VO2 and lactate threshold test.

I had been nervous about doing a lactate threshold test and VO2 test, both due to be done at the British triathlon Federation centre at Loughborough University, on Friday. My nerves were not helped when on Thursday my diary told me that I could also look forward to having BBC East Midlands film the experience. Not being an Olympic athlete by nature, the idea of my being pushed to exhaustion on TV was not overly appealing.

However, part of the point of my fellowship of the BTF is to promote and help highlight this superb sport, so I figured I would have to do my best to smile and not pass out on camera!

The team running the test were very friendly and went through and explained what I could ‘look forward’ to. The first test being lactate threshold. This meant running in 3 min sections, with the speed increasing after each 3 min section. After each section a blood sample is taken form the ear lobe to test lactate levels. It was fascinating; I do not yet have the full results and will post here when I do. The team were able to explain that my lactate did not rise very much for the first few sections, which indicates that my basic fitness is ok, so that was a bonus.

To do the test you are on a running machine with a facemask on. The downside of this as that as the running pace increases and body heat in creases the mask gets very warm and I could feel sweat forming fairly quickly. It is very odd running in a facemask. After each 3 min section I was asked to explain how hard I felt I was pushing on a scale of 1 to 20. There was a part of me wondering how it would sound when I wanted to say 18 after the second section…….

Once I got warmed up I learnt a fair bit just in doing the test itself, regardless of even having the results. I found that as things speeded up I actually felt more relaxed, more comfortable and my legs turning over felt to be more in rhythm. Once of the BTF team, who was there, pointed out that my running style improved as the speed picked up and that matched how I felt. I have spent a few years happily jogging along at my nice steady 11-12mph believing that would allow me to go longer and that picking up speed would wear me out too quickly.

What this short test showed me was that I run with far better technique and efficiency at about 9.5 min miles than I do at 12 min miles, which could explain why I felt the run last week so tough despite gong very slow and the week before easier despite running faster. The benefit of the previous week was I was continually running with or trying to catch someone, where as at Fritton I ran most of the course alone with the odd elite passing me by.

The second part of the test is for the VO2 max level. Again I will post soon, when I have results on the findings of this. However, my nerves rose a little more when they fitted me into a harness so that I could not fall off the back of the running machine!

This test involved running at about 9km/hr and with the gradient increasing by 1 every minute and then a blood test at the very end. I was told that ideally I would do 6-8 mins and was pleased to exceed that. It is testament to how hard this pushes you that I cannot recall if I got past 8 min or if I made, which I have now convinced myself I did, past 9 mins, the results will show this though!

9 mins may not sound much but with the gradient increasing each minute it surprised me how suddenly at about 5/6mins this got very very difficult. By the end I found that you are struggling to suck air into the lungs. With the mask on as well it feels like you are breathing in a sauna. At the end I felt light headed and have to admit, a little woozy. But, like much exercise, as soon as I got off the machine, there was a part of me wondering if I could have pushed another few seconds after all. I will have to consider re visiting in a private capacity later this year seeing if there is any change at the end of the season after full year training to now.

The great thing about the test is that the results will show if my current training level is correct and where I can or should change my intensity to maximise my improvement. Once I get the results and advice, I will post details here for info.

It was a great experience to do the test and understand another aspect of what the elite athletes do on a regular basis to ensure they are training at optimum levels. I did actually enjoy it and am fascinated to learn form it but am not sure I would want to have to train at the level regularly, I can see why elite athletes training at maximum need so much more rest. I slept very well last night.