Sunday, November 9, 2014

Napa Training Week 2... VO2 Max Assessment

This was a good week...

I jumped into the week with plans to schedule a VO2 max assessment so I could find out what my ideal heart rate training zones were for the 80/20 training I am doing. After looking at different options around Indianapolis, I decided that the National Institute for Fitness and Sport (NIFS) located in downtown Indy offered the most reasonably priced assessment at a non-member price of $115. I called on Tuesday and was a bit shocked to get an appointment for Wednesday.

The following information is taken from "Running for Fitness" by Owen Barder and seems to sum up VO2 max the best...

VO2 max is a measure of the maximum volume of oxygen that an athlete can use. It is measured in millilitres per kilogramme of body weight per minute (ml/kg/min).

As you increase your effort when you exercise, the amount of oxygen you consume to produce energy (and hence the rate at which you exhale carbon dioxide) increases. However, there is a maximum level of oxygen consumption, beyond which increases in exercise intensity don’t lead to further increases in oxygen consumption. This level of oxygen consumption is called the VO2 max. (The initials simply stand for volume of oxygen. )

Some experts believe that VO2 max is a key physiological determinant of an athlete’s running performance, and that it is an important objective of a training programme to improve it. Other sports scientists argue that the limits to an athlete’s running performance are determined by a range of factors – such as adaptation of muscles, running efficiency, metabolism – and that VO2 max is simply a measure of the oxygen that the athlete consumes at the maximum level of energy output. On this view, which I find persuasive, VO2 max is not the critical factor which determines maximum performance, but is rather a consequence of a combination of other limiting factors. Whichever way you look at it there is a measurable level of exercise intensity at which the athlete’s consumption of oxygen reaches a plateau and does not increase

In a nutshell, VO2 max is a good measure of your cardiac fitness. There are other factors in training and racing such as muscle fitness and fueling/nutrition that also contribute to a person's overall athletic ability.

So here's how my test went...

First I had my "resting" heart rate and blood pressure measured. My resting heart rate wasn't exactly resting though because I missed the right parking garage downtown and had to drive around the block a couple times and then run to the facility... first time they took it it was over 100. I did some paperwork, tried to settle down, and they took it again and it was 77. (I actually took it yesterday at work and it was in the 60's). Next, they told me to warm up like I was going out for a run while they set up the machine... I did some squats, stretches, and a lap around their indoor track.

Now for the test. I am generally not a claustrophobic person... however (!!) the next thing that happened was I had a very tight fitting silicone-type mask put over my nose and mouth. It had headgear with four straps that went over and under your ears and around your head. There was a hose that came out the front...
photo from the NIFS website
When I put this on, all I could see was the silicone between my eyes. Oh, and I was standing on a treadmill - and everyone knows by now how I feel about treadmills! I had a heart rate monitor strap on and my heart rate went up to 114 even before the test started.
OK. Breathe... they started the treadmill. I was told the test would go in stages with the treadmill going faster for awhile and then the treadmill would incline up. I was suppose to give them a thumbs up if I wanted to do the next stage when they asked, or motion to cut if at any time I had to stop.
Lets just say I was a bit freaked out because I couldn't see the treadmill. All I could see was silicone. If I peeked way out to the left I could see the mileage on the treadmill but that was it. I had no idea how fast I was going or what the incline was. I could feel the incline going up somewhat but I was just lifting my knees like crazy because I didn't want to trip and fall. Falling was unlikely cause I had a hose attached to my face that someone was actually holding out of my way but still...
At just over 8 minutes I called it. Then I got my results. My VO2 max was 36.9. That put me at the very tip top of the "Excellent" rating for my age and gender. A tenth of a point more and I would have been "Superior." The competitive part of me wanted a do over!
To put things in perspective, here are the VO2 maxes of some well known athletes...
Most of the literature says that a lot of your VO2 max is genetic. Training can increase it anywhere from 5-20% depending on what you read. What's interesting is that there are a lot of VO2 max rate calculators out where you can put in your race times and it will calculate your VO2 max, or vice versa where you put in your VO2 max and it will predict your race time.
If I put in my last 5K time of 25:33 run on 10/25/14 in the VO2 max calculator HERE, I get a VO2 max of 37.3. Conversely, if I put in my actual measured VO2 max of 36.9 in the race pace predictor from the same site, I get a 5K time of 25:48.
What I got out of this is that, cardio-wise, I'm pretty fit. It's the other things like muscle strength and fueling I need to work on. The other thing I learned were my aerobic and anaerobic thresholds. The assessor actually wrote in my numbers because she disagreed with the machine printout. Interestingly, my heart rate actually dropped in the middle of my test, then went back up so the printout had my aerobic threshold at 160 bpm and my anaerobic threshold at 159 bpm. What I got was that I should keep my heart rate under 150 to run aerobically. My lactate threshold (anaerobic threshhold) is 160. If my heart rate goes faster than that, I am producing more waste (lactate) than my body can clear and this is not sustainable for a long period of time.
My maximum heart rate was 184. For the 80/20 training I am doing, 80% of my runs should be at less than 80% of my maximum heart rate. For me, 80% of 184 comes to 147... pretty close to my aerobic threshold of 150 that the assessor wrote in.
My take away - I need to keep my heart rate under 150 for all my runs except for my hard runs for the week. Ideally though, my hard runs, which right now are my marathon pace runs, should start to come in under 150 after awhile. If and when that happens, I'll need to start throwing in some faster intervals during the week. Next step for me will be to get a heart rate monitor for my runs.
So here were my Week 2 runs ...
Sunday - 3 miles. Nice shake out run after the Monumental.
Monday - 7 miles. Got up at 4:30 am and put in a 10 hour day at work. After last week, I figured I'd be trashed the next day so I just put up and did 7 miles in the dark while my daughter was at dance in the evening. It ended up being a very nice peaceful run having the Monon all to myself. Got home and passed out on the couch. Didn't even make it to bed til I woke up again at 2 am.
Tuesday - Rest. Yup. I was pretty much trashed.
Wednesday - 7 miles. Did the VO2 max test in the afternoon then another moonlit run on the Monon. I think the VO2 max test did me in cause I passed out on the couch again as soon as I got home!
Thursday - 14 miles. Temps in the 40's, wind gusts between 20-40 mph, and when I stepped outside, I realized it was pouring down rain. I retreated to the hamster track and worked on fueling.
I have gone back and forth on what to fuel with during my marathon. I thought about trying some of the super starch drinks such as UCAN but then decided I just don't want to carry any fluids with me during a race. There is always an abundance of fluids out on the course and carrying around fluids sloshing around in a waist belt just drives me crazy! I've decided on trying more chews or gels. I found out I can actually chew (Gatorade chews) and run at the same time if I'm running easy. I think I need to eat more often. Usually I just take a gel an hour. Now I'm practicing to eat every 30-40 minutes. If anything, it does provide me with a little more entertainment on my long runs. Running long at an easy pace gets boring. I was really tempted at the end of this one to pick it up the last couple miles just so I could be done!
Friday - 3 miles. Got up at o'dark thirty to run before work as I knew I wouldn't feel like it afterwards. I'm glad I did because my husband called me as I was driving home to let me know the family wanted to go out for dinner as soon as I got home. We went out for dinner and I passed out as soon as I got home. Actually made it into a bed though.
Saturday - Rest. Spent the whole day at work.
Week 2 Total Miles: 34
5 good days, 0 bad days, 2 rest days
I think I need more sleep too!

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