How VO2Max and RMR testing can help guide the way
I remember in graduate school at The Ohio State University, one of my professors shared an amusing anecdote about goal setting and measuring success.It goes something like this:
An army is marching into battle when a lowly sergeant comes up to the captain and says, "Captain, we're going in the wrong direction to reach our destination!"
"I know", the captain says.
"Well then, why don't we turn around and go the right way?" Asks the sergeant.
"Because," explains the captain, "We're making really good time!"
Many of us train hard to reach our goals, whatever they may be:
How will you know if your training program was a success?
This is where some good, sound, scientific data could help. Cardiorespiratory fitness testing (or VO2Max + RMR) is one of the best ways to objectively measure fitness and look for markers of progress..
What Is Cardiorespiratory Fitness and VO2Max?
According to the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM), cardiorespiratory fitness is the ability to perform dynamic, moderate- to high-intensity exercise involving large-muscle groups for prolonged periods of time (aka running, rowing, cycling, swimming, etc). One of the most important measures of it is VO2Max or maximal oxygen consumption. It is a measure of how well the heart and lungs work to deliver oxygen and ATP (aka energy) to working muscles. Your gender, genetics, volume of training, and quality of training contribute to this number. The more undertrained you are, the more opportunity you have for it to rise.
What happens in a VO2Max test?
First of all, you can't train for a VO2Max test. The whole point of it is to give you a picture of your current fitness level and make a plan to improve your fitness. It will give you a snapshot of how effectively you burn calories from fat and carbohydrates. From there, you can build a workout plan based on your specific goals.
After getting your weight, you’ll put on a mask (or nose plug and mouthpiece) and heart rate monitor strap. Sure, it’s a little awkward at first, but there’s nothing constricting your air.
Then you’ll complete a graded exercise test, starting very slowly and gradually increasing your speed and/or grade. Everyone’s protocol is slightly different based on their current fitness level. If you’re doing lactate, we’ll take a small sample of blood from your ear (most people don’t even feel it) after each stage.
Once you’ve gotten to your maximum capacity (VO2Max in most cases), you’ll grab the bars, straddle the belt and cool down very slowly. This gives us raw data, which we interpret into your heart rate and pace training zones as well as your fat burning capacity and recommendations for fueling during exercise.
If you use the results correctly, YOU’LL IMPROVE (aka GET FASTER and FITTER). Here’s how:
Get Objective Measurements (Information is Power!)
If you are trying to make consistent improvements in your fitness,the more data you have, the better. That fancy Apple watch, Garmin or pulse monitor on the treadmill are just estimations... kind of one size fits all.
VO2Max testing is the most scientific way to measure your fitness right now. You can also compare yourself to a population of people in your age range and gender to see where you stack up and how much you might be able to improve. And when (and if) you get tested down the road, you (and your coaches) can monitor the degree of change.
Now, Create an Efficient Workout Plan
Information is power, so use it effectively. Use your custom training zones from the testing data (i.e.lactate, heart rate, volume of oxygen) to train efficiently. This is important to avoid getting injured or overtraining.
Using your specific heart rate zones where you most efficiently use the maximal energy, you’ll know exactly how hard to work and to separate your training days effectively. It’s all about training in the right zones at the right time in order to appropriately recover.
Using those custom zones for optimal recovery means that you can build fitness…faster.
Create a Nutrition Plan
Again, the treadmill doesn’t know how many calories your burned. It’s just a built-in formula.
By getting tested, you’ll know how many calories, carbohydrates and fat you burn at each stage. With this, you’ll get personal recommendations for how much you can consume at every intensity to optimize performance, avoid GI distress, and prevent cramping. You’ll also see how efficiently you burn fat, which is important (and free!) fuel source for endurance athletes AND for someone who might want to lose body fat.
Again, information is power. And that information translates into creating an optimal fueling plan based on your goals. A well oiled machine operates smoothly just like a well nourished body runs well. A good nutritionist or coach can help you translate that into what should be on your plate for the best quality energy.
So why not test yourself? The only thing you have to lose is a little sweat (and just a few dollars). We think it’s important to incorporate it into your exercise to take your fitness to that next level.
Remember the famous Yogi Berra-ism:
"If you don't know where you're going, you'll probably get there!"