Jake and Peg feel the burn for VO2 testing
PEG: That’s what I thought too the first time I had a treadmill test a couple years ago. Easy it was not. But surely the test would be different on a spin bike. I mean, it’s not like it could replicate a climb on Mont Ventoux. Bernie, the rep from LeMond, set up the bike with my pedals and got it adjusted just so. After putting on two heart rate monitor straps, I listened to instructions from the Garmin engineer and Nate, the New Leaf rep administering the test. Then, all in the name of science and test data, I eagerly donned that lovely mask and started pedaling.
JAKE: I don’t know if eager is the right way to describe it, but I felt confident when Nate fired up my treadmill to what he called “an almost uncomfortably slow jog” to get me started. So far he and I were on the same page. It felt slow and a bit awkward. Then we ramped things up to boost my heart rate – first with gradually faster speeds then by literally ramping it up. We hit a sweet spot for me, about 8 mph or 7:30 miles, and he was intrigued to see my constantly climbing heart rate plummet for a while when I found my comfort zone. But comfort wasn’t his goal. Quite the contrary.
PEG: After zipping through a quick warmup, Nate gradually increased tension on the bike. Earlier, I’d heard him describe how he could tell when a tester was “done,” or near their max, before they could. I was skeptical. From his vantage point on the other side of his laptop, how could mere numbers and charts tell him how much pedal power Peg had left? As the going got tougher and sweat started streaming a mere 7 minutes into the test, I panicked, feeling like I couldn’t get enough air through that confounded mask. Then I relaxed, slowed my breathing and settled into a rhythm I thought I could sustain for another 4-5 minutes. But apparently Nate knew my limits more than I and, seeing the data he needed, he soon said it was time to wrap it up. That’s it? Less than 9 minutes and I’d peaked? Talk about a short, fast death.
JAKE: The difference on the treadmill is that there’s a real chance of being chucked off the back if you can’t keep up. (See aforementioned videos.) So Nate has a system. Because his New Leaf analytics can tell him when I’ve gone from comfortable breathing to shallow, rapid breathing to hyperventilating, he knows when I’m about to max out. So in the two minutes that it takes me to go from confident strides to desperate lumbering, he subtly switches position from flanking the treadmill to guarding the rear exit with a hand near my back. Keep in mind that this hand wouldn’t stand a chance of catching an adult male flung backward at 8 mph, which makes it that much better that he had me slap the stop button just in time. For anyone curious, my trip to max output took 12 minutes. Fortunately, the follow-up tests weren’t as dramatic.
PEG: The remaining two test days included a 30-minute workout at moderate speed and a 30-minute hill interval workout. Except for the lack of fans and visual or audio distractions in our make-shift testing room, these workouts were pleasant. Until 20+ minutes into it, I realize that the sweat trapped inside the mask covering my nose and mouth has only one place to go. Well, I was a little thirsty anyway. After finishing each of these tests, water never tasted sweeter.
JAKE: And flat roads never felt flatter. The next time you want a challenge, attack some hills – real or simulated. Of course, the nice thing is now Peg and I will know exactly where our heart rate could be and should be for each stage of the workout. So thanks to Nate from New Leaf and Claudette and Natalie from our fitness team for this newfound wealth of knowledge – and increased appreciation for our Forerunners, heart rate monitors and tolerance for exhaustion. And kudos to the video crew for capturing our pain on camera for everyone to enjoy. You should also check out their work in the Edge and Forerunner learning centers, where you can learn more about the products that benefit from these types of tests.
Okay, here’s the obligatory disclaimer from our lawyers (you knew it was coming, right?): Please don’t try this at home without the right expert oversight. Seriously, for this type of VO2 test, it’s essential that participants be monitored by experts like Nate during the process. And remember to always check with your doctor before embarking on any new workout regimen.
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