Thursday, February 07, 2008

Of Lab Techs, and Gas Masks.

I met up with Sweet Baboo and we went down to the UNM Exercise Physiology Lab to get our Vo2 max and Wingate testing done. This was Sweet Baboo's holiday present from me, and idea that Bigun helped me come up with when I was wondering what to do for the Baboo. Pirate, meanwhile, suggested I do it with him because 1) It would be fun, and 2) "You know he loves all that togetherness $hit."

Now, the UNM Exercise Physiology Lab does this far cheaper than nearly any gym will, and because they are a public institution, they cannot advertise. However, it's great for them because they make a bit of money off it, and their graduate students studying exercise science get to practice with real people. I'll bet, if you are near a major university with an exercise science graduate degree, that they can do it for you, as well. Check around, if you're interested. We got a slight discount because Baboo is an adjunct faculty member there, but for the two of us it was right around $200.

So here's how Wingate testing goes: You get on a stationary bike and pedal like crazy for about 30 seconds. During that time, the resistance is increased until it is nearly impossible to pedal, but the testers are yelling GO GO GO GO GO GO. It's like a bike race where the finish line is at the top of a nearly vertical cliff face. A graph appears that shows your power output and shows the progression from beginning to end, the ratio of which determines whether you're a fast-twitch or a slow-twitch kind of person. In other words, are you in for the short sprint or the long course? Sweet Baboo is--well, you'll just have to read his blog, won't you?

So, for the Vo2 max. In this test they put a mask on your face so that they catch every exhalation, and measure your heart rate and respiration, as well as the content of your respiration. So it is that if you are exhaling more Oxygen, that means you're burning more fat, and if you're exhaling more carbon dioxide, then you're burning more carbohydrates.

Not me, someone much cuter. -->>

So, you start slowly on a treadmill and then work you way up to a challenging, but manageable pace. You're working hard but you can keep it up for a little while. While this is going on you're wearing what looks and feels like a clear gas mask that has a mouthpiece the size of a lemon and a spit catcher, since you can't swallow or spit. Your mouth goes dry and occasionally, they ask you to point to a chart to indicate relatively how you feel (very hard, somewhat hard) that you're working. You indicate with hand signals if they need to speed up, slow down, or keep the level the same.

Then they start tipping up the incline until basically you are not able to work any more and signal to stop the test. They can do this on a cycle or dreadmill; we chose the latter. It takes between ten and twelve minutes, and you basically work to your maximum ability, hence the name. It's not like I would imagine a 2k race would be, if you put the finish line at the top of a very long ladder.

Watching Baboo was a pleasure. I don't often get to watch him work out. The scientist running the computer had him running about an 8 or 9 minute pace while giving out orders to the tech. I looked over her shoulder and said, "Oh, that's his marathon pace. You're going to have a long wait for him to wear out, " so she sped him up and then started tipping up the incline until he was gasping audibly and finally signaled to stop the test. My results were similar, although, as one might imagine, much slower. (I wasn't being cruel. You're supposed to work to failure.)

I don't remember all my numbers and they're going to provide us with oodles of data and graphs and such, but my results are this from the tests:
  • Baboo is a mixed-type athlete, while I'm more of a fast-twitch sprinter type.
  • I'm in the 92nd percentile of fitness in the general population, with the same approximate fitness as the average college phys ed major. (no wonder I can chase those 8th- and 9th-graders down.) and so is Baboo, so relatively speaking, we're at the same level and percentile of fitness for our age and gender. Not that it's a contest or anything. I'm just sayin'.

  • My max heart rate is between 170 and 175, which is nearly 20 beats below where it was 3 years ago. Far out.

  • My vo2 max places me in the "very good," approaching "excellent" range for my age.
  • Baboo is a freight train, and I am the little engine that could. And I can. And I do.

    And all this in about 3 years of working out.
Some time soon we'll do the dunk test where they calculate our bodyfat and such. It requires a 4-hour fast, so we couldn't go it the same day as we did these tests.




  1. I've been wanting to do the tests for a few years. Glad to find out that UNM will do the testing! I didn't know they could tell if you were fast or slowtwitch. Very cool results! Congratulations! Where do you think you would have been three years ago? So have you earned a new nick name? Thomas?

  2. Nice to see such good results from your efforts, I'm sure!

    Now I really want to go do that.

  3. Well isn't that just cool....... scientific proof you are a stud muffinette!

  4. Hey, on Thomas the train isn't the freight train the mean grumpy one? Isn't there a nice friendly tug boat or something?

    Great job sweetie, you rule!

  5. I guess I don't know enough about the story to remember that. I remembered that he ran out of steam, once, which would make it even more unlikely.
    Okay, so maybe you're a barge...they can pull HUGE loads and never seem to run out of juice.

  6. That is SO cool. You are in GREAT Shape!

  7. OK- now I am really tempted.

  8. Anonymous12:44 PM

    So what does this mean, exactly? Does this help you adjust training regimens?

  9. I'm SO going to look for a school around here to try that! (There's gotta be something around Chicago, right?) I think the Gatorade Institute in here in the 'burbs (my PT told me about doing testing there), but that's way fancy and expensive.


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