When looking to build an individualised running programme for a hockey player, it is important to base this on assessment. There is a lack of individualisation when not prescribing from an assessment of running ability (Clarke et al. 2016), which can cause issues. For example, if the programme is not prescribed from a baseline assessment, running intensities may be too high or too low for the desired adaptation.
This may increase injury risk or not fully prepare the player for the demands of the game. Both of these are not outcomes that we want, and this is where assessment comes in.
Maximal aerobic speed (MAS) is the lowest speed at which VO2 max occurs (Berthoin, 1992). It is a proxy measure for an athlete’s aerobic capabilities, meaning that it is an indirect measure of this.
Relationship to performance
MAS has been correlated with total running distances achieved in rugby union players (Swaby et al., 2016). This makes sense, as the greater an athlete’s MAS score, the better their running performance in aerobic tasks. This also means that each effort is less costly, and so fatigue may not impact performance to as large an extent.
Baker and Heaney (2015) found that the higher the playing level of football players, the greater the requirement for a high MAS score. For example, professional Spanish U21 players recorded scores of 4.44m/s, whereas Italian Series A players achieved scores of 4.91m/s. This suggests that the higher the level of performance, the greater the aerobic requirements.
Calculating MAS from a time trial
MAS can be determined in a number of ways. Performance in a time trial running assessment may provide a simple method for calculating this (Bellenger et al., 2015).
Normally a time trial lasting between 5-7 minutes is appropriate and can be either time or distance based.
A time-based time trial could be a 5-minute continuous run where the athlete aims to achieve the largest distance possible.
A distance-based time trial could be a 1462m run (16 hockey pitch lengths) where the athlete aims to complete this as quickly as possible.
Once you have completed the time trial, you can then calculate the MAS score.
When you’ve completed a 1462m distance-based time trial, use the following equation:
Distance (m) ÷ Time (s) = MAS (m/s)
E.g. 1462m ÷ 330 seconds = 4.43m/s
In this instance the athlete would have completed the 1462m time trial in 5:30 minutes, giving them a MAS score of 4.43m/s.
Or for when you’ve completed a 5-minute time-based time trial:
Distance (m) ÷ Time (s) = MAS (m/s)
E.g. 1320m ÷ 300 seconds = 4.4m/s
In this instance the athlete would have completed 1320m in 5 minutes, giving them a MAS score of 4.4m/s.
Calculating MAS from a 30-15IFT test
The other alternative is to use a test such as the 30-15IFT (Buchheit, 2010). This is a reliable measure of aerobic capacity (Stankovic et al., 2021), but also provides us with more information than aerobic fitness alone. It has been correlated with repeat sprint ability, for example, which is a more specific measure of field-based sports performance.
This is a shuttle based, intermittent running test, whereby athletes run for 30 seconds, before having a 15 second recovery period. Athletes start at a running speed of 8kph, and this increases every level by 0.5kph. The final level completed is the athlete’s VIFT score. For example, if an athlete completes level 20, but isn’t able to complete level 20.5, their final score is 20kph.
This isn’t a true measure of MAS, as the speed achieved will be higher than MAS due to the intermittent nature of the test. As athletes have a 15-second recovery between levels, their final velocity is called ‘velocity in the intermittent fitness test (VIFT)’ and is a ‘composite velocity’. This also takes into account their anaerobic capabilities and change of direction ability, all of which contribute to field-based sports performance (Buchheit, 2010).
The 30-15IFT enables a more consistent physiological response than simply prescribing from a time trial assessment alone. This is because it considers an athlete’s anaerobic capabilities as well as their aerobic capabilities.
Prescribing running sessions from MAS
Once MAS (or VIFT) has been established, it is possible to prescribe target times and distances from this.
When prescribing from MAS, there are a number of typical sessions types that you may use. A few examples are below:
15 seconds on, 15 seconds off @ 120% MAS
- E.g. 79m distance target if the athlete’s MAS is 4.4m/s (4.4m/s x 120% x 15 seconds)
- Complete 2-3 sets of 8-12 repetitions with 5 minutes rest between sets
30 seconds on, 30 seconds off @ 105% MAS
- E.g. 138m distance target if the athlete’s MAS is 4.4m/s (4.4m/s x 105% x 30 seconds)
- Complete 2-3 sets of 6-10 repetitions with 3 minutes rest between sets
3 minutes on, 3 minutes off @ 90% MAS
- E.g. 712m distance target if the athlete’s MAS is 4.4m/s (4.4m/s x 90% x 180 seconds)
- Complete 4-8 sets in total
N.B. if you want to add a change of direction to the shorter intervals, simply reduce the target MAS intensity by 5% (e.g. 79m straight-line becomes 76m in a shuttle format)
When prescribing from 30-15IFT, there are a number of typical sessions types that you may use (Bucheit, 2010). A few examples are below:
N.B. to calculate m/s from kph simply divide by 3.61.
10 seconds on, 10 seconds off @ 90% VIFT
- E.g. 50m distance target if the athlete’s VIFT is 20kph (5.54 m/s) (5.54m/s x 90% x 10 seconds)
- Complete 2 sets of 10-15 repetitions with 6 minutes rest between sets
20 seconds on, 20 seconds off @ 90% VIFT
- E.g. 100m distance target if the athlete’s VIFT is 20kph (5.54 m/s) (5.54m/s x 90% x 20 seconds)
- Complete 2 sets of 8-10 repetitions with 6 minutes rest between sets
3 minutes on, 3 minutes off @ 80% VIFT
- E.g. 798m distance target if the athlete’s VIFT is 20kph (5.54 m/s) (5.54m/s x 80% x 180 seconds)
- Complete 5-6 sets in total
I hope that this has been a useful overview of assessing and prescribing using MAS and VIFT for hockey fitness.
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Baker, Daniel & Heaney, Nathan. (2015). Review of the Literature - Normative Data for Maximal Aerobic Speed for field sport athletes.
Bellenger, C.R., Fuller, J.T., Nelson, M.J. et al. (2015) Predicting maximal aerobic speed through set distance time-trials. Eur J Appl Physiol 115, 2593–2598.
Berthoin S, Gerbeaux, M, Geurruin F, Lensel-Corbeil G and Vandendorpe F. (1992) Estimation of maximal aerobic speed. Science & Sport 7(2), 85-91.
Buchheit (2010) - The 30-15 Intermittent Fitness Test - 10-year-review
Clarke, R., Dobson, A., & Hughes, J. (2016). Metabolic Conditioning: Field Tests to Determine a Training Velocity. Strength & Conditioning Journal, 38(1), 38 – 47
Stankovic et al. (2021) 30–15 Intermittent Fitness Test: A Systematic Review of Studies, Examining the VO2max Estimation and Training Programming. Applied Sciences.
Swaby, R., Jones, P. A., Comfort, P. (2016). Relationship between maximum aerobic speed performance and distance covered in Rugby Union games. The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research, 30(10), 2788 – 2793.
Hi Diego, we would recommend a 16 pitch lengths time trial if you wanted to determine maximal aerobic speed
Thanks for your article. I coach FH at high school level(14-17 years old). What time trial do you recommend? Thanks again.