Saturday, June 28, 2014

Vo2 Max Sports testing and everything else on my mind

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Well, I think I can safely say I'm not sick anymore. I have a tiny cough but I can feel that it's on its way out. I wasn't able to do the Resting Metabolic Rate testing like I'd planned but I did get the VO2 Max testing done. I'll tell you all about that in just a bit.

But first, a quick exercise recap. I skipped the gym in the early part of the week because of my cold. Come Wednesday I was getting a little stir crazy so I went to the gym for what was to a "light" workout. Well, the only thing light about it is that I did 15 minutes on the upright bike instead of my normal 25. And I did those 15 minutes at Level 9 (instead of my normal Level 8). After the bike I did legs/shoulders/core for strength training. It was a quick one, my whole workout only lasted 49 minutes.

Thursday came around and I was dragging. I'd slept terrible on Wednesday night. Add to that, I was pressed for time, tired and I noted in my gym log that I was "still coughing". I did 10 minutes on the elliptical followed by what back/biceps/core work I could squeeze into the 40 minutes I had to exercise.  So two workouts, for the week. Considering I was struck with a cold, I'll consider that a win.

The treadmill and computer for testing
Ok, on to the Vo2 max testing. I arrived at the Vo2 Max Sports studio in Berkeley at 10am. I met with Michael Tatum, the managing director of the team. Michael put me at ease, immediately helping me to feel comfortable and like I "belonged" even though I am far from a hard-core athlete. I liked that the studio was totally private, it was just Michael and I, I wasn't intimidated at all.

We spent some time chatting about how we both believe more people, specifically more average athletes (my words, not his) like myself, should get all the information they can about their bodies' composition and function. Not even "athletes" but anyone who wants to improve his/her fitness and overall health. Michael pointed out that it's not all about running faster but about having all the information to help us achieve health and fitness in general. I liked that.

The equipment

Michael getting my mask on tight
I had a few thoughts about the mask being claustrophobic or difficult to run in but it was fine, especially given the testing does not last that long. Once I was all set up I hopped on the treadmill and began by walking for a few minutes while the machine calibrates.

Then Michael began increasing the pace, usually only .5 at a time, or the elevation, .5 - 1% at a time. He reminded me I can stop anytime I need to for a break.

Over the next 5-10 minutes I went from a 2.5mph 0% incline walking pace to running at 7.5mph at a 4 incline! I couldn't believe I could run for even 1 second at that pace and incline. Michael let me know we'd hit my Anaerobic Threshold and that I could stop anytime I was probably less than 10 seconds after that that I stopped.

After a cool down we sat down to go over my numbers.

My VO2 Max is 39. From what I've read, that's not bad for a woman my age. It's nothing to write home about either. Michael and I discussed how while you will often hear Vo2 max is largely genetic, that you can improve it (maybe even by as much as 20%) by losing weight and improving your base level of aerobic fitness.

I have to tell you, I've done a ton of reading over the past week related, in one way or another, to VO2 Max. I've learned how oxygen getting into your body involves two major steps, first is your body's ability to transport oxygen from your lungs to the mitochondria and then the rate at which the mitochondria can reduce the oxygen for use in energy expenditure. I'm sure some scientist would balk at my probably over-simplified explanation but it works for me. It sounds like most of us suffer from the limits of our bodies getting the oxygen to the mitochondria but I even read that for some couch potatoes, their mitochondria might also be slow on the uptake.

Aaaanyway...this is not really relevant to my training better, unless you count having a base understanding of what all this means as relevant. So, my Vo2 max is 39, but what I found even more interesting was the zones the machine determined based on my Vo2 and heart rate.

Low zone
Heart rate: 80-116
At this zone I burn between 164-424 calories per hour

Moderate zone
Heart rate: 116-154
At this zone I burn between 424-645 calories per hour

High zone
Heart rate: 154-165
At this zone I burn between 645-725 calories per hour

Peak zone
Heart rate: 165-168
At this zone I burn between 725-751 calories per hour

This fits with what my subjective experience has been. When my heart rate hits 170 I usually know it's time to dial it back. Michael and I spent some time discussing the benefits of training in different zones, what's to be gained by staying in the low/moderate zones vs the high and maybe even intervals into the peak zone - or beyond!

Next week we're doing my Resting Metabolic Rate testing. Michael said the RMR numbers "will bring everything together" in terms of understanding how my body uses energy, oxygen, etc. I can't wait for that information! And thank you to Michael for working with me, I'm learning so much!!

Well, that's about it from me. Oh wait, I have one last gripe. I was checking out at a hardware store tonight and for whatever reason, I was really struck by how annoying it is to be faced with a wall of candy just to buy a little paint. Come on, this isn't a grocery store or a gas station. Give me a break! I felt a rebellious energy rise up. No way in hell I'd be buying any of that junk.

On that happy note, I'll end this post because I'm getting tired. I'll have to tell you about today's painful 3.5 mile run in my next post. Not all runs can be great, right?

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  1. I would love to have some numbers done on me! I've been reading Ben Greenfields "Beyond Training" and it is super informative about measurements and their I would love to get tested is heart rate variability, apparently taken over a few days can give you an idea of how rested your body is before putting it through any more stressful workouts?? That an adrenal function test....anyways, enjoy digesting the numbers, i think that whole area is fascinating, lucky you!!

    1. Couldn't you just wear your own heart rate monitor and check it? Or is it more complicated than that?

  2. So interesting. I would love to do that testing. I'm not a runner (bad knees) but would still find the information interesting. There are some places around here who do it along with the bod pod testing and RMR.

    1. I want to do a dexa scan next. Love the numbers.

  3. You know how much I love data! I love this post!

    On the candy thing... I was at [insert name of national department store] at my local mall, in the MEN's clothing area last weekend and saw they now have a candy rack - complete with GIFT CARDS to restaurant chains! - at the checkout. What the HELL???
    "Oh yes I'm getting these workboots, a pair of shorts, men's socks and a Bears jersey... and $25 Red Lobster card, and - why not? - a couple of Crunch bars on the way out."

    This makes NO sense.

    1. Thanks! I *think* there are people that are starting to really get how this is a part of the obesity epidemic. David Kessler, author of The End of Overeating, is/was working on this very type of thing. Food is too good and too plentiful. And at the end of the day, we are all animals. We seek pleasure and when a form of it is in put in front of us all day every day, it's not easy. Until you start tuning it out, which I feel I've mostly done. I hardly "see" candy shelves anymore, except when their placement strikes me as odd. Men's clothing store and food - doesn't seem to fit to me.

  4. That's exactly why I've always been hesitant to invest in a nice athletic watch, because I'd always be too worried about breaking the darn thing. Frank Martin


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