Testing, One, Two.

March 18,2013

Just a couple of weeks ago I wandered into a UPMC Emphysema COPD Research Center in my quest to become a “quantified athlete”—a little pop quiz for my physiological systems.  Patty gently referred to it as baseline cardiopulmonary exercise testing, but the street name is much more hard-core sounding: VO2 Max testing.  So, what puts the “MAX” in VO2 max? Maybe it’s WHO puts the MAX in VOmax?  Is it me?  Fingers crossed.

VO2 max is the maximum Volume of Oxygen (my favorite diatomic molecule, O2)­  uptake during exertion (i.e., exercise).  It’s one of several metrics of aerobic capacity and is a measure of physical fitness.

Here is a description of the test from Men’s Health Magazine:

“A face mask will be placed over your nose and mouth. This measures the gases exchanged when you breathe.

You will be allowed up to 10 minutes to warm up and achieve about 75% of your maximum heart rate. From then on, there will be a step wise increment of the intensity of the exercise. On the treadmill this translates to an increase in speed and gradient. On the bike this translates to an increase in resistance with a faster or constant cadence.

During the test, our medical personnel may shout encouragement to you to help you push beyond your perceived limits.

The test is terminated when the VO2 Max is reached or when you terminate the test due to discomfort or exhaustion.”

In other words, we get the number by pinching our noses, receiving oxygen through a mouth piece, hoping we don’t droll on anyone while simultaneously getting the worst cottonmouth ever, all while subjecting ourselves to a stationary bi
cycle program in which the pedaling gets progressively harder until we can’t pedal any more, our heart feels like it might expl

ode and “carbon dioxide in bubbling in our legs.”

Sounds pleasant, right?  In fact, I imagine this might be a feeling that someone with PH experiences all too often, if not in daily living. That thought just blows my mind.

I have been so overwhelmed at school I haven’t had the time to sit down with a professional (like Gene at Cycling Fusion or Dr. Patty George) to talk about my results and what weaknesses or strengths the test indicated.  However, it will serve as a good baseline to compare our individual performance gains later this year when we’re in the midst of racing and at “peak fitness.”  It will be great to report to you how all those hours of training made a significant physiological difference.

Right now, I’m hoping my peak physical fitness lines up perfectly with my first 100 mile mountain bike race on Labor Day weekend.


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