NIFS Healthy Living Blog

What Is VO2 Max Testing?

GettyImages-915799224VO2 max testing, or graded exercise testing, is a treadmill run or cycle to volitional fatigue—or pretty much going until you must stop. The test will tell us how many liters of oxygen you are able to take in and use for cellular respiration.

Physiologically, people use oxygen for a variety of things. The main purpose is for the oxygen to get into the cells’ mitochondria so that it can be used to generate adenosine triphosphate (ATP), which is the main energy source in the body. People use ATP to do pretty much everything: move our muscles, think, and even digest food. So the more oxygen you can take in and convert to energy, the longer and faster you can run due to this surplus of energy you are making at the cellular level.

What the Test Is Like

The test starts at a low speed and no incline on the treadmill. Then every so often the treadmill gets a little faster and a little higher. The increases are almost unnoticed and most start out walking. On the other hand, on the cycle, the resistance gets a little harder occasionally and the participant is expected to maintain the same rotations per minute (RPM). With both tests, the person is expected to go until they feel they must stop, when their workload is too great to maintain or their legs become too fatigued to continue.

What the Test Measures

While exercising, you will be hooked up to different devices to monitor your vitals such as a heart rate monitor and a ventilator of sorts. Some tests will also measure blood pressure and rate of perceived exertion. Trainers can use the information from these devices to generate a customized endurance program for you to push you to increase your VO2 max, and in turn, your overall endurance. VO2 max testing is a great way to know where you are currently at in your endurance training. It is comparable to doing repetition max testing on weights in strength training.

How the Results Can Shape Your Training

Trainers can utilize the data from a VO2 max test to make a program customized to your physiology. From a VO2 max test we can see what your heart rate maximum is exactly, and using these numbers we can get more accurate training zones for you. The ventilator gives a variety of useful data such as your aerobic threshold, or the point when you really start to breathe hard. This is the point where a person really starts to hate running, so knowing this point can help us stay below that more often, making the training more enjoyable while still receiving the benefits. Knowing different heart rate zones can help prevent overtraining and help push you to your fullest capacity, causing your body to adapt and consume more oxygen.

The measurements of blood pressure and perceived exertion are more common in a clinical setting to ensure normal responses to exercise, so they are not always necessary in healthy populations. The trainer can use rate of perceived exertion, however, to know how a person feels at certain running speeds. If someone feels that they are working very hard at a faster speed, the trainer may stay below that speed more often to make the runner more comfortable; and if a certain speed feels very easy, the trainer may ramp up the pace.

VO2 Max Testing at NIFS

Korr CardioCoach metabolic system VO2 max testing is offered here at the National Institute for Fitness and Sport. Connect with a trainer at the track desk if you have any interest or questions. VO2 max testing is a great way to gauge your endurance level going into marathon training, and a great way to pace yourself in a race by knowing where you are at physiologically at different workloads. Knowing your VO2 max as a runner is like how a powerlifter knows what the maximum amount of weight they can bench is. If you don’t have a benchmark going into a competition, you run the risk of over- or under-shooting and not performing as well. You don’t necessarily have to partake in a full VO2 max test if you are concerned about going to volitional fatigue. There are submaximal tests and estimation equations that can be utilized to get a rough estimate of your VO2 max. See a NIFS staff member with any questions you have pertaining to a VO2 max test or to schedule your test today.

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This blog was written by Grant Lamkin, NIFS Health Fitness Specialist. To learn more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: personal training heart rate energy programs vo2 max oxygen fitness assessment testing

Improving Cardio-respiratory Endurance for Athletes

GettyImages-636342222Improving maximal aerobic capacity, aka VO2Max, as well as lactic threshold can have a huge impact on overall performance. You can improve VO2 max through long slow distance (LSD) training, pace and tempo training, interval training, high-intensity interval training, and fartlek training.

Training by Experience Level

Training to improve your aerobic capacity varies according to your experience level:

  • If you are just starting to train to be an endurance athlete, I suggest that you stick with a long slow distance training until you build your aerobic base, which would be more for mileage/time rather than overloading your lactic threshold and VO2 max.
  • If you are an intermediate endurance athlete, you should add one hard workout day (pace or tempo interval, high-intensity interval, or a fartlek) and a higher-mileage day than your usual LSD mileage.
  • If you are an advanced endurance athlete, train one or two days with the pace and tempo interval training, high-intensity interval training, or fartlek training. You should also have a high-mileage day that is higher than your LSD days.

Training by Goals

Keep in mind, all this training is also dependent on your training goal. For instance, if you are training for cycling, a full marathon, a cross-country or track event, or are a casual aerobic athlete, long-distance rower or swimmer, and so on, you will want to make sure to have a plan with your goals in mind. Be sure to implement these training methods into your program so that you can hit your goals.

Aerobic capacity and lactic threshold training modules can be tailored to your individual goals and training program. Here are some examples and how they can apply to your training.

  • Long slow distance (LSD): Should be race distance or longer and 70 percent of VO2 max, give or take.
  • Pace and tempo: Should be done in durations of 20 to 30 minutes at lactate threshold or slightly above.
  • Interval training: Should be done 3 to 5 minutes with a work-to-rest ratio of 1:1, and it should be close to VO2 max.
  • High-intensity interval training: Should be 30 to 90 seconds with a work-to-rest ratio of 1:5 and greater than VO2 max.
  • Fartlek: Has a duration of 20 to 60 minutes and varies between LSD and pace and tempo training intensities.

Keep in mind, some of these norms and training intensities are meant for aerobic distance athletes and are specific to how the training should be done.

Overall, I highly encourage you to play around with these training philosophies and develop it into an aerobic endurance program that is best suited for you. It’s easy to just go out and do the aerobic activity day in and day out, but if you have a more organized, structured program, you will not feel overwhelmed and you will see the gains in your aerobic performance that you have been looking for all along.

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This blog was written by David Behrmann, NIFS Health Fitness Instructor. To learn more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: endurance aerobic HIIT vo2 max workout programs fartlek training goals

Going for Gold: NIFS Winter Olympics Special Exercises

GettyImages-533291891.jpgEvery four years, the Winter Olympics shows up, and we are in awe of some of the most gifted athletes on the planet. Ice skaters gliding upon an edge like a razor blade, yet choreographed to music. Bobsledders who risk near death contently as they barrel through corners (mortals, like myself, need not apply). And the cross-country skiers boast some of the highest aerobic capacities of any athlete in the world. For the majority of us, riding down a hill on an inner tube does the trick, but that doesn’t mean we can’t infuse your workout with the tools to not only get a great workout, but dream for gold!

Looking around the fitness center, finding options to get into Olympic shape isn’t too difficult. With a little imagination, you can add these three exercises to your workout today with little or no skating, skiing, or bobsledding experience. Now get ready for the NIFS Winter Olympic Special: Going for Gold!

Helix Lateral Elliptical

If you want powerful legs, endurance, and balance, you might want to take a look at speed skating. Not unlike its summer Olympic running counterpart, speed skating requires a lot of practice. To accelerate, the skater pushes side to side, arms working to not only balance but also propel the body forward.

To simulate this motion, the Helix Lateral Elliptical allows you to safely perform the lower-body movement used in speed skating. Being able to do this exercise year round in the friendly confines of NIFS is a definite bonus. A built-in console allows you to track intensity and time. A quick Tabata (:20 on, :20 off) for 5–8 rounds can give your workout a nice lift. Be sure to try both directions!

Concept II Ski Erg

ski.jpgThe concept of cross-country skiing for sport comes from areas in which getting around is easier and more common on skis than trudging through the snow. Out of necessity and the evolution of transportation, people in the Nordic region of Europe are now famously known for producing some of the highest VO2 Max numbers in the world. Your VO2 Max is the quantification of how efficiently your body uses oxygen when you exercise.

With that being said, how can you get similar exercise without all the snow or burden of buying skis? Concept II, the company that makes rowing machines, designed a vertical rowing machine that can simulate the upper-body cross-country skiing pattern. Like the Helix, there is a console to track your progress, intensity, and time. Once you get the hang of the Ski Erg, you can see how far you can get in 60 seconds, rest, and then do it again!

Prowler Sled Push

Alex-Sled.jpgOne of the most fascinating events at the winter Olympics is the bobsled. A team of individuals, working as one, propels a bobsled down a narrow, icy chute. To get the sled going, the team relies heavily on otherworldly leg strength. The rest of the event takes skill and some luck, as this is a race to the finish line. The winning team usually has a complete balance of strength, skill, balance, and weight.

The exercise you can do at NIFS that mimics this movement most closely is the Prowler Sled Push. There are many sled options to choose from, but this one allows you to start in a standing position and requires you to physically push the weighted sled (no attachments needed). This can be done in several ways: heavy weights for short distance and lighter weights for longer duration as well as sprints. For a great partner routine, relay races are a perfect way to give you and some friends exercise and breaks. Have one person push the sled, while the other two are on the “ends.” As the sled approaches, the next person takes the sled-pushing responsibility and pushes it back to the starting point. This continues until a certain distance is reached or for time. Try to mark a 30-yard distance and continue this exercise for 2–3 minutes for one set. Be sure to enjoy your rest times!

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Whether you are looking for a new routine or really are dreaming about the Olympics, these three exercises are sure to give you a great workout. If anything, we can appreciate the hard work and dedication it takes to become an Olympian. For more fun fitness ideas, check back to the NIFS blog and social media outlets (YouTube, Instagram, Facebook, Twitter). Until next time, friends, dream big! Go for gold!

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This blog was written by Thomas Livengood, Health Fitness Instructor and Personal Trainer. To read more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: balance endurance rowing exercises winter skiing vo2 max olympics skating

Which Fitness Assessment Is Right for Me? Part 1: VO2

V02 Assessment: A Wealth of Fitness Information for Training

Screen Shot 2017-12-26 at 1.05.29 PM.pngFitness trends come and go, but heart-rate training is something that has been around for a long time; and due to its validity, I have a feeling it will not be leaving anytime soon. In fact, some places base their entire programming around your heart rate. And knowing your heart-rate training zone is actually a very useful tool for anyone—from the marathon runner to the three-times-a-week boot camp attendee!

Maybe you have felt totally spent after a workout, or on the flip side, you have been at the gym for an hour and don’t feel very productive. Knowing your heart rate training zones can help you to train both harder as well as smarter. So become more efficient in your training by increasing your work capacity and decreasing the time it takes to do it.

Benefits of Knowing Your Training Zones

Take a look at the top 3 benefits of knowing your training zones:

  • Maximize performance. Train in your zones that are based on real numbers.
  • Know how to recover. Recovery is one important element to exercise that many miss. A V02 test will give you your recovery time in order to be efficient in things like intervals and rest.
  • Train harder and smarter. If someone told you that you could become more fit in less time, wouldn’t you jump onto that boat? Knowing your zones allows you to be more efficient in your training

What Does This Assessment Show Me?

In other words, how efficiently does your body utilize oxygen and get it to the working muscles?

  • Four different training zones (low-fat burning, moderate-endurance, high-cardio training, and peak-cardio training zones).
  • V02 Max (your personal cardiovascular fitness level based on your age and gender).
  • Recovery (both heart rate zone as well as time it takes you to recover from peak performance).
  • Aerobic threshold (the window in which your body stops using oxygen efficiently and begins to rely on another energy system for the duration of the exercise—typically won’t last long).
  • Anaerobic threshold (the point at which lactic acid builds up in the body faster than it can be removed; the point at which you do not have enough oxygen to sustain exercise for long periods of time).
  • Total calories burned (the V02 gives you the total amount of calories you burn during each training zone if you sustained that pace for the entire workout).

With all this being said, I would tell anyone from the regular everyday exerciser to the most elite athlete that getting a V02 assessment is something that is beneficial for your training. The cost is $100 for NIFS members and $115 for guests.

To schedule your V02 assessment, contact the NIFS track desk at 317-274-3432 ext. 262, or fitness@nifs.org.

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This blog was written by Amanda Bireline, Fitness Center Manager. To read more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: fitness cardio calories endurance recovery heart rate V02 vo2 max assessment

Would Metabolic Testing for Fitness Benefit You?

Hello NIFS friends! Today’s fitness world is ever evolving with new equipment, exercises, and technology. Our society, generally speaking, is one that feeds and thrives off information and numbers. That being said, how can we make something that is as simple and stripped down as running on a treadmill, basic nutrition, and the ever-so-popular “lift things up and put them down” more informative so that the exercising individual has the opportunity to quantify their progress and results?

We know the BOD POD and Fit3D are great assessments for this, but metabolic testing can take it one step further. Metabolic testing can really be a game changer for many. Two tests that stand out: one that tests your VO2 Max (the efficiency of your heart and lungs to use oxygen as you exercise), and the other being the Resting Metabolic Rate Test (RMR—how many calories your body burns in a day at complete rest and prior to exercise).

VO2 Max Testing

Screen Shot 2017-07-27 at 1.51.09 PM.pngVO2 Max testing is a test to quantify the efficiency of your heart and lungs during exercise. Why is this important? An athlete who wants not only to improve times, but also to see if their training is effective, can find training zones (based on their testing) and progress based on specific training over time.

The test is usually done on a treadmill or bike and takes roughly 20 to 30 minutes. It isn’t for the faint of heart. To get optimal results, we need for you to be able to “max out” your abilities and do so without any other limiting factors (previous injuries, medications, and so on). For people who are unable to do a VO2 Max test, we highly recommend the alternative Sub Max VO2 test, which can accommodate a wider range of people looking for similar results.

RMR Testing

Screen Shot 2017-07-27 at 1.51.52 PM.pngFor individuals who want to know how many calories they burn in a day (their metabolism), the RMR test is your main tool to finally take off the blindfold and know exactly how to budget your calories to match your goals, whether it is weight loss or weight gain.

Most likely, if I were to ask someone on the street how many calories they burned today, they would not be able to give an accurate answer. If this were the case, how would you know how many calories to eat to see the results you desire? Activity trackers do a decent job, but they still use plenty of estimations, which leaves even more guesswork. A doctor’s advice can be useful, but they still are limited in what they know about your body. The RMR test, again, takes away the guesswork and gives you a real number to base your nutrition from. Unlike the VO2 Max test, anyone can benefit from the RMR testing.

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To recap, you are serious about your health but want more information that can make you better, right? You want to get the most out of your time in the gym, correct? You want to feel good and look even better? We have the information you need with the VO2 Max test and RMR test. You may ask, “Are these tests right for me?” The answer can be found by simply talking to one of the Health Fitness Specialists in the NIFS Fitness Center, NIFS’s Registered Dietician, to discuss what is right for you. VO2 Max testing and RMR testing are by appointment only; we hope to see you soon.

Muscleheads rejoice and evolve!

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 This blog was written by Thomas Livengood, Health Fitness Specialist. To read more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

NIFS VO₂ Max Test and RMR are products by KORR™. Images provided by Korr™.

Topics: fitness center Thomas' Corner metabolism assessments fit3d vo2 max