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 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! []