Ironman Training Week 2 – This is a Test

This Week in Numbers

Swim:  8500 meters
Bike:  60.49 miles
Run:  24.33 miles
1 Short Sprint Distance Triathlon
2 VO2 Max Tests
Total Time:  10:54:56 (not counting testing)

After week one I was really feeling good, but things caught up with me just a bit this week.  Once again, I’ve done more swimming than ever before and my arms were feeling it.  By Friday my arms felt like they had been reduced to spaghetti and my legs were just plain fatigued.  My mileage wasn’t really that high for running and biking so I have to blame my VO2 Max efforts on Tuesday (Run) and Wednesday (Bike) for the added fatigue.

Before now, I have never heart-rate trained.  Since Coach M is all about heart-rate right now…..I needed some numbers to work with.  I’ve never been VO2 Max tested. I was the lucky winner of VO2 Max testing back in August at our Southern Utah Triathlon Club Summer BBQ.  I headed over to the Gateway to Wellness at Dixie Regional Medical Center on Tuesday for my running test.  I kind of knew what to expect and was excited to see the results.  Not only would it tell me my heart rate ranges for training, but it would also give me a peek into some of my potential.  The thing that I found most interesting was that VO2 Max is almost 80% determined by your genetics.  You either got it or you don’t to a certain extent.  You are born to be a Lance Armstrong or just another mere mortal.  The other 20% is trainable, but changes at a very slow rate.  VO2 Max is difficult to improve, but can be done with very specific heart rate training methods.

Clearly not me, but this is the basic treadmill set-up.

I was all masked up and on the treadmill.  The exercise physiologist, Trevor, would alternate increasing the treadmill’s speed or grade, gradually making the work load more and more difficult.  I was to run as hard and as fast as I could until I couldn’t go any farther.  Easy enough………

My test took approximately 17 minutes until I maxed out.  At the end both Trevor and another kind gentleman were standing at the back of the treadmill waiting for me to fly off.  I almost did, but opted to jump to the side rails completely missing my footing and practically falling into Trevor’s arms.  I think that counts as being pretty maxed out.

The first thing I noticed was that the test took A LOT out of me.  I felt like I had really worked.  It may have only been for a few minutes, but I could feel it.  That made me happy though, because then I hopefully got a good gauge of my max.

Run Results:

Aerobic Threshold     143 beats per minute
Anaerobic Threshold     174 beats per minute
Max Heart Rate     190 beats per minute
VO2 Max     62.7 ml 02/kg/min (this is the measurement of how much oxygen your body uses)

A VO2 Max above 40 is considered superior for my age.  I was pretty happy!  I’m not looking at World Class with this number, but it is definitely good.  One of the neat things to me about this results is that I have the ability to stay anaerobic for quite a long time.  Clearly, when I work hard and race, I am anaerobic a lot.  My body can push those high ends.  But this shows that I need to train in the lower end and teach my body to work faster and more efficiently at lower heart rates (thus pushing the anaerobic threshold and that peak zone).  Some of this is probably Greek to you, but for me it is Nirvana.  I love numbers!  When it comes to fitness and training, it is all about the numbers!

VO2 Max Result Interpretations


On to the bike.  I completed the bike testing the following morning.  I brought my own bike and it was hooked up on the indoor trainer.  On with the mask and the tubes and I was ready to go.  This time, I was controlling the workload by shifting my gears when Trevor asked me to.  We decided that we would do this test in the aero position (I’m curious if hand position has an effect on oxygen uptake (which I believe it would) and so we are going to test a standard hood position another time).  I was to keep about 90 rpms on my pedal stroke (cadence) and go until I couldn’t hold the speed and the gears any longer.  This test lasted just about the same amount of time as the run and once again I WAS FEELING IT when I was finished.   At least this time there was no “dismounting” of the treadmill, I could just stop pedaling.  I felt much more graceful 🙂

It is typical that the VO2 Max for the bike is lower than the run.  When biking you use fewer muscles and therefore, less oxygen.  I anticipated the results to be 10-15 or maybe even 20 less than my run.

Bike Results:

Aerobic Threshold     145 beats per minute
Anaerobic Threshold     163 beats per minute
Max Heart Rate     179 beats per minute
VO2 Max     57.9 ml 02/kg/min (Yeah Baby!)

I was pleased with the results.  The different between my bike and my run was only 4.8!  Trevor said it was one of the highest he had tested!  I always knew I was stronger on the bike.  Now, of course, compared to Lance Armstrong’s 86, it may not be saying much, but for little ‘ol me…….Not so bad!

Bike set-up.....That's a NICE Pinarello!

After Wednesday, I felt like the best tested athlete around.  I was scheduled to go in for body composition testing Thursday morning and so that would make three days in a row.  Count in the gait analysis and additional VO2 Max I’m scheduled for next week and I’ll have all the numbers I could ever want to play with.

I can’t say that I was as happy with the body composition testing as I was with the VO2 Max results.  I hate body composition.  It is a tough thing.  As an endurance athlete, I’m one hungry girl!  It is virtually impossibly to cut calories when your body is starving.  If you do cut calories your workouts suffer.  It is a very interesting balance that I find very difficult to manage.  Does lighter and leaner mean faster?……There is no easy answer to these types of questions.  I knew that I was not at my lightest (as far as weight goes), but I did feel like maybe I was pretty lean.  I try to eat well with lots of fruits and veggies and good protein sources.  I’m not perfect by any means and there are days that I will down the french fries, icecream (I live with Adam Rue!) or the chocolate, but I do really try to eat well.

The Gateway to Wellness uses a BodPod to test body composition levels. I also had a Resting Metabolic test right after the Bod Pod.  The BodPod is a machine that look kind of like the egg that Mork came out of on the old sitcom “Mork and Mindy” (yeah, I know…..I just dated myself.)  This “egg” has a window and a small seat inside.  It takes measurements through volume.  You wear as little clothing as possible (swimsuit) and put on a swim cap to keep the hair close to your body and reduce its volume.  The test takes a mere 45 seconds and is repeated once for a total of two 45 seconds stints in the “egg”.  Super easy and quite accurate (though most people are very surprised at their BodPod numbers as they are usually much higher than expected).

I'm not quite so stiff when I'm in the "egg".

Weight:  145.7
% Fat:  20.8%
Fat Free Weight:  115.39lbs
Resting Metabolic Rate:  1757 calories

This body fat percentage puts me into the Lean category.

The Resting Metabolic test has you lay flat on your back and breath through a tube (just like the VO2 Max) and measures the amount of oxygen your body is using at rest.  This gives you a number of how many calories your body burns at rest.  When you figure in your daily activities and your workouts, you have a number of calories that you should be consuming in order to maintain your weight (if you want to lose weight, you would eat fewer…….gain weight, you would eat more).  My RMR is quite fast.  This test should be quite accurate because I did these tests first thing in the morning and had not eaten anything since the night before (something that makes both BodPod and RMR more accurate).

So what do I think about my body composition………..Well the personal trainer in me says that I am completely healthy and need to continue to eat well and exercise.  No worries!  The female athlete inside me says that I want to be in the “Ultra Lean” category and struggles with how to get there!  The lowest body fat percentage I have ever had was 16% (BodPod).  I was 138 pounds and maintaining a strict 2000-3000 calorie diet (depending on what I did that day).  I would rarely eat more calories than I was burning.  I WAS STARVING!  I was training, but not at the level that I am now.  There came a point where I just couldn’t maintain that weight anymore and my weight has settled into about the area that it is now.  But boy, did I like that 16% number more than the 20.8% that I am seeing now.

As an athlete I have to look at the bigger picture.  This isn’t about being as tiny and ripped as possible.  My sport is about going long and going hard.  In order to accomplish this the body needs fuel.  This fuel comes in the form of body fat and carbohydrates.  Not saying that an athlete with 15% body fat can’t do endurance events (that is not the case at all), but simply put, you have to have something to burn and you have to be very good about fueling your efforts.  So I’m not going to worry 😉  I’m going to continue on the training path I am on and use these numbers to make sure that my Ironman journey is happy and healthy!

This hasn’t been the most interesting of blogs and if you have made it to this point………I applaud your efforts :)………..but this kind of testing really helps athletes and Average Joes.  I have seen so many of my clients have no idea where they need to be in terms of fitness and body composition.  This kind of testing is so affordable and accessible to us these days.  We have no excuses.  If you want to be healthy, if you want to be fit, this is the gateway to that journey.  Knowing where you are today, shapes where you are going tomorrow……….

On to week three.  I had a race this week, but I’m going to put that report in a separate blog…….It sure needs it’s own space.  This was a tiring week for me and you can only imagine the results of a Saturday race without any taper.  I did a lot and worked a bit harder than I think I’m giving myself credit for.  On to week three and this journey we call IRONMAN!

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