Ah a day off. Sleep in, laze about, maybe go to Nano's for lunch...Well that dream was, as usual, shattered by the alarm going off at 6AM. Yes I had a day off but lazing around wasn't part of the plan. I had an morning appointment with Dr Andrew Vogler at Adelaide Human Performance. I had never undertaken a formal fitness test before and thought as I'm off to the World Masters Championships now was the time to do it. Andrew recommended an Anaerobic threshold assessment and a VO2max test. Perhaps naively I said yes to both. So there I was up early on my day off to have a good breakfast and coffee early enough to allow for the 2 hour window prior to the test. Water was OK but no food and no coffee for at least 2 hours before. That's almost like fasting!

On with my riding kit, shoes in hand and off to the testing centre. On arrival Andrew sat me down and went through the test procedures with me. Nothing surprising there as Andrew had previously provided an information sheet outlining it all but running through it again allowed me to ask any questions about the procedure. A quick weigh in and we were set to go. Andrew took the first blood sample at rest to establish my baseline. Thoughtfully Andrew chose my earlobe to draw the drop of blood. The earlobe is good because you feel little more than a slight pressure rather than a 'prick'. That done we set up the Wattbike to accommodate my long legs and arms. Andrew supplied a Polar heart rate strap so he could also monitor my heart rate during the tests. Then to fit the face mask. As I was doing a VO2max test, a face mask is needed to ensure both the volume and composition of my breath was captured. The face mask is very light weight and despite the looks is quite unobtrusive. Two lines are attached, one to capture the volume of my breath and the other to analyse the composition of oxygen and carbon dioxide. The mask was fitted and setup in a matter of minutes.

With that we were set to start. The test itself consists of six sub-maximal sessions of four minutes each, separated by a one minute rest during which a drop of blood is taken and immediately analysed for the measure of lactic acid. These initial sessions are followed by a five minute rest before the final session in which effort is increased each minute until you can no longer sustain the power output (in watts) or you signal you have had enough.

We started at 75 watts, the large readout on the Wattbike making it easy to keep the average watts to 75 over the four minutes. One thing the did surprise me was the variation in watts even at a steady cadence. Andrew did assure me this was normal and the average watts over the four minutes was what we were looking for. Each four minute session then increased steadily in watts so by the end I was sitting on an average wattage of 250 for the four minutes. By this stage my breathing was becoming heavier but it was still quite sustainable. I also found by this stage, having to concentrate on the average watts, that I had generally forgotten I was wearing the face mask. The taking of the blood sample was easy and if I didn't know it was happening I would have been blissfully unaware so slight is the discomfort. Also of interest is how close my right leg/left leg 'work rate' was. Having never tested it before I had assumed my right would do more work than my left. I'd assumed this from being 'right hand/right foot' dominant and from using my right leg to push off when starting to ride. However on each of the last few sessions at higher wattage outputs the read outs were 51% right leg and 49% left leg so quite balanced between the two.

Having completed the  sub-maximal sessions it was time for a longer rest and to have a drink before starting the last session. Andrew assures me he allowed me five full minutes but it didn't feel that long. Back on to the Wattbike and as Andrew observed I had handled 250 watts for four minutes without too much discomfort, he suggested we start at 300 watts for one minute and increase by 25 watts each minute with no rest between. This is were my breathing got laboured and by the end quite heavy but I managed to average 400 watts over the last minute and an average of 385 over the four minute session.. Once my wattage had peaked Andrew gave the signal that the session was complete and I could back off and just spin comfortably until I had regained by breath. He removed the mask allowing me to take a drink as well. I stayed spinning easily for three minutes when another drop of blood was taken. With that it was all finished.

While I continued to cool down on the Wattbike, Andrew started some preliminary analysis on the two laptops setup, one connected to the sensors in the face mask and the other recording my lactic acid readings from the blood tests. Firstly Andrew ran through my VO2max results. I had recorded 45 Ml/kg/min putting me in the upper 15% for my age group or in the 'excellent' range. So far, so good. We then went to the second laptop which had calculated my aerobic and anaerobic thresholds and mapped those to the heart rates Andrew had been monitoring. We chatted about the results for a while with Andrew answering any questions I had. A couple of days later a quite extensive report was emailed to me along with a suggested training program designed to my heart rate zones. The report contained not only the test data but quite extensive commentary on my test results. This included information on my

  • VO2Max
  • Submaximal results
  • Aerobic and anaerobic thresholds, and
  • Training recommendations

Pleasing was the analysis that my VO2max was ''excellent', my HR at a power output was lower than average showing my cycling efficiency was good and my threshold wattage is above average.

All good indicators with still over eight months of training still to go.

Views: 571

Comment by Steven Ellison on December 13, 2013 at 9:00

Sounds like an invaluable session! Thanks for the write-up, interesting reading.

Comment by Jules Begg on December 15, 2013 at 19:57

Great write up.  Has it changed what you do for your training? Was your pre test predictions for HR zones close to the test results?

Comment by Gus on December 16, 2013 at 20:41

Thanks for taking the time to write this up. It's really interesting and I don't think you need to be training to meet a specific goal to undertake it.

How close does the recommended training plan match the other training plans you've followed?

Comment by Robert Daniell on December 17, 2013 at 17:40

Thanks for the positive feedback. I'll try and answer all questions in one reply.

Invaluable? Yes, considering what we spend on our bikes and associated paraphernalia this test is a small cost but gives a great insight into how YOUR body works, where you are in comparison to others and aspects you can work on to improve. I wish I'd done it years ago.

Predicted threshold Vs tested. My predicted lactate threshold heart rate for a time trial test was 153 my actual for measure lactic acid in my blood was 149. So in trying to do training toward my threshold I was actually pushing too hard. For example in hill training I'd target say 150bpm thinking that was just under threshold where in fact I was just over.  So as you probably know I couldn't sustain that for long and would be frustrated that I couldn't maintain just under. Now of course I know why! So I've tweaked my heart rate training to match my threshold and am completing interval sessions strong. 

As for my training plan I haven't adjusted it, Andrew said he thought what I already had in place was a good mix of short, hard intervals, long endurance rides and rest. If anything the training plan he produced for me mirrored what I had already planned so it was good to see I was on the right track. But if you don't have a plan and want to train for a specific purpose - TDU stage for example, then he produces a training plan tailored to your heart rates with a similar mix of intervals, endurance and rest. 

Check Velo-poste edition 5 page 71  for an example of the report produced.

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