When I restarted training again 2014 (and racing 2015) I was surprised to see how accessible testing has become for all categories of athletes, not only to the top categories as in the past, but also to average age-groupers.

I am not talking about doping testing, which unfortunately seems to have gone the complete opposite direction. Pro’s have blood pass and experience frequent unannounced visits by WADA but there seems to be a complete lack of testing of age groupers. It’s amazing that two age group dopers were caught in the last few years but when you read the details about the cheaters Holly Balogh (2017, USA) and Thomas Lawaetz (2015, Denmark) it’s clear that someone really worked hard to get WADA out and test them – it didn’t happen as part of a structured testing in a race – someone had specifically given information that those two were using illegal substances.

But this post will not be about doping but rather about tests of your individual aerobic, anaerobic threshold and VO2 Max, done by knowledgeable people and documented in a professional way.

Over the years, it feels like I have read every book there is about training and racing and I know my body extremely well after so many years. So, it was with hesitation that I finally booked a test at Aktivitus. I made the decision after discussing it with my coach Teresa at Uperform.dk who really encouraged me to do the tests. I also reminded myself that I have made a commitment to use every possible legal advantage I can through better materials, methods and knowledge – finally I booked the appointment. Facts are friendly – belief is for religious people.

Test Time:

14:00 on a Tuesday I turn up at Aktivitus and Johan Hasselmark meet me and we start the tests with the bike leg. After a short warm up the resistance is increased every 3 minutes, a blood sample from a prick in the finger is collected and the heartrate is recorded. We take it up to 360W, 158 bpm and 7.1mmol lactate – no need to push it further as the purpose of the test is to identify at what resistance and heartrate the body makes the transition between the different energy supply systems.  

  • Aerobic threshold (LT) – the intensity level under which fat is the main source of energy.
  • Anaerobic threshold (AT) – the intensity level at which lactic acid starts to accumulate in the muscles and glycogen is used as the main source of energy.

 Test master – Johan Hasselmark (one of Sweden’s top adventure racer team “Swedish Armed Forces”)

Next test is running with the same process but with speed increase every 4 minutes and blood sample taken at the same intervals. The run LT and AT test is followed by a VO2 max run test where I get a mask on my face where they measure the amount of air (volume) I inhale as well as how much oxygen I absorbed from that air (uptake). This test was shorter and rather than increasing speed the treadmill was elevated to simulate a steep hill. A really steep hill. Johan stopped the treadmill when claimed that ”your stride started to look more like a shrimp than a runner”. I was happy with that that and I am sure that I maxed out on both the speed and elevation that was possible…. 

Still looking relaxed and happy – before the VO2 mask….

Results bike:

My results were somewhat in line with my expectations but with some very important learnings (more on that later):

Bike:

Effect:

Heartrate:

Aerobic (LT):

240W

132 bpm

Anaerobic (AT):

305W

148 bpm

 

Results running:

Run:

Tempo:

Heartrate:

Aerobic (LT):

4:35 min/km

145 bpm

Anaerobic (AT):

4:10 min/km

154 bpm

VO2 Max testing is a real treat! 

Apparently, anything over 46 as a VO2 max is considered “elite” at my age (Compared to the average population), so I guess there is still hope to become faster at +50.

VO2 Max:

 

Test value:

59,2 ml O2 /kg/min

Oxygen uptake:

5092 ml O2/min

Key learnings:

  • There are statistical models to derive intensity zones out from maximum heart rate or FTP-tests. Most common I believe is Dr. Andrew Coggans models. These models has been developed in the past due to advanced tests hasn’t been available to ‘ordinary people’ or Age groupers. However, during recent years advanced physiological tests are far more available. Statistical models are statistical, which means an individual can be far off the statistical zones.
  • In my current shape, I should aim to race Ironman distance at 230-235W on the bike, this is higher than I had intended and a good indication that the winter training with 1,000km per month has not been wasted time.
  • Given my VO2 Max I should be able to move threshold 10-15W before the race season start.
  • Based on the FTP tests that we have done – the bike zones (watts and heartrate) that was defined by Uperform.dk was a close but not exact. Now we have the exact values.
  • The running zones were way off compared to the zones that we have worked with based on 20min run test on the track. Both heartrate and speed. It’s highly likely that the current values reflect my current running shape that is far from what it need to be around race time. Uperform.dk works with the principle to “lift” one sport at the time and for the past 2month the focus has been on the bike where I really made progress. Now it’s time to get the running in shape before Ironman Lanzarote in May and more importantly Challenge Roth in July.
  • Talking to people who refers to real research rather than opinions and hearsay is so refreshing (specially in our current communication landscape). The team at Aktivitus are impressively knowledgeable and when discussing “train low, race high” concepts with reduction in carbohydrates to promote increase of mitochondria I got a very good reference to a study/thesis done at GIH by PhD. Niklas Psilander (2014) 

Summary:

Would I recommend going to Aktivitus for testing for a beginner/intermediate – absolutely, you will learn a lot about how to train and can even get personalized programs to work on the areas you are weak in based on the tests performed on you – not a general shrink wrapped standard program. 

Would I recommend it to an experienced athlete that has been in the sport for +10 years plus – Yes. I think we all are victims to habit to some degree and even if we try to challenge ourselves with new programs, drills and concepts – we still need to measure to know the truth. Only measuring the actual results a few times per year in races will not really expose the strength and weaknesses that we need to work on.

Have a great spring – train smart!

//Maggi

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