VO2Max test - I have a number

Categories: Aerobic   gym   Heartrate   Running   Technology   Training   VO2   VO2Max   Zone

For a number of years, I’ve wanted to do a VO2 Max test. I thought it would be interesting to see how my numbers look, and how I compare to other athletes.

I had always thought this was something I’d never get done because it would be too expensive, hard to find a place to do it, and I’d have to figure out to get insurance to help with the cost. Happily, that’s not the case!  Turns out my gym, Lifetime Fitness, offers the testing as one of its services.

Signing up and getting an appointment were easy.  A few days prior to the appointment, I got an email confirmation, along with instructions for the day of the test.  That’s where the hard part started…For two days before the test, you should refrain from vigorous activity.  Being that the weather was perfect, I really wanted to be running, but I sucked it up in the name of science.

The day of the test, you’re asked to not eat for several hours before-hand, or have any caffeine. This is to avoid any external stimulus that would affect your heart rate.

The appointment is for 1 hour.  On showing up, I spent a few minutes talking with Patrick, the metabolic specialist, while he got everything setup. We talked about my goals are and what my current fitness level is, so we could tune in what I should be doing after the test.

After strapping on the heart rate monitor and breathing mask, the test started with 8 minutes on the treadmill to warm up.  Every 2 minutes, the speed is increased, and I gave a perceived exertion level. Besides warming up, this helped get used to the mask.  You have to mouth breath in it, which took a little getting used to.

After a 5 minute rest, we did the actual test.  Just like the warm-up, it started slow and increased every 2 minutes. However, we just kept going up until I felt I couldn’t go any further.  (This is the perceived exertion level, where in my mind it go to the point where I couldn’t go any faster.)

After the test, Patrick did a bunch of Excel magic with the test results, and presto, I had everything we needed.

First, I had my VO2 Max number. While it’s fun to say “I’m a 31”, the number by itself doesn’t do a lot of good. But luckily, there’s more.  There’s a number of charts showing oxygen usage and heart rate changes. But most importantly, I got heart rate training zones that are specific to me.

If you’ve ever looked at any aerobic training, you’ve probably seen aerobic training zones. This is where they say things like “for maximum fat burning, stay in zone one” and “if you train in zone four, you’re going to die.”  Along with these, they give some generic heart rate numbers.

I now have zones that are customized for my current state.  For example, my zone 3, which is where my races should be, is between 157 and 163 beats per minute. That’s a bit higher than I thought it would be.  When we went over these results, Patrick also made training recommendations based on building my endurance to stay in this range for a long time.

I feel I got just what I wanted out of the test: empirical data I can use in my day-to-day training.

Would you do this if you could? What would you like to get out of the results?

(Note: If you’re interested in doing this, even if you’re not a member of the club, let me know. I can get you in on a guest pass and hook you up with the right people.)

Written on November 12, 2013