Well, I hope this post doesn't grow too large before it's done but hopefully, some readers may find this interesting.
In a previous post I decided that I was not going to spend the money to have VO2 testing done. Well, on advice from my dietitian and after coaxing from Jennifer at VO2maxhouston, I decided to have the test done. Jennifer, who is also a physical therapist, gave me a free, personlized physical therapy program for my ankle that I can do at home, which weighed heavily on my decision to go ahead.
Guess I'll start by describing the actual testing procedure, in case some were wondering. Let me start by saying that Jennifer is awesome. She took so much time with me to explain what we were doing every step of the way. She does this on the side. I really got the impression from Jennifer that she wants to help people and that's why she does this. She was very professional and genuinely wants to help me lose weight and become more fit. Oh, the procedure...well, the procedure is done on a treadmill. I was hooked up to a heart rate monitor and a breathing mask. The mask was connected to an instrument that measures my breathing/volume/oxygen/carbon dioxide. The instrument and HRM were linked to a computer program that captures the data during the test. We started out at 3.0 mph at a 0% incline, walking basically. A more fit person may start at 4.0 mph. The starting speed must be slow enought to capture enought data and to capture the right data. Then at 1 minute intervals, the incline was raised all the way to 10 degrees. At that point the speed was increased at 30 second intervals until I passed out. Just kidding. Actually, the instructions were to continue to increase speed until she said she had enought data or until I got to a 6.5 out of 7 with 7 being the point where if I continued for 1 more second, I'd pass out. I probably got to a good 6.5 by my perception. She ended up having plenty data. Then the speed and incline were dropped back down to 0% and 3.0 mph respectively and I continuted to walk. I believe at this point that data continued to be captured for 2 more minutes to see how quickly I recovered. Then it was just a matter of printing out ALL the information and reviewing it, and there is a ton of information.
So, the results. Well, the actual VO2max is an interesting value but pretty worthless when it comes to training. The biggest use for the VO2max comes when you retest. You can compare the results and see if you are improving. I'll try to post some information later on what VO2max really is and what factors affect it. Oh, by the way, my VO2max is 30.2 ml/kg/min. The other result and the one that is most beneficial to me is HR at anaerobic threshold. This really helps form the boundaries for the training zones. Again, I'll try to post some info on AT later. You get a bunch of other data but the most useful information is a printout that is provided that defines 3 training zones. These pretty much correspond to the zones defined in books and with the HRM instructions. It's basically an active recovery zone, where you want to improve your capacity to deliver oxygen, an AT zone, for stressing your capacity to clear lactate, and a peak zone for short, intense intervals to help improve your heart and lungs. I'm going to post more on my zones later because I think it's interesting. There is a difference in what I would have estimated by using a formula (80%-90% of maxHR) and what the test actually revealed. Lastly, she gives you a very nifty pritout on card stock of a custom interval training program with zones and minutes in zones all spelled out for you in a very nice graphic bar chart. You have one card for each workout. The program basically alternates recovery runs with AT runs and sprinkles in an occasional intense interval workout in zone 3. She provided me 12 weeks of workouts but would like me to retest in 8-10 weeks to see if I have improved and if we need to alter the zones. She said we certainly will have to adjust. The 12 weeks of workouts provided gives me some leeway in case I can't get in to retest by 10 weeks.
So, am I happy I had the test? I'm actually thrilled. It turns out my maxHR was pretty much right on what I derived from my own maxHR test from back in 2004. Now, I can program my HRM with my new custom zones and hit the trail. Mind you, the purpose of this is to make the most out of my workouts. If I'm targeting improvements to my aerobic system (which IMHO is what all new runners should be targeting) I stay in Zone 1. If I want to do a tempo run or some pickups, I shoot for Zone 2, above AT. Then, maybe 1 year from now when I have well-trained aerobic and anaerobic systems, I'll do some intense VO2max interval workouts in Zone 3 to improve my heart and lung capacity. I'm pretty happy with having the test done. Look for additional posts on this soon.