Want to know how fit you really are? Then try a V02 test
Do you want to know how fit you really are? Then try a V02 test, the single most effective way to measure your cardiovascular fitness and maximise your training programme.
Having your physical capabilities tested to the absolute limit is a daunting enough prospect, but when told beforehand that you’re under pressure to beat a 69-year old man, the butterflies start to flitter around nervously in your tummy.
That’s the situation that presented itself when I turned up in WestPark Fitness in Tallaght recently to conduct my V02 fitness test with Sean Kinane of Health Matters, with whom I had also undergone a metabolic test just before Christmas (more on that one here).
Having dodged a bullet when doing the metabolic rather than the V02 test during the indulgent festive season, I had nowhere to hide on this occasion. With a few weeks of standard January GAA training under my belt, however, I managed not to make a fool of myself and beat the score of the aforementioned veteran athlete, even if I was fit to collapse having being run ragged on a treadmill for 20 minutes or so.
It may have been my first experience of a V02 test, but it is something that professional athletes undergo regularly, as it is the single most effective way for them to measure their cardiovascular fitness and maximise their training programmes.
The person taking the test runs on a treadmill or cycles on an exercise bike while hooked up to special equipment that measures how much oxygen the person consumes during exercise, while a heart monitor is also worn to keep tabs on a person’s heart rate throughout.
The intensity of the exercise increases at one minute intervals until the person being tested reaches their maximum effort, meaning that it is completely up to them when they want to stop. Take it from me; while the exercise might seem a breeze at first, the stop button begins to look very, very tempting few minutes in.
The test provides a very detailed breakdown of your unique fitness profile; it doesn’t deal in averages because as far as Sean is concerned, they simply don’t work. After the test is completed – and you’ve gathered your breath sufficiently to be able to talk and listen – Sean will go through aspects of your fitness profile such as aerobic and anaerobic thresholds, recovery times, calorie expenditure and calorie requirements and explain the perfect zones for you to train in order to achieve maximum results.
All of that and an eight-page document with all of your unique fitness profile results on it that can be used for future reference, or even to compare with friends or teammates that might have also taken part.
Conducting a V02 test used to be a complicated exercise carried out in only hospitals or universities, but with Sean’s equipment, it is an easy process and as the equipment is portable, he can come to you, as he has done to a number of clubs, teams and even individuals who are keen to measure their fitness levels in the most specific way possible.
All he needs is a treadmill with adjustable speed and incline levels or a bike that can work off watts, and if sourcing those are a problem, he works out of many different gyms and can arrange to avail of their facilities without difficulty.
Setting the bar
A number of high-profile athletes have already completed the test under Sean’s watch. Recently, he conducted two Vo2 tests, one on an international Ironman athlete and another on one of the only pro Muay Thai fighters in Ireland. Their results were very accurate in terms of their different types of training, and while both received superior results, they were very different in terms of the aerobic and anaerobic thresholds, recovery and different energy requirements.
All-Ireland winner and All-Star Dublin footballer Michael Dara McCauley gave it a go recently (see main picture above), while Sean has also carried out tests on athletes from Athletics Ireland and Triathlon Ireland.
A person’s score is calculated by the amount of millilitres of oxygen per kilogram of body weight consumed per minute (ml/kg/min). If numbers are your thing, a score ranging from 36.5 – 42.4 is measured as a fair standard of fitness for a 20-29 year old male, 42.5 – 46.4 is regarded as good, 46.5 – 52.4 is excellent and 52.5 + is superior.
To see the chart for scores depending on gender and various age groups, check out the chart below (you might have to get the magnifying glass out).
By way of comparison, the international IronMan tested by Sean posted a score of 75.9, the International pro Muay Thai Fighter posted a score of 61.7, Michael Dara McCauley scored 63.1, while a male triathlete recently tested by Sean scored an impressive 81.7.
Two Norwegian cross-country skiers are believed to have posted scores on 96.0, while Lance Armstrong once scored 84.0, a score that is bound to be contentious given the controversy surrounding his past.
One of the principal benefits of the test is that it pulls no punches. If you’re actually fit, it will prove it. If you think you’re fit but are only deluding yourself, it will lay it on the line, but in the process you can learn what type of training you require to get up to speed.
It also works great as a method of measuring an individal or a team's progress on a periodical basis, so you can see how your mid-season level compares to your pre-season level and if you reached your fitness goals.
If it sounds like something that you, your club or your team might be interested, check out the Health Matters website for more details. For more information on Health Matters and the services they have to offer, click here.