Not To Be Trusted With Knives

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Peak Centre Video

Hey, remember those times that I did fitness asssessments and found out that I have a respectable VO2max but I’m a wimp and getting wimpier? The place I did those assessments – the Peak Centre for Human Performance – recently shared this video from when they were on the morning news1 putting some newspeople through fitness assessments. So I thought I’d share this in case you were interested in seeing what it’s like2 ,3.

In related news, only 18 days until the Montreal demi-marathon!

  1. It was actually from spring 2014, but I hadn’t seen it before. []
  2. As per usual, I have no financial relationship with the company, other than when I pay them money for their services, of course! []
  3. The newslady is doing the VO2max and blood lactate assessment on the bike rather than running, but the basic idea is the same. []

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My Latest Fitness Assessment: Fitter, but More Wimpy

Last week I went back to the Peak Centre for Performance to do another running fitness assessment, as it was time to check in on the effects of my new training plan. Unlike my previous test, I didn’t need to measure my VO2max, so I didn’t have to wear the snorkel and breath through the tube. Which I thought meant that I’d be able to run a little bit more at the hardest level, as the last time I found it really difficult to gasp for breath through that snorkel. Boy was I wrong!

As you may recall from last time, I mentioned that people usually keep running to a blood lactate level of 8-10 mmol/L, whereas I gave up at 7.2 mmol/L, which means I am wimpier than average. This time, however, I gave up at a pathetic  5.69! Daniel’s interpretation of this is kinder than mine – he thinks that because I knew that I was running at a faster speed than I maxed out on my previous assessment, I gave up on the test too early, thinking that I couldn’t do any more than, rather than actually having quite because I was too wimpy to take anymore. There might be some truth to that – perhaps next time I should try to ignore what speed I’m running at during the test and focus just on how my body feels. Or maybe I should run until I literally fall off the treadmill!

At any rate, the positive news from this assessment is that my zone 1 training has paid off big time, as I’ve significantly shifted my lactate curve. Here’s the graph of my second assessment.

2015-08-06 Fitness Assessment Results

Then I plotted the data from both assessments on the same graph so that we can compare them:

2015-08-06 Running Assessment compared to first assessment

On this graph, the blue and green lines represent my heart rate results from assessment #1 and assessment #2, respectively, across the different speeds (with speed on the x-axis). As you can see, the heart rate results are virtually identical. The red line represents my blood lactate levels across the different speeds for assessment #1 and the purple line represents my blood lactate levels across the different speeds for assessment #2. As you can see, my blood lactate is lower at each speed throughout the assessment, which is exactly what zone 1 training is meant to do. In zone 1 training, you run at a relatively low level of exertion , a level that would allow you to run all day long. This trains your body to be able to run at faster speeds without producing as much lactate, which means you can run faster for a longer period of time.

On the down side, while I was diligent with my zone 1 training and significantly improved my aerobic threshold, I was a delinquent when it came to my intensity workouts and it showed in the results of my training. This next graphic shows my lactate and aerobic thresholds compare to the limits for these thresholds:

2015-08-06 Fitness Assessment Results - LimitsWhat this graphic shows is that my aerobic threshold occurs at 81% of my speed at VO2max and my lactate threshold occurs at 94% of my speed at VO2max – and I’m basically at the limits. This means that if I continue to just do zone 1 training, I won’t continue to see improvements, because you can’t push your aerobic threshold higher than 80-85% of your max. The only way to improve from here is to increase my max speed, which means that I have to do my intensity workouts. Normally, this would mean doing zone 5 workouts – essentially, running for as fast as you can around a lap of the track, giving yourself a rest, and then repeating that until you can no longer maintain that max speed. But given that my next half marathon is only just over a month away – and I’ll need to taper for the last couple of weeks leading up to it – Lewis suggested that until my race, I should do a zone 3 workout once per week (basically, running at my zone 3 pace, which is where my muscles start to build up lactate, for as long as I can (working my way up to 30 minutes over the next few weeks if possible) in order that I build up my tolerance for lactate (i.e., suck it up buttercup!). I’m also adding some “race pace” to end of my long runs – which I really should have been doing a while ago, but I was discouraged by the fact that my target race pace was in my zone 3 range of my previous assessment and so I just kind of ignored that I was supposed to be doing it at the end of my long runs!

So – will I reach my sub-2 hr half marathon goal in Montreal? Who knows. I might have a spectacular race day and pull it off. I might have screwed myself over by not training to build my max speed and build up my lactate tolerance up until now and now I don’t have enough time to fix it. Only time will tell. But as with my last half marathon, I’m setting a series of staged goals – so even if I don’t make my sub-2 hr goal, I’ll still have some backups to aim for:

  1. a sub-2 hour half marathon
  2. finish my first ever half marathon where I run straight through, with no 10 and 1s – I’ve done 12 half marathons and for all 12 of them I’ve done 10 and 1s (run for 10 minutes, walk for 1 minute, and repeat). This training is the first time I’ve been training on this new system where I run in zone 1, so I don’t need those 1 minute walk breaks. Each week when I do a long run I think “That’s the longest I’ve ever run straight through without walk breaks!” So doing that for an entire 21.1 km will be an accomplishment!
  3. finish – Finishing a half marathon is always worth being proud of.

So, there you have it – I’ve scienced up my running and am now motivated to go out and do my zone 3 runs from now until race day! Wish me luck!

 

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My New Training Plan

Hey, remember that time I went for a running fitness assessment? Well, this past Tuesday I went to meet with Lewis at Peak Centre for a consultation, where he explains all the stuff in the report that they send you with the results of your test.

So, as it turns out, I’m a huge wimp. Lewis didn’t say that in so many words – he’s far too professional and positive to have said such a thing – but he did tell me that on the test, people usually keep running to a blood lactate level of 8-10 mmol/L, whereas I gave up at 7.2 mmol/L. I’m not the worst he’s ever seen, but I need to train my brain to accept more suffering!

2015-05-22 Fitness Assessment Results

Graphical evidence of my wimpiness. In my previous posting, which I wrote before my consultation, I’d thought that the sharp rise in my blood lactate meant that I’d run enough to be properly tired out. Apparently I was wrong.

I won’t bore you with all the details1, but some hightlights from the consultation are:

  • When you are training, you are supposed to do some of your runs slow (often called the “LSD – Long Slow Distance” run2 ) and other runs quickly (sometimes called “tempo runs” or “intervals” or “speed work”3. You often hear that runners run their slow runs too fast and their fast runs too slow. Well, it turns out I’ve been doing that. To truly know the speed you need to run on your slow runs (a.k.a., zone 1), you need to know where your aerobic threshold is – finding this out is a big reason to do the test! The aerobic threshold is the threshold below which you could run indefinitely, because you aren’t building up any lactate (lactate building up basically = fatigue). The results from the test tell you what heart rate range you need to run in in order to stay in zone 1 – for me, it’s 138-153 beats per minute. Doing this builds your aerobic base, so that, over time, your muscles will be able to go faster while still staying below the aerobic threshold. When you go above this, you aren’t training your muscles to improve your aerobic base, so you are going to hit a plateau instead. I haven’t consistently been using a heart rate monitor before this, as I didn’t know what heart rate range to be aiming for, but I’m reasonably sure based on how fast I can currently run while in my zone 1 heart rate range, that I was running my LSD runs too fast.
  • I’ve also been running my tempo runs too slowly. Apparently it is quite common that people do what they think are “tempo” runs, but they aren’t really reaching the pace that they need to reach to increase their lactate threshold (a.k.a. zone 3). Given that, as mentioned above, I’m a wimp, I’ve totally been wimping out on this and running at what I thought was fast, but I wasn’t pushing myself hard enough because did I mention I’m a wimp? The pace I need to reach for zone 3 is 5:24-5:43 min/km. This is *much* faster than my typically “tempo” run during my BMO training, which would be closer to a 5:50 average (meaning half the time I’m above that and very little of my run would have been within the zone 3 range).
  • I’ve run all my half marathons and all the LSD runs while training for a half marathon using 10 and 1s. This is where you run for 10 minutes, then walk for 1 minute, and repeat for the entire run. I’ve always run this way as my friend who got me into running did this and it’s been a habit ever since. This was something I really wanted to ask Lewis about during my consultation, as I have been wondering if it’s time for me to leave the 10 and 1s behind. His take on them is that if you are doing your zone 1 training correctly, you don’t need to take the 1 minute walk breaks because you won’t be running too fast for the long distance. When you do 10 and 1s, you tend to do the 10 minute running portion faster than you would otherwise, since you know you have a 1 minute break coming up. And that means you are running in zone 2 and thus not training your aerobic base. So, starting now, I’m say bye-bye to 10 and 1s!
  • I haven’t been refuelling properly. For a 2 hour zone 1 run, I should be taking in 116 g of carbs. My current fuel source of choice for running is Honey Stingers, which contain 39 g of carbs per package. Meaning that I should be eating 3 packages of these on a 2 hour run. I’d be lucky if I ate 1 whole package. So more attention to refuelling on the run is another thing to work on. I will also have to work on eating and drinking while I run, since I won’t be having any more 1 minute walk breaks to do that!

So basically, my game plan is:

  • run 85-90% of my training in zone 1, based on my heart rate target range
  • run 10-15% of my training in zone 2, based on my pace target4.
  • go back for another assessment half way through my training, to see if I’ve improved enough that my target ranges will have changed
  • kick some butt on the Montreal demi-marathon!

Wish me luck!

  1. *I* didn’t find it boring – it was *super* interesting, in fact. But I can imagine that you, dear reader, might not be so interested in the minutiae of my physiological state and how this relates to the details of my training plan. []
  2. a.k.a., zone 1 []
  3. “speed work”, I believe, would be super fast (a.k.a., zone 5), whereas a “tempo run” would be quite fast, but not crazy fast (a.k.a., zone 3). []
  4. Apparently these are better done on a treadmill, since it’s much easier to control pace than running outside. As much as I hate treadmills, I may just have to add this to my “learn to live with suffering” training. And really, for an interval-style of run like I’ll be doing for my zone 3 runs, I hate the treadmill less, as I at least have something to do, what with the turning the speed up and down and watching the time at which I need to turn the speed up and down. As luck would have it, the exercise room in my building *just* got a treadmill, but it’s not yet set up as we are waiting for a special adaptor plug to be delivered so we can plug it in. I guess once we have that, I’ll be getting back together with the treadmill []

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My Fitness Assessment

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 test

Me running my VO2max test

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.

Computer with fitness data

The computer that was crunching all my fitness-y data

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:

2015-05-22 Fitness Assessment Results

 

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!

  1. 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”. []
  2. I mean, I know I learned about it in undergrad, but I haven’t the foggiest what a good value would be. []
  3. 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! []