Mathematical Model to Boost Elite Athletes Performance

A team of scientists has developed a mathematical model that can help elite athletes improve their performance in 400m and 1500m events. The model is based on data collected from GPS sensors worn by top runners at the 2022 European Championships in Munich, such as Olympic champion Jakob Ingebrigtsen and world record holder Femke Bol.

How the model works

The model uses equations that calculate physiological variables, such as energy expenditure, maximum oxygen consumption (VO2), running economy and motor control. Motor control refers to the role of the brain in the process of movement, such as motivation and decision making. The model also takes into account the costs and benefits of different pacing strategies, such as starting fast or slow, accelerating or decelerating, and maintaining a constant speed.

The researchers, from the French National Centre for Scientific Research (CNRS), analyzed how these variables influenced the speed and performance of the athletes. They found that the model can provide instant access to the best strategy for each runner, based on their physiological profile and race conditions.

What the model reveals

The model reveals some interesting insights into the optimal strategies for 400m and 1500m events. For example, the model shows that:

  • A rapid start in the first 50m is important for 400m runners, because it allows them to reach their VO2 faster and use more oxygen for energy production.
  • A less deceleration at the end of a 400m race is also beneficial, because it reduces the energy cost of braking and preserves more momentum.
  • The performance of 1500m runner Ingebrigtsen can be explained by his ability to quickly reach his VO2 and maintain it throughout the race, which enables him to run at a faster pace than his competitors.
  • The optimal pacing strategy for 1500m runners depends on their running economy, which is how efficiently they use oxygen to generate energy. Runners with high running economy can afford to start faster and maintain a high speed, while runners with low running economy should start slower and accelerate gradually.

How the model can help

The model can help coaches and athletes to refine their training and racing strategies, based on their individual strengths and weaknesses. The model can also help to simulate different scenarios and test different hypotheses, such as how changing weather conditions, altitude, or competition level can affect performance.

The researchers hope that their model can contribute to the advancement of sports science and help elite athletes achieve their full potential.

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