Food = Energy

Food = Energy

Monday, November 11, 2013

V02? Sure! Why not?

I would like to begin this post by saying, "Thank you," to our veterans for their service and putting their lives on the line to protect this country and its people. 

Today is my last day of "break" and tomorrow I will be heading over to the middle school where I will be teaching 7th grade social studies. It is truly amazing how at ease I feel after just a short five day reprieve from teaching. Now, don't get me wrong. I love teaching and I loved being with my first graders each and every day. I'm grateful not for being away from them, but for the time I have had to do things for me such as going home to see my family, catching up on some TV episodes, and most importantly, getting to run in the morning again.

During my time on a NJ track team a year and a half back, I was known for getting my runs in before anybody else even thought about brushing their teeth. An alarm set for 6:15 means I can enjoy as peaceful a run as I can get in a city such as New Brunswick. I get to lace up my running shoes, strap on my watch, and head out the door without having to worry about stopping at lights or running on the sidewalk. I can't wait for the day I'll be heading out on the trails instead of the roads...One day, Will. One day. 

But on my last day of break I decided to sleep in and by "sleep in" I mean I had my alarm set for 7:30. So of course at 7:15 my body said, "Enough sleep already!" My plan for that morning was to run a few wake-up miles and then run a 40 minute tempo run before lunch. Val had other plans for me. 

Val was awake before me and came into the bedroom to say, "Good morning," and proceeded to ask me if I wanted to go to her lab for a VO2 Max testing. To clarify, Val works as a research assistant in an exercise psychophysiology lab and I have been trying to get a VO2 Max test done ever since I knew I was allowed. I told her that I'd be there at 9am and finally followed through with it. Procrastination won many battles throughout the past couple months, but it finally lost the war! 

For those of you who don't know what a VO2 Max is, allow me to borrow (okay, steal!) an explanation from an article on the subject:
VO2 max refers to the maximum amount of oxygen that an individual can utilize during intense or maximal exercise. It is measured as "milliliters of oxygen used in one minute per kilogram of body weight." 
Any athlete whose performance is immediately contingent on their oxygen intake/utilization would greatly benefit from knowing such information. As an aspiring endurance runner, I plan to use the numbers from my results to help enhance my training and further progress my knowledge of and performance in this amazing sport. 

Anyway, I told Val I would be there at 9 and of course I don't leave the apartment until about 8:52. I had three options to get to the lab: bike, run, or bus. I didn't want to go back up the stairs and lug my bike back down the stairs so that option was quickly ruled out. I also didn't want to affect my testing results by running there and having an increased heart rate before I even began the test. I compromised. I would run to the first Rutgers bus stop along the way and then take that bus to the campus I needed to be on. One problem: the bus wasn't there when I was arriving and I was feeling too good to wait around. Next bus stop; same thing. There would be two more stops I could catch a bus at or else risk some skewed VO2 Max results. As I am arriving at the third stop, a bus catches up and stops just ahead. Perfect! New problem: it was a packed bus with nobody exiting and a lot of people boarding. My solution: keep running. There was one stop left and I had to make it count. See, I forgot about the hill I would have to run to get to the campus where Val's lab was and walking the hill was not an option given how late I was already. Fortunately, I caught the ever-elusive bus at the final stop before the hill and several people exited and only one person boarded: me. Whew! Figured I'd let the length of this paragraph reflect my little journey. But to think...the fun was just getting started!

I finally arrived at Val's lab and after some introductions and filling out a health history form, I was ready to get started. Val fitted me with all the necessary equipment and told me to hop up on the treadmill. If you've ever experienced a VO2 Max test, then you'll understand how uncomfortable my mouth was feeling. Running and breathing efficiently is a technique in itself, but this test raises that bar to a whole new level. Don't quite understand? 

 How about now?

The treadmill part is continuous running, but consists of several stages with each stage increasing in intensity. By stage 9 my legs were searing and I felt like they could anchor a ship or at least a speedboat. I gave Val a "10 seconds left" signal and pushed through those final seconds so hard that the feeling I felt when the treadmill slowed down and declined in elevation could only be matched by someone handing me a winning jackpot ticket for no reason at all.

I am very happy with my results, but I know they only mean that I need to start running by heart rate as often as I can until I am able to gauge my body's levels on my own. This VO2 Max test is a door to a level of running--there are many-- that is unknown to me and I'm grateful for the opportunity to continue my learning about this sport. 

Here I am on the lab's treadmill. Wish I knew how warm it was going to be so I could have brought shorts to run in!

To see Ultramarathon runner Dean Karnazes participate in a VO2 Max test, click on this link and fast forward the clip to the 07:15 minute mark. 

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