VO2 Max

Stag on
Stag on Posts: 99
edited June 2014 in Commuting chat
Has anyone taken the time / effort to measure their VO2 Max?

I would say this was a bit on the serious side for this forum but most of the SCR protagonists are now anything but the enthusiastic amateurs of old as the amount of posts relating to ‘zone 2 rides’ and ‘only 300W FTP’ (hahah) relate. Personally I do not have time to train or race a bike seriously so this sort of thing is purely of interest.

I do not pretend to be a sports scientist nor a physiologist but I understand your VO2 max potential is largely determined by genetics. I find this quite reassuring, knowing that I was never going to trouble the scorers at the tour.

As a squaddie, one of the benefits of a benchmarked annual fitness test is that it gives you some fairly consistent data to go by. One of the tests is a 1.5 mile run and I understand this is a reasonable measure of VO2 max, my scores in the last few years put me in the low 60s (this at 31 years of age).

Given some of the feats articulated on the SCR thread I am expecting some high numbers and I expect fellow Alton College Alumni okgo and Rower63 to be pushing into the eighties at least! Off you go!

Comments

  • okgo
    okgo Posts: 4,368
    I don't know mine, not really that interested to be honest. Hutch's latest book explains the fallacy of placing too much emphasis on such things...

    You must be someone I know, I was at that college VERY briefly...
    Blog on my first and now second season of proper riding/racing - www.firstseasonracing.com
  • First.Aspect
    First.Aspect Posts: 15,937
    okgo wrote:
    I don't know mine, not really that interested to be honest. Hutch's latest book explains the fallacy of placing too much emphasis on such things...

    You must be someone I know, I was at that college VERY briefly...
    Why is that?

    I got mine done as part of a mate's physiology PhD. It was very high and this always seemed to tally with the way my performance over longer (rowing) distances compared to others*. Similarly, on a bike I'm much better at climbing than a tub of lard really ought to be.

    The 2nd best natural athlete I trained with had a high reading (70ish) and the most gifted a bonkers reading (84 I think), but nothing between the ears.

    VO2max doesn't seem completely irrelevant.

    (*This is another way of saying that I was basically a bit slow, but could hang in there by working harder).
  • okgo
    okgo Posts: 4,368
    No, I mean you're going to have a better chance of being good if you're vo2 max is higher rather than lower but the book talks at length about the power you can produce at vo2 max.

    Hutch mentions he had tested higher than just about any other cyclist out there , in the 90's, yet only can operate at a fairly low percentage of that for a given time. That is why he would never be a pro tour rider, despite having most of the attributes to do so. The one limiter was his power at vo2 max. 70% vs maybe 90% for wiggins. Big difference.
    Blog on my first and now second season of proper riding/racing - www.firstseasonracing.com
  • First.Aspect
    First.Aspect Posts: 15,937
    okgo wrote:
    No, I mean you're going to have a better chance of being good if you're vo2 max is higher rather than lower but the book talks at length about the power you can produce at vo2 max.

    Hutch mentions he had tested higher than just about any other cyclist out there , in the 90's, yet only can operate at a fairly low percentage of that for a given time. That is why he would never be a pro tour rider, despite having most of the attributes to do so. The one limiter was his power at vo2 max. 70% vs maybe 90% for wiggins. Big difference.
    Ah, well, I never did actually read that PhD thesis.

    90's would put MH in the top few results ever tested. Even Big Mig was only 88.

    What gets me is that the average Joe's is about 40. How do you manage to climb the stairs with that?
  • okgo
    okgo Posts: 4,368
    Hutch by his own admission is a freakish individual, vast lungs, about 40% more blood than a normal bloke, huge vo2 max but crap efficiency! Must be very annoying to be freakishly good In every way but the one that would make him a world beater.
    Blog on my first and now second season of proper riding/racing - www.firstseasonracing.com
  • memsley89
    memsley89 Posts: 247
    I was tested pre-season at 60.29ml.kg-1.min-1, with VT at 69% (@263W) and RCP at 79% (@312W) of VO2peak.
    I can't remember which number Hutch is down on, I think it's as low RCP that drags his FTP down?
    He mentions it in his recent book 'Faster' which is worth a read if things like this interest you...

    FYI, My season PB's are a 20:53 and 53:21.
  • rower63
    rower63 Posts: 1,991
    Oh God massive topic, here goes. Apols in advance for long-winded post.
    I was never at Alton College, but I was tested in the 1980s/90s as the control for a crew-mate who was trying to diagnose some serious health problems. My VO2max score, if we’re talking here about maximum millilitres of O2 per minute per kg of bodyweight, at that time, was just under 79. But what was considered more important then for rowers at least was the absolute VO2 max, i.e. not divided by bodyweight, as weight is not such a direct penalty on the water as it is, say, for climbing on a bike. As such my score was 6.3 litres/min. Whereas Steve Redgrave’s was 8 litres, but he was 102kg at that time! I remember his “per kg” score was the same as mine, but his 8 litres compared to my 6.3 litres corresponded quite well to our abilities on the water. 6 litres was considered to be “minimum necessary for national team”, whereas 8 was considered Olympic gold medal material. When he and his then partner, Andy Holmes, were first measured, they were the two highest-scoring athletes from any sport that had ever been tested, and they were in the same boat! At that time there was another British guy around, Peter Haining, who reputedly measured close to 8 as well, but he was a lightweight, i.e. 72kg, so his “per kg” score was well over 100, thus it was no surprise that he was triple-consecutive lwt single sculls world champion (no Olympic event in those days). He was also a total nutter. At that weight, and with that extreme score, and his hardness, he would very likely have made a top cyclist.
    VO2max is not a bad measure for defining one’s ability as an athlete, but as okgo suggests, it’s one-dimensional. It says nothing about how long you can sustain it, or a certain % of it, for. But it will correlate strongly with results for any endurance sport. It’s also a measure of biomechanical stuff that’s going on well upstream of the Watts getting deployed “at the pedals”. There are plenty of other potential inefficiencies that can manifest themselves in between, such as one’s ability to flush away lactate from muscles as it’s produced.
    Back then it was very difficult/impossible to measure or record power in real time in the field, hence slightly easier but elaborate lab-based contraptions to measure O2 in and O2 out, using sealed face-masks, tubes, one-way valves, bikes and rowing machines, and computer sensors inside sealed bags. Nowadays direct and easy power measurement is probably better.
    <takes breath>
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  • vermin
    vermin Posts: 1,739
    rower63 wrote:
    Peter Haining ... would very likely have made a top cyclist.

    Would have been very good, certainly, but top? Not sure. He wore his weight around the shoulders. That may have been a function of the rowing-specific training regime, but not ideal for a cyclist. Awesome sculler though.
    rower63 wrote:
    Back then it was very difficult/impossible to measure or record power in real time in the field, hence slightly easier but elaborate lab-based contraptions to measure O2 in and O2 out, using sealed face-masks, tubes, one-way valves, bikes and rowing machines, and computer sensors inside sealed bags.

    Recalls particularly horrific memories - like some sort of degenerate auto-erotic asphyxiation session, with such a mask strapped to my face and some sadistic individual repeatedly stabbing my finger to draw blood whilst I flogged myself on an erg in the back of a steamy boat shed during high summer. I forget the result, sadly not the experience.
  • okgo
    okgo Posts: 4,368
    Not always that people manage to switch from top level at one thing to very top level at another, there is a rider that time trials that was at the olympics as a lightweight rower, and while he is a very good cyclist, I don't think he would be able to be as good a rider as he was rower. Hutch also came from rowing, where I think he was good but not amazing.

    On the flipside of all that, I never showed any promise in endurance sport in school, I hated it, and was god awful at it, things I was good at involved strength and power, i.e. throwing things, hitting things but I've trained myself to be OK over distance. I would imagine my best event with a fair bit of training would be something like the kilo.
    Blog on my first and now second season of proper riding/racing - www.firstseasonracing.com
  • rjsterry
    rjsterry Posts: 28,502
    What gets me is that the average Joe's is about 40. How do you manage to climb the stairs with that?
    A lot of people are slightly out of breath after a single flight of stairs.
    1985 Mercian King of Mercia - work in progress (Hah! Who am I kidding?)
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  • Stag on
    Stag on Posts: 99
    All, many thanks for your insight.

    I am conscious that my VO2 Max if tested on a bike would be pretty rubbish at the moment as I am smashing out a lot of miles running and marching at present, but a month ago would be much lower, specificity coming to mind. Also that Memsley89 has a comparable VO2 max for me but is clearly much quicker over the ground (not that I time trial).The lessons being not to rely too much on one measure and that within bounds, these things change over time.

    Can anyone describe VT and RCP in layman's terms? I liked Hutch's description of VO2 max being like the engine size of a car, obviously the power at the 'wheels' (or the cranks in our case) being different for each car due to different energy losses at each stage of the process.

    OKGO, I am 31, I had you as a few years younger than me so our paths may not have crossed.
  • bigmat
    bigmat Posts: 5,134
    This thread reminds me I have a free VO2 max test that I have never got round to doing - might give it a go, to determine whether its my VO2 or my RCP (whatever that is) that's rubbish!
  • ugo.santalucia
    ugo.santalucia Posts: 28,301
    When VO2 max became a common word in aerobic sports, blood transfusions and EPO followed suit. Don't bother, you don't need to know and it's a surpassed concept in sport medicine anyway
    left the forum March 2023
  • mroli
    mroli Posts: 3,622
    vermin wrote:
    Would have been very good, certainly, but top? Not sure. He wore his weight around the shoulders. That may have been a function of the rowing-specific training regime, but not ideal for a cyclist. Awesome sculler though.

    Good article here on it:
    http://cyclingtips.com.au/2011/11/why-rowers-are-exceptional-cyclists/
    See also - Rebecca Romero.

    Rower friends of mine always say that the upper body strength is a bit of a myth - they generate most power through their legs and back (longer, stronger muscles). To be fair, I have no idea other than the fact that I have had my backside served to me by a number of ex-rowers relatively quickly after they have started cycling. One of whom was James Cracknell pre-accident who was pretty strong.
  • vermin
    vermin Posts: 1,739
    Maybe you're right - I certainly find that I am precisely as mediocre at cycling as I was at rowing.