Fitness Testing: Part 2

If you missed Part 1…. too bad! Kidding. Click here to read.

Day 2: VO2 max testing.

First off… What is VO2 max?
Runner’s World offers a pretty digestible description: “VO2 max is a measure of your maximal aerobic capacity. In general, as your aerobic fitness increases, your VO2 max increases. In specific terms, VO2 max is the highest rate at which you can transport oxygen (via blood) to your muscles so that your muscles can produce energy aerobically.”

It’s a very useful measure of athletic performance in aerobic activities. Like, you know, distance running.

A few cool facts:

  • A VO2 max score typically ranges from the teens – in little children and very out of shape adults – up to the 80s for elite athletes. (Aside: Henry Wynne tells me his VO2 max in high school was 82. Hate that guy.)
  • The highest recorded V02 max scores (90s) are from cross-country skiers.
  • Elite women typically have higher VO2 max levels than men.
  • VO2 max has a notable genetic influence, but it can be improved with training.
  • There is some variation in from one source to another, but this is a fairly good breakdown of the scoring norms across age distributions:

Screen Shot 2018-02-16 at 12.43.05 PM.png

So what’s the VO2 max “test”?
The test can be conducted on a treadmill or bike hooked up to a special computer. Wearing a mask that captures each breath, you basically run/bike at increasing levels of difficulty until you can go no further. 

Obviously, I elected to test on the treadmill. 

In general, there are two treadmill testing protocols. One is on a flat treadmill (0% incline) that increases in speed every few minutes (until you can take no more). The other is on a treadmill that starts at a high incline (10% grade) and increases in both incline and speed until you have to stop. 

The machine at the GW Weight and Human Performance Lab is the latter.

What Went Down (and up, I guess):
Mike and Todd were already preparing the computer when I arrived. I did a mile on the treadmill to warm up my legs and then did some dynamic stretches that I often do before running.

Then I hopped on the machine while Todd explained the protocol. It was simple. I’d go until I couldn’t while he kept watch to make sure that I – you know – didn’t drop dead on the treadmill. Todd told me that I should last 10 minutes… making it to 13 minutes would be pretty solid.

Screen Shot 2018-02-16 at 12.53.24 PM.png

Then… showtime!

The machine started at a slow walk at 10% incline grade. 10% is pretty steep. For reference, when I do those brutal treadmill hill sprint workouts I have the treadmill at a 6% grade.

Every few minutes the machine would increase in incline and velocity. We never got going too fast… it’s the incline that wrecks you.

My goal was to get to at least 14 minutes. Mind you, I formulated this goal having no idea how hard that actually would be. Maybe Todd totally overestimated me and I’d be lucky to scratch double-digits?

If you want to see the full video of my test, you can watch it here on Facebook.

The Results:
I lasted a little over 15 minutes and had a VO2 max score just over 54 (one breath even reached 59!). Not bad, not great. Pretty good for your average 30 year old… not great for a competitive amateur runner.

I sat down and reviewed the results with Todd and Steph. The main takeaway is that my excess body weight is currently the biggest impediment to my VO2 max. If I can get down to the mid 150 lb. range my VO2 max should shoot above 60. That’s the goal.

After some work on my diet and more exercise, I am going to go back in and test again.

Accessing this data is remarkably cool.

I do wonder if I could have performed better on a flat treadmill test, as I am used to pushing myself while moving fast (and not just when running uphill). Either way, I love that I have a specific goal number to improve on.

*If you’re going to be in the DC area and this is something you’re interested in doing, let me know, I might be able to hook you up….


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