve optimum athletic performance.

“When you really look at where the sport of Triathlon has gone – and even endurance sports in general – there’s a big scientific component to it,” says Parker Spencer, USA Triathlon’s Development Senior Manager and head coach of Project Podium. “If you’re not really dialed in on where all the numbers are and where your athletes are from a physiological standpoint, then you’re not going to be able to compete with the best in the world.”

For some coaches, the idea of adding scientific testing into a coaching plan can seem daunting. But if you’re not doing any kind of testing, you’re going to be “behind where the rest of the world is” (according to Parker).

When KORR® interviewed Parker about his 12 years of metabolic testing with CardioCoach® equipment, he gave a lot of helpful insight into how he incorporates physiological testing into his coaching plan. Here is a look at Parker’s ideas and suggestions broken down into 3 simple steps.

1)Perform Baseline Testing

Starting your coaching program with testing will give you a snapshot into each athlete’s current abilities, helping you to create an accurate plan for the rest of your training season.

“[Test results give] you exactly what you need to know in order to take that information into the athlete’s training… For example, when an athlete is interested in being a part of Project Podium, they have to first go through a VO2 Max test so that I can see where their Anaerobic Threshold is, where their VO2 Max is, and really assess their potential. The great thing is that what we’re doing is we’re just kind of getting a snapshot of where their fitness is… [With an athlete’s VO2 Max results] you can kind of know if there’s a lot you’re going to have to do to make them elite, and if someone actually has the potential to be elite or not.”

2)Build Training Plans Based on Test Results

Physiological testing doesn’t only show where an athlete is currently, but it can also become a roadmap for how to increase their athletic abilities.

“When we’re looking at all the data,” says Parker, “and we’re looking at where an athlete’s VO2 Max is in relation to where their anaerobic capacity is, then it lets me really understand what I need to focus on…

“My goal with these guys when I’m recruiting them at 17 and 18 years old is to increase their VO2 Max by 1-1.5% per year, so 5 years from now when we’re at the Olympic Games in LA, then you have a very well developed, very strategically developed elite athlete that’s podium capable.”

So if an athlete’s anaerobic threshold is lower than you’d like it to be - meaning their endurance capabilities need work - then you’ll structure your training protocols to increase that number. Or if you want to expand their VO2 Max - an indicator of their overall cardiovascular fitness - you might consider a focus on training and building in Zone 2.

These results can give insights into training both during the season and during the off-season.

“In some cases,” says Parker, “especially during the season, you’re doing some of that high-intensity on a track in order to get their VO2 Max up while you’re also working to make sure they’re doing enough base and easy training. Then in the off-season, for the most part it’s all easy aerobic training, where we’re really trying to expand their capacity as much as we can, so we have a really good foundation for the rest of the season.”

3)Retest Regularly

Performing regular physiological tests on athletes allows you to see how they are performing during the season and whether or not your training plan is working.

“For us, checking in on VO2 Max multiple times throughout the year is really important,” says Parker, “because I take that information and build a training plan off of it, then I test again to make sure that what we actually did in training worked and actually got their VO2 Max up a bit…

“Checking in on those numbers helps take a lot of the other things that can happen in racing that are outside of your control – like flat tires or just the strategic dynamic of a Draft-Legal Triathlon – out of the equation and then just puts the hard data into it so we can see, is an athlete performing to their ability or is there mental things that are maybe holding them back or are there different skill sets that they need to really be able to perform to their potential.”

How to Get Test Equipment

The technology for performing physiological tests on your athletes has never been more accessible. And there are many options that make testing easy for you as a coach. “That’s the great thing about it,” Parker says. “Coaching today is easier than it was 10, 15 and 20 years ago… The software [I use] helps me as a coach not really have to guess what my athletes need to do to get better. It pretty much lays it right out.”

The CardioCoach® by KORR® can be a great place to start. It’s an affordable machine for testing VO2 Max and Resting Metabolic Rate with user-friendly software and a professional report for your athlete at the end of each test. KORR® also offers a free training with the purchase of your equipment, so that you can start your testing confidently. The performance results you are looking for are more accessible than you might think.


About KORR

For more than 30 years, KORR® has been perfecting the science of metabolic testing - including CardioCoach VO2 Max test equipment. The results? Unparalleled accuracy in an affordable price range, with clear results and software that is easy to navigate. If you would like to learn more about KORR®’s CardioCoach, email or visit

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