Tuesday, July 7, 2009

VO2 Testing: What I Learned

I have stayed away from this blog for the past three weeks on purpose. On purpose because after a self-imposed description of a dismal performance at the Old Hickory Lake Triathlon I wanted to ensure that any post to this blog would not be of a negative tone.

I say "dismal performance" because I was not at all happy with the swim portion of the tri. I have worked, or so I thought, very hard during this year to improve my swim and according to the split time this was not accomplished. I was pleased with the bike and happy with the run. I came in third in my age group in the bike and in the run, last in the swim. So far behind that I came in (overall) penultimate in a field of only 9.

Understanding that I need help to make me more efficient in the water, I joined Masters Swimming at our local swim club. I think I should have done this months ago. But I guess better late than never. Now I need to make sure that I can fit their schedule into my work schedule. This will be a challenge, but we'll give it a shot.

With the upcoming Ironman 70.3 Augusta triathlon there's very little time to waste. All training must be effective and must be maximized. This is why I opted to get VO2 tested for I have been considering this for awhile. This seemed like the right time to do it.

So what is VO2, or VO2 Max?

As I now understand it is the maximum capacity of an individual’s body to transport and utilize oxygen during maximal physical exertion. In other words: How much engine your body has.

Why is this important?

It is the best indicator of cardiorespiratory fitness or endurance.

I have also learned that these numbers really do not mean a whole lot in the big scheme of things. For instance. My running VO2 Max was 39.6 which only tells me that I am in "good" fitness running level, but it was only 1.4 from categorizing me in the "excellent" level. My cycling VO2 Max was 35.5 and this puts me in the "fair" fitness level, only .3 from the "good" level.

I have done some research and learned that the VO2 Max is influenced by several factors some of which are genetics, age and gender, all of these are out of my control. I also learned that your VO2 Max starts to decline after you turn 40. So with that in mind, I have been on the decline for some 15 years now.

Most useful out of this test was the definition of my own HR Zones. This I believe could be a better tool for my training than knowing what my VO2 Max is.

Going in to the test I knew that the maximum heart rate for my age is 165. During the run test, I peaked at 166, during the bike test I peaked at 160. Now, I'm not so sure that the bike hr wouldn't be different if I had taken the test at a separate time, not immediately following the run.

I now have a training blueprint to follow. I know that in order to work on my endurance (aerobic), I need to spend most of my running time in Zones 2 and 3. My heart rate needs to be between 133 and 155. Similarly, on the bike I need to be in Zones 2 and 3 with the heart rate in between 124 and 153. In the lower end of the zone, I will build endurance. In the higher end I will increase tolerance to lactic acid and will raise my anaerobic threshold as well.

This test was performed by my friends at Endurance Geeks in Hendersonville, TN.


  1. Go, Mauricio, go. You do our age group proud.

  2. Thanks for the info Mauricio, I have been contemplating the test myself.