“At first an ordeal and then an accomplishment, the daily run becomes a staple, like bread, or wine, a fine marriage, or air. It is also a free pass to friendship.”
~ Benjamin Cheever, Strides

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Testing 1-2-3

So, a week ago on Tuesday, I went into Baseline Fitness for a series of fitness tests.  My husband had purchased an assessment package for me as my mother's day gift.  (There is nothing strange about that - I'd been indicating a desire to do two of the tests for the previous month.)  The package he purchased for me included three tests:  (1) Resting Metabolic Rate, (2) Bod Pod, and (3) VO2 assessment.

I made my appointment for 8 am on a Tuesday morning and took the Monday before as a rest day.  Their appointment confirmation email recommended that you be "fully recovered from any exercise" for the VO2 assessment.  For the Resting Metabolism test, I was supposed to have fasted for the 8-10 hours before the test.  For the Bod Pod, I was supposed to have fasted for 3 hours prior and not exercise within an hour prior to the test.  Since I was doing all three tests on the same morning, it meant I fasted for all three.  I have to admit, fasting for the VO2 assessment made me nervous.  I was told it would be even more accurate because I would be more likely to turn to fat for fuel initially.  Nonetheless, if you are only doing the VO2 assessment, fasting was not required.

Once I arrived, I filled out some paperwork, and the technician took some measurements.  (Height and weight specifically).  I also utilized the facilities to pee.  How I needed to pee after fasting overnight, I have no idea.

First Test:  Resting Metabolism
This test occurred in a small, cozy back room.  Basically, the goal of the test is for you to take a nap for 25 minutes.  A test I can ace!  HA!  First, she calibrated the computer, put the mask on my face and had me lay down on a pillow with a blanket.  I had her take a picture.   Aren't I cute? I never realized that I crossed my arms like that when I lay on my side to sleep.
Sexy, ain't it?
She turned out the light and I tried to sleep for 25 minutes.  While I got drowsy, I could hear each and every breath I made because the machine made noises when I breathed into the mask.  Thus, I didn't actually fall asleep.  After a significant amount of time had passed, she came back in and checked the read-outs to make sure they had enough (and the right data, i.e. being nervous wasn't playing a role).  Success.  She detached my mask and I got up and stretched.

Results:  My resting metabolic rate (the amount of calories I need to do nothing all day) is 1783 calories.  They then used a formula to calculate what I would use for thermic/nutrition and daily activities and concluded that I need to take in 2317.9 calories per day to maintain weight WITHOUT exercise.  SAY WHAT????

As a comparison.  The formulas predict that a female of my height and weight will have a resting metabolic rate of 1456.  Three cheers for muscle increasing resting metabolic weight!

Honestly, this helps me put my diet and certain failures into a whole new perspective.  I have been trying for a net calorie goal of 1320 calories a day (net meaning after exercise).  Whenever I was successful on lighter exercise days (days I couldn't consume extra based on my workouts), the following day I would eat EVERYTHING in site.  Turns out, for healthy weight loss, I should be targeting a net goal of 1800 calories.  Interesting side note, my trainer was not surprised by this result at all.

Second Test:  The Bod Pod
Next test was the bod pod.  I changed into a speedo swimsuit (I brought my own), and put the tight swim-type cap over my hair.  She weighed me again with the new accessories.  (I also peed again while changing - I cannot explain this).   Then, I climbed into the Bod Pod.  She ran through the instructions on how the air would feel still in the Pod.  That I was supposed to sit absolutely still.  She told me how long the measurement would take (I forget how much - less than a minute), and that she would open the door to allow in fresh air after.  Then she would close it and it would take a second measurement.  Turns out, sometimes it wants three measurements, and it did for me.  Again, I got her to snap a few photos with my phone.
I'm not sure I will make it a habit to post pictures of me in a swimsuit, just saying.
Door open picture.
Door closed.
Weight was 152.95 at the time of the test.
Percent body fat: 34%
Lean Body weight (lbs): 101.0

Honestly, the lady seemed kind of shocked that I had that much lean body weight.  (I think she made a judgment call based on how I looked when I came in).  Acceptable, healthy range for a woman (according to the Bod Pod print out) is 23-30% fat.  I'm so close!

The results page included estimates for short and long term goals.  Both goals assumed my lean body weight would stay the same.  (My trainer didn't like that, he insists that number will be increasing, I'm a tad scared!)  To get to 30% body fat without changing my lean body weight, I need to lose 8.7 lbs.  To get to a long term goal of 26% body fat without changing my lean body weight, I need to lose 16.5 lbs.

I asked my trainer what my goal should be given what we now know about my body composition.  He suggested 10 lbs.  I have been saying that I need to lose 20 more lbs for over 2 years.  It is almost emotional to only say I need to lose 10 lbs.

Third Test:  VO2 assessment
I drank some water prior to beginning this test, and changed back into my running clothes.  For this test, you wear the same mask as the one in the Resting Metabolism test.  It is attached to a computer.  You also wear a heart rate monitor.  Then, you run on a treadmill breathing into the mask.  The technician increases the speed and the incline based on your heart rate and Oxygen/Carbon Dioxide input/output ratio.

She started me with walking.  Then increased the pace until 6 mph.  Then she started increasing the incline.  She increased the incline until it was at 8%, and we finished the test using those two settings.

It was just starting to feel hard when she stopped the test and said good.  I was like - wait, what???  I was so confused that I forgot to even ask for a picture of the setup.

Turns out, for new clients, their policy is to do a VO2 assessment sub-max test instead of a max test.  According to her, the everyday individual usually doesn't want a full to-exhaustion test, and finding the information for zones 1, 2 and 3 of heart rate testing is typically what they want.  The computer uses your fatigue threshold (determined by the moment your carbon dioxide output is exceeding your oxygen input, which is when we stopped the test) to estimate your actual VO2 Max number.  This 2 digit number is the "gold standard for determining fitness".  It is determined using a formula, where the denominator is weight in kg.  Thus, I can improve this number by losing weight.  This does not change my max heart rate or my heart rate zones, but will change the measure of my fitness level, the VO2 max number.  They estimated my VO2 max to be 45.  As a indicator of where this puts me, normal for a woman my age  is in the low to mid 30's.

The details and information I got from this report are amazing!  And, probably way too much to put in a blog post (especially one as wordy as this one is becoming!)  In summary, I got a graph with my efficiency (fat to carb burning while exercising), my heart rate training zones (1-3 only), the calories I burn while working in each zone (as well as how that number is portioned between carbs and fat), and an awesome graph of my active metabolic training crossed with heart rate and calories burned.

The bottom line from all this VO2 data?  My running group recommends that you run your long training run and most non-tempo, non-interval, non-recovery runs, with your heart rate in  mid-to-high zone 2.  Until recently (as in, post Flying Pig), I have not been doing that.

Most runners supposedly train at a higher heart rate than they are supposed to.  I, apparently, bring a whole new level to not-pushing yourself enough, and have been training at a lower heart rate than I am supposed to for all my training.  I have been running my long runs in zone 1.  My tempo runs are supposed to be in zone 3.  Based on how zone 3 has felt when I ran in it this morning and last week, I have RARELY run in zone 3.  Intervals are supposed to be zone 4, usually.  Until I started with the Dam intervals, based on perception, I have never run in zone 4.

As my trainer put it - "I'm so glad you got this testing done, now I know I can push you a lot harder."

Damn. And Double Damn.
Next time, do not show the trainer the results idiot!
Seriously though, I cannot describe in words the value of having all this information with which to tweak my training (and my nutrition intake).  I feel like it is going to make a HUGE difference.  I highly recommend it.  I can only imagine the impact it will make on my races and on my Rainier training.  (Based on my VO2 max, Baseline Fitness had a marathon predicted time that is well better than my current time.  I had to laugh at that.)

I did email the lady after the testing and express my extreme disappointment that I did not get the VO2 max test that I thought I was paying for.  She has agreed to re-do the test to the full VO2 max, but we have not yet rescheduled that test.

If you made it to the end of this very LONG post, thank you.  You clearly are not as indolent as I am.  :)

Have you ever had a VO2 assessment, Bod Pod assessment or Resting Metabolism assessment?  If so, did you find that it helped your training?


  1. This is so interesting! I think I'm going to ask for this sort of package of tests for Christmas (the next occasion, alas, when I can ask for gifts :^) ).

    The only test I've had is the Lactate Threshold test my coach administered when I started training with him. That was hard--I hope he doesn't make me do it again now that I've been training with him a year--but like your tests it yielded valuable info. I think what your tests are saying is that you can be....super fast!

    1. I don't know about the super fast part - but I certainly wouldn't complain! :D

  2. Very, very interesting! Watch out, PRs!!! :)

  3. Umm, you look HOT in that Speedo! I want to get these tests done too, but Max Sports still hasn't called me back.

    1. I love you for saying I look HOT in that Speedo. :D

  4. Id love to have those tests done!!! The V02 would be very helpful BUT, I too do not push myself!!! For some reason when my heart rate goes up and I feel like Im breathing to hard, I slow down!!! For some reason Im afraid to go to the next level!!

    1. I've been the same way for a long time. And...I just really like talking. :D


Comments pretty much make my day - so thank you for yours!