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Mike Gittleson was the Director of Strength & Conditioning at the University of Michigan for 30 years and was a part of 15 Football Championships in that time. He explains, there are a lot of ways to run distance.

"Distance running to a professional athlete in my day was five laps around the field."  -Lynn Swann

For many years I had every football player do the Balke treadmill test prior to the winter conditioning program and immediately afterwards. I wanted to get a feel for what the oxygen uptakes were in this population of athletes. No one really had any data at the time.

Dr. Bruno Balke was the first exercise physiologist to chart the precise relationship among oxygen consumption, exercise, and cardiovascular health, so it was fitting to use his test. Besides, having the first name Bruno made it sound rougher. So, I began calling it the Bruno Balke test instead of Balke.

The Bruno Balke test was simple. Because the athlete just walked, it was very easy to administer.

When administering the Bruno Balke, the treadmill speed is set at 3.3 mph, with the gradient starting at 0%. After 1 minute it is raised to 2%, then 1% each minute thereafter.

The player walks as long and as far as he possibly can and finally when he feels he can go no more, grabs the rail, straddles the treadmill belt and the test is over. Upon completion of the test, with a little math you have an estimated maximum oxygen uptake.

Dr. Bruno Balke taking endurance test after stay in space chamber.

The winter program consisted of an hour of various drills.  All were short bursts of speed.  Nothing that could be considered distance running or what people were then starting to call aerobics.

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Winter football conditioning  was the typical hardnose, tough stuff that you would expect from a top level team.

At the end of winter running, as indicated, everyone post-tested on the Bruno Balke, and their oxygen uptakes all went up. Their cardiorespiratory fitness improved.

Someone might argue that it was a change in anaerobic fitness. But the results went up every year. Yep, there VO2 max was increasing. I guess you could say football players were becoming better distance runners.

Nothing earth shaking because prolonged bouts of work cause cardiovascular adaptation.

Cardiorepiratory fitness is good stuff for someone who needs to be able to cool off during a long drive on the football field. This is especially so, when wearing a uniform of 100% polyester dazzle cloth, a helmet with an anti-microbial overliner and heat observation technology and the HIT telemetry system installed, O2 flex shoulder pads, ION mouthguard and impact absorbing gloves running on rubber field turf, on a hundred degree day.

It pays to GET STRONG.

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