Wednesday, July 24, 2013

VO2max Test Protocols

I was fortunate recently to be called by a friend in the medical field that is doing a research if i am willing to be a test subject in her clinic. To test the VO2max and other parameters. I jumped at first offer obviously. I've previously predicted my VO2max based on my 1.5mile run effort. That was in February 2013 and it returned a "calculated" VO2max of 52.
The reading said I am 41% population average, which meant there are 41% lower than me, which essentially put me in the average headcount. The VO2max was my main aim and it showed my effort to be 14.8 times more than just laying down. In short, this numbers showed how hard I pushed to the maximal limits before I either quit, or finish the test. Being trained as an engineer, I am naturally a data-whore. So, these numbers intrigue me and the opportunity for a clinical VO2max test is too hard to resist.

For this opportunity, I declared to my supervisor that I will be used as a test subject and requested for time off (2 hours). It was accepted (Boss, if you read this, you are awesome). But I requested for an MC and put in my record as such (since the HR do not know what to put also, no one came to them telling them about this up front). I went to UMMC, anxious that afternoon.

Damn it, now you know if those trainings you put in resulted in something, or nothing, or just syok sendiri (self gratification). 
For the test, I need to register myself with UMMC. I never registered myself in a Hospital (yet, i hope never) and pay RM30 for "specialist" clinic. Not too bad considering there is no other more complete facility to do this at RM30. I went up to see Doc PS and to be honest, I was anxious. My Resting HR (HRrest) is below 50bpm on normal day (like now as I am typing away) with about 38bpm first thing in morning. It was struggling to get down to sub 70bpm as the test commence. And that is only taking measurements (height and weight). 
I was put on a weight machine which is capable to dissect my body composition by part (left torso, right torso, left leg, right leg) and give near accurate reading (bio-electric impedence or BIA) of what my body are made up off. Would be cool if there is a dual energy X-ray absorpitometry or DEXA scanner. But a high-end BIA (this is not your typical tanita or omron) is good!
I am officially(clothed) 67.9kg with 69kkg of body fat (10.2%). My BMR was near what I've predicted all the while aka 1650kcal/day for normal body function. By body parts, I am classified to be right heavy - which is expected.
Body Mass and Fat distribution
Interesting to note that on the side with more muscle, the body fat were lower (right torso) and there were equal fat distribution on the lower torso. Bodyfat on all four parts were "under", which is a good thing. 
Checked where it should be
Evidence of the clean eating is showing that the items that need to be high stay high and the item need to be low (though showing under) stayed low. This machine was even capable of telling me how much minerals and proteins in my body. I am impressed.
All within range
But that wasn't why I was there. This is just the beginning of the test and the full blown VO2Max test started immediately after. It begin with a Step test. A metronome was set to tick at 1-second interval and I were to step on the step (about 40cm) one-leg at a time for a full 5-minutes. My heart rate is recorded using Polar (supplied by the hospital) and immediately after that, I am to sit for 2-mins with my recovery HR taken once/min. The test was not strenuous with me maxing out at about 117bpm at the end of the 5mins. My recovery was 75bpm (min 1) and 64(min 2). My 2ndMin recovery were lower than my starting HR (68bpm). The anxiousness did get to me!

Immediately after the test, I was asked to adjust/sit on the cycling machine, which was hooked up to the computer to monitor my level of effort vs heartrate. This is to be the Sub-maximal test. The method is Cycle Ergometer.

I will cycle in a progressive load starting from anything a progressive load for 5 minutes to have my HR recorded. Submaximal is 75% of HRmax, which in my case 138bpm. Sound easy. 

As the load on the bike were added, I am to keep concentrating to pedal between 60-65rpm to get a representative results. Not too hard. I am used to crank at 90rpm and 60 suddenly felt like I was cycling to the grocery shop in my old bike.

HR 99 at 66rpm with 13N force moving at 525kg-f...
I had problem elevating my heartrate to 138bpm and I had to try twice and the computer could not compute my results. It is still good workout anyway. Trying to keep at 60-65bpm was tougher than I though as I tend to over crank despite the heavier load. I guess being a triathlete has it's advantage as my muscle fatigue way slower on the bike.

With that test not able to compute any results, I moved on to the breathing test. It is to test the Lung capacity and i am to take 3 normal breath and then give 3 best effort inhale and big exhale. I felt like big bad wolf trying to blow down the piggies home. Like seriously. I repeat the test three times because the first two was not sufficient to record long enough transient time to make the data any useful. The challenge here is to ensure no leak at the mouth piece, which took a bit of practice. 

I remember Doc PS insert my data as ex-smoker, more than 12 years, average 20stick/day. Which was what I was 12 years ago. Yes, i quit cold turkey and now, I looked like a Turkey doing this.

Cluck cluck

Oh wait, that's chicken.
The last test was the treadmill test. I was told by Doc PS there are two ways to get the VO2Max, the Ergo cycle or the treadmill. I was asked to get on the treadmill and we are to do a Bruce protocol.

According to Bruce Protocol (in wikipedia) and BrianMac,  The objective of the Bruce Treadmill Test (Bruce 1972)[1] is to monitor the development of the athlete's general endurance (VO2max).

The first 4 stages were really a walk in the park, literally. Oh wait, I walk faster in the park than that! Doc PS say that the real test will come in at Stage 4 where the speed will be 6.7km/h at 16% gradient. 

GoBionicRide - Sockless for the VO2max test. 
Because UMMC has it's Sports Medicine department, the doctors are all well versed with the machines and protocols. Doc PS promised me I will start running at Stage 4 and waddayaknow...I did! The run was a bit boring because I see nothing on the screen. I need to be kept entertained and talking is not possible through the facemask. All i can communicate with her was grunt (though i was telling her - FASTER).
Stage4 : mo-man-thai!
As the test progresses, i start to concentrate on the run. Knee lift, kickback, forefoot/midfoot land. Have to ensure proper form and functions. The mask was a bit uncomfy to wear as it did to an extend restrict a free flow of air exchange though there were 1stm(atmosphere) of gas coming through. As I was still below LTHR and LTpace, there were no issues to maintain the whole motion, hence the thumbs up.
The challenge kicks in at Stage 5. Doc PS told me no one (or the machine) has never went past tage 5 in UMMC. I see that as a challenge. To be honest, I have no idea what Stage 5 is. As much as I did my own research, I sort of missed out Bruce Protocol. So much for being anxious.
Stage 5!
I started to put in more effort to the run mid-way through Stage5. I was sweating and the sweat was stinging in my eyes. Normally I can just lift the t-shirt (2ndskin, no less) and wipe my sweat away, but not that day. It was blinding and painful. But I am not gonna stop.

Left is my stats at Stage 5 with 2minutes (of 3/stage) to go. HR slowly climbing to LTHR (164bpm) and I know I have started running at close to 4:15 pace effort. Looking back at the chart above, Stage 5 is at 18% gradient at 8km/h, which translate to something I would do on a Sunday Hillwork up Kiara. Felt just right below the usual effort I would put in. Very manageable. I am waiting for Stage 6. But first, the sweat. It's stinging my eyes.

See No Evil. Speak No Evil. But Hearing Evil to GO HARD!
At one point, I was running dangerously close to the edge of the treadmill while trying to figure out and to stay in-line. Recovery were fast and lucky for the 8km/h speed, it was a rather graceful recovery. Stage 6 kicked in and I started to feel the burn in the eyes.

12.5 minutes in and you can see from the graph on the left that the volume of air taken in has increased dramatically. I am already hyperventilating to compensate for the workout. 

Doc PS reminded me to signal if I want to stop. 

No way I will stop. I want an accurate representation of my own fitness. Godamit i paid RM30 for this.

Ya, i know. Kiasu.
Stage 6. 29seconds in 93% HRmax. 20% gradient. 8.8km/h. 
On level of exertion, I know I can push more at that point. The legs were right, the breathing were controlled. I was moving to Zone5c: Anaerobic Capacity. 

I am way past the LTHR. Way past my usual push at training. I know I am starting to get fatigue and the sweat in the eyes is getting to me.

16:49 on the treadmill. Stage 6 effort. 
Stopped and recovery. You can see I am still hyperventilating. The urge to remove the facemask was great. But in the name of research, i hang on.
My recovery were fast. Which is something I am proud off. Those HIIT has helped to develop a strong base. I was back posing and smiling in a minute.
This is what I got from the test. Much info that may require me to google and find out the meaning. Though it will be easier to get Doc PS to explain, but lets see what I can learn from these parameters. Key point to look here is the VO2max reading classified under Metabolic Response. There are a few parameter of interest namely LT (lactate threshold), Respiratory compensation (RC) and Peak. I noticed that RC was when I started active breathing, which explained the sudden spike of oxygen intake. There is a whole write up on RC alone which I am still researching. Will share what I know separately. The Peak is where/what this test was above. The last/highest figure of Oxygen volume taken in at Peak effort  - 54.11ml/min/kg. And this number were better than my 52ml/min/kg counted from my 1.5miler effort. So, there were (technically) Improvement!
However, as well as these number represent, I am still considered to be average among athletes. I am comparing myself against athletes because I am training like one and only way to improve is to look forward and to be as good, if not better than them. 
54.11mg/min/kg while is excellent for my age group, is average for athlete. 
At most, I am just considered to be "Trained".
However, there are many factors to VO2max. It could be combination of a few factor - including additional energy/effort used for the Ergometer test. But I am taking all these as a good experience and baseline. I am to repeat this test again in two weeks' time. 
Will the number be better? I doubt so.
One thing for certain, I will need to double up my training and effort. For that, I say "Bring it on".
Next : Round Two of VO2max Test


  1. I have been meaning to do this test for the longest time. Time to give a buzz to Doc PS.

  2. You're fat deficient? Walauweh.

  3. Do it with Doc PS ke? OK la, I also wanna do it.

  4. Had my session today. I seriously gotta cut fat off my body. Need to start lsd.

    Reachef stage 6 as well but couldn't last long. VO2 max still sub60.