Human Performance Lab V02 Max and "Heat" Tests

Test: V02 Max Test 1 of a 3-Test series

Date: November 13, 2008
Time: 6pm
All tests performed at Meredith College Human Performance lab by Dr. Chris Eschbach, Ph.D., Samanatha P., and Laura M.
12/2/2008 Update
I keep getting questions about what V02 Max measures. Here are two websites that offer explanations:

This is the third time I’ve taken the V02 Max test, so I knew what to expect. And I wasn’t looking very forward to it. The test is exhausting. I truly despise running on a treadmill, too.

I wore a heart rate monitor and an oxygen mask for the duration of the test (once I warmed up). All intervals (with the exception of the last) were 3 minutes in duration followed by a 1 minute recovery. The treadmill grade was 1%. During the recovery, a blood sample, to measure lactic acid, was taken from my left ear lobe. I was also asked to rank my degree of effort from 1 (very easy) to 20 (extremely difficult). I could also stop the test at any time by requesting that Chris and/or his team turn off the treadmill or by pressing the Stop button myself.

The first round was at 5 mph or a 12 mpm pace. My heart rate was 88 bpm, and this interval was, as to be expected, extremely easy. (My resting heart rate is @ 43.)

Round two was at 6.2 mph or 9:40 mpm pace. Heart rate increased to 124, and again, this was very easy.

Round three was at 7.5 mph or 8 mpm pace and heart rate was 140. Still easy.

Round four was at 8.7 mph or 6:53 mpm pace and heart rate rose to 150. Getting more difficult.

Round five was 10 mph or 6:00 mpm pace and heart rate was 163. Yes, now it was getting difficult.

Round six got even more interesting. And grueling. 11.2 mph or 5:20 mpm pace. My heart rate rose to a very high 175 bpm. Very difficult indeed!

The seventh and, for me, final round was still at 11.2 mph, but the incline was increased to 3%. My heart rate increased to 177 bpm. Chris’ assistants let me know that I only needed to make it 90 seconds at this pace and incline for the results to be included. I just made it! I was gasping for air! I was happy to finally remove the oxygen mask.

Now, the results…

V02 Max is 56.6. Above 45 is the goal. My V02 Max has also increased from test to test. My LT heart rate is 165. Base training should take place at less than 6:32 mpm and less than 156 heart rate. Easy enough!

Training Zone 1, 6:34 – 5:52 mpm and 156 – 164 heart rate. Training Zone 2, 5:52 – 5:46 mpm. Certainly within (and often better than) my 5K pace. My maximal heart rate is 177. A standard way of measuring maximal heart rate is your age subtracted from 220; thus, 176 (until next month when it will be 175). Almost spot on!

Finally, my pace at Lactate Threshold is 5:47, which is 93% of V02 Max. According to Chris, this is good, as it shows I have room to continue to improve — by a mere 7%, but that still does leave room for improvement. I should be able to run a marathon at 5:47 pace, i.e., 2:31:31. My PR is 2:47. Much room for improvement, huh?

My body fat percentage has increased to 9.31. Okay, I could lose some fat around the waist. I’m with the school of thought that a little (not a lot) of extra body fat is a good thing for distance runners. Post your thoughts. My weight that day was 138 lbs., which if the heaviest I’ve been in quite some time. (My weight today is 132. I’m usually less than 130. Winter weight?)

Chris always does an incredible job of explaining and executing the tests, and — most importantly — explaining the results. In fact, it is because of his advice based on my last V02 Max test that I changed my training approach: I rest one day a week (usually Monday). I also carry a water bottle with me when I run any race longer than 10K. I’m thus well-rested for critical speed workouts (usually Tuesday), and never thirsty during races.

Chris is also approachable, knowledgeable, and, dare I say, amusing. I always enjoy our conversations. I also trash talk with Chris about our (fictional) rivalry. He had prepared Samantha and Laura for my test by telling them that I was one of the fastest runners they would be testing, and that he expected me to complete at least one round at 11.2 mph. When the two asked Chris how he knew this was likely, he said, “He beat me at the Umstead marathon.” (I won the 2008 race, and Chris came in second.)
Test: “Heat Test” Test 2 of a 3-Test series

Date: November 19, 2008
Time: 6pm

I chose to complete the heat test next, as Chris, Laura, and Samantha let me know what to expect, and I wanted to get it over with.

I arrived at the lab, changed into my running clothes, and then sat for 30 minutes within an enclosed portion of the lab. This consisted of the treadmill, computer and equipment, and two space heaters, all enclosed within sheets of plastic from ceiling to floor. Samantha told me that I needed to sit within the area to acclimate to the heat. The temperature was an uncomfortable 97 degrees.

Chris joined me and he reviewed the results of the V02 Max test.

I was fitted with the heart rate monitor and oxygen mask. I then ran on the treadmill for ten minutes, and was told to run at whatever pace I was comfortable with. I ran at 8 mph. After running for five or so minutes, Samantha asked me to increase the pace so that I could increase my heart rate. The goal was to keep my heart race at 158 bpm, which is 90% of my maximal heart rate. Samantha controlled the pace throughout the actual test.

Just before the official start of the 45-minute test, Samantha increased the speed to 9.4 mph (6:23 mpm).

For each of the three intervals, I ran 15 minutes and for the last three minutes (four if you include the fitting) I wore the oxygen mask. The speed would be decreased to 1 mph for one minute as Laura took a blood sample from my left ear and Samantha took my temperature from my right ear.

As the test progressed, my speed decreased. For the last interval, I was down to 7.8 mph (7:41 mpm). My heart rate remained at 158 bpm.

Not only did my speed decrease, but the degree of difficulty increased significantly. I was exhausted after this test!

Test: “Normal Test” Test 3 of a 3-Test series

Date: November 25, 2008
Time: 2pm

This test was exactly like the 2nd test, but the temperature was a very comfortable 72 degrees.

Not much to report, as my pace remained a very consistent 8.9 mph (6:44 mpm) pace until the last three minutes when pace decreased to 8.7 mph (6:53 mpm). I was comfortable throughout, and found this test to be rather easy to complete.

So, did Chris discover what he set out to discover? I’m anxious to see the results.

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