Last Friday after work, I headed to the Peak Centre for Human Performance ((As per usual, I haven’t received any form of compensation for writing about this company. I paid for my fitness assessment and just thought it was pretty cool and wanted to share!)) for my first ever fitness assessment!
Since I’ve never done a fitness assessment before, I did the full meal deal: VO2max, blood lactate, and energy usage. The test involves running on a treadmill and, every three minutes, the speed of the treadmill is increased until you can’t run anymore. While this is going on, you are breathing through a snorkel attached to a tube that is attached to a machine that measures how much oxygen is in the air you are breathing in and out; as well, blood samples are taken through pricking your finger.
VO2max is a measure of the maximal rate of oxygen consumption as you exercise until the point that you can’t go anymore and it’s a measure of your aerobic (i.e., oxygen-using) physical fitness. Blood lactate analysis involves tracking your increasing blood lactate levels as you run faster and faster and the graph of your blood lactate levels shows you how your body responds to the increasing exercise. You can use this information to determine the optimal intensity at which you should train in order to improve performance.
As you know, I’m not really a fan of treadmills, as I generally find them rather boring. But in this case, there was enough going on, what with trying to focus on running form (and, as things got faster, trying to focus running as hard as I could and not barfing), plus having to have a blood sample taken every three minutes, plus trying not to hyperventilate because I was breathing in a tube, that the treadmill part was actually OK. And the first three of 3-minute segments, which I ran at 7 km/hr, 8 km/hr, and 9 km/hr, respectively, went along quite smoothly. At the fourth segment, however, I could feel my breathing getting laboured and by the end of the fourth segment was starting to wonder how much more I could really last. When Paul, the guy running my test, said “You are already a minute into this one!” during my fifth segment, which I was running at 11 km/hr, I thought I was going to die because it had been thinking immediately before that “just hold out a few more seconds, I’m sure it’s almost been three minutes!” But I managed to push on, seriously thinking that I was going to barf into my snorkel and/or my lungs were going to explode. Paul took my blood sample and then asked if I was reading to go to the next speed and I just couldn’t do it. So that brought the test to an end and I was able to take off the snorkel and then gasp for breath like a dying woman, and then do a short cool down jog. After a few minutes, however, I felt so much better that all I could think was “Why did I stop? I totally feel like I can run just fine now! I’m such a wimp!”
But when I got my results emailed, I saw why I stopped:
The red line in the chart above is my heart rate, which you see rises pretty much linearly as my running speed rising. The blue line is my blood lactate concentration, which you see rises exponentially as my speed increases.
In retrospect, I do wish I had had it in me to run even 5 seconds at the next speed because it would have given me one more datum1 on my graph! And you know how I loves me more data!
The other important piece of information from my results is my VO2max, which clocked in at 41.6 mL/kg/min. Of course, I couldn’t remember for the life of me what a good value for VO2max is2. According to this random page on the Internets, my VO2max is “superior”3. In fact, it would still be classified as “superior” even if I were in my 20s, and it would be at the high end of “excellent” if I were in my teens! This all makes me feel very happy and making having all those finger pricks and feeling like I was going to die worthwhile!
The report I received also provides me with some guidance on the heart rate level/pace at which I should run my long slow distance runs vs. my speed work and suggest that I should focus on the aerobic training (85-90% of my running) with a bit (10-15%) of intense training. I have a consultation next Tuesday where we will go over my results and plan out my training run so that I can kick some serious butt at the demi-marathon in Montreal! I’m very excited for that!
- Datum = the singular of data. You really don’t get to use that word very often, so I’m chuffed to have a chance to use it. See also: “chuffed”. [↩]
- I mean, I know I learned about it in undergrad, but I haven’t the foggiest what a good value would be. [↩]
- Another random page on the Internets which uses different age cutoffs and has different values in its categories says that I’m merely “good” (which they consider as the category that is above “above average”. So I’m totally going with the other site! [↩]