This Test is Not Pass/Fail

Posted on in Sports + Training by Reno Cycling Team

VO2max Test - I want to embed this video but it doesn't seem to work.. Here are the Embed Code from youtube. Please do what you can to make it work. THANKS

Recently, I was given the opportunity to work with Julie Young and Dr. Andy Pasternak from the Silver Sage Sports Performance Center (SSSPC) to perform VO2max test using their new ParvoMedic True One Vo2Max testing apparatus. I invited several of my teammates from the Reno Cycling Team presented by Nature’s Bakery to bear witness to my suffering. More importantly, they were able to see it first hand and ask questions to fully understand the relevance of such a test.

Having done this test with SSSPC in November of 2011, I was familiar with what was going to happen. The major difference this time is the new machine being used. As it was explained to us by Julie and Dr. Pasternak, this equipment is on par with the equipment used at the Olympic Training Center. The ability for SSSPC to test at this clinical level is a unique service that is available right here in Reno.

So, why test? To me the answer boils down to deciding how seriously you want to take your training goals and how strong of a drive you have to achieve them. Most everyone understands the reality that athletic training is just one more slices out of the 24 hour pie we all must manage from day to day. Finding the time to pursue your passion takes commitment, and a willingness to make it a priority. This is usually coupled with sacrifices that need not be named to be understood. That being said, doesn’t it make sense that at the heart of achieving your athletic goals is the ability to work efficiently with the time you have. Say for arguments sake, you can only carve out 5 hours a week for training. In order to make the most out of your 5 hours it would be very useful to know what you’re capable of and where you’re starting from. The initial tests will not only give you a base line for future comparisons, but more importantly you will walk away armed with the most current and valid information available that then translates into useful knowledge for training and planning.

If you’re familiar with what training zones are and how to use them, then you already understand the importance of knowing your current training zones. For those that may have heard about zones but never had a chance to have them accurately determine, then this next bit will help you out. At the heart of any training is the simple concept of stressing your system in some way, but not too much, then allowing for recovery which is where the magic happen. The magic is growth and improved fitness as a result of your hard, but not too hard effort during training. Recovery and rebuilding is proverbial elephant in the room, the crritical part of training that is often overlooked, forgotten or blatantly ignored. So in order to train efficiently you need to know the difference between hard and too hard. If you continually engage in too many efforts that are too hard, without working in proper recovery, you never get to see the magic. That’s where zone training comes in. By understanding what you’re capable of through this type of testing, you will know with certainty what you can do.

My experience during the test was what I expected. I knew I would be working at increasing intensity on the bike for as long as I could stand it. The new equipment took some getting use too. The head gear with the mouthpiece looks very restrictive, but once I got used to it and the nose clip there really was no significant impact on my breathing. It’s important to have all of the air going in and going out measured by the equipment so the nose clip prevents any loss.

Julie setup my bike on a CompuTrainer to accurately control and measure the power in watts that I would work against during the test. The protocol had me starting at around 50 watts and she would add 20 watts every minute. In addition, every so often she had me point to a number on the RPE or Rate of Perceived Exertion scale from 1 – 10 (1=no effort; 10=max effort).

Looking at the graph from my Garmin, at around 8 minutes in, there is a noticeable increase in my Heart Rate. At that point, I was pushing in the neighborhood of 165 watts with a heart rate in the high 130’s – low 140’s. That’s the point where I felt like I started to work. It was easy but I could tell I was working. From there, my HR graph shows a steady increase in until I maxed out at 188 beats per minute at the 17:20 mark. The test continued to increase in difficulty for the next seven minutes or so. It wasn’t until the last two minutes that it went from mildly uncomfortable to downright painful. It was in the final two minutes of the test that I was averaging 357 watts while pedaling 118 rpm’s at 27mph with a HR of 185 bpm. How did I know I was done? Julie asked me the last minute or so if I could go one more minute. I gave her a thumbs up. She could tell from the data that I was getting close. She knew that my VO2 (Oxygen consumption) was still climbing so I should be able to continue a bit longer. She was looking for the point where the VO2 plateaus signaling I had reached my VO2max. Sure enough, that last minute was the one where I popped and my VO2 plateaued. As soon as I was done, I pulled off the head gear and went into recovery mode for a few minutes. I have to say I was glad to have my teammates there cheering me on. It really helped inspire me to squeeze ever last watt out of my legs. Note: Bring your own cheering squad when you do this test. It really does help.

The five page report detailing the results is very informative. Here is a summary of what I learned from my test.

Exercise Test Results

Workload Protocol:     50 W warm up x 2 min then 20 W/Min

Maximum Workload (Wmax):  350W

Duration of Exercise Test:  17:30

Estimated max HR: 175

Heart Rate (HR) max:  188

Maximal oxygen consumption (VO2max)  57.9 milliliters of oxygen/min/kilogram of body weight (relative), or 4.16 L/min (absolute)


Ventilation Thresholds (change in breathing frequency and depth)

1st ventilation threshold (VT1), aerobic zone transitioning to lactate threshold (LT):

VO2:  46.2ml/min/kg; 3.32 L/min

Exercise Intensity at VT1: 87 % of VO2max

HR at VT1:  163 BPM

Rating of Perceived Exertion (RPE) at VT1: 4

Power at VT1: 250 W


2nd ventilation threshold (VT2), known as the respiratory compensation point, and equivalent to the lactate threshold or maximal steady state:

VO2:  54.7ml/min/kg; 3.93 L/min

Exercise Intensity at VT2: 94 % of VO2max

HR at VT2:  176 BPM

RPE at VT2: 6

Power at VT2:  290W

Your stats at Vo2max

  • VO2max is  57.9 ml/min/kg or 4.16 L/min
  • HR maximum of 188  beats/ min
  • Power output at VO2max peak power was   350W (absolute) or  4.87 W/kg (relative)


The take away message is that many recreational athletes have the best of intentions when it comes to training but tend to approach training with assumptions about their  capabilities. With testing you can now approach training based on fact not assumptions. If you strive to just ride your bike and have fun, perhaps testing isn't for you. If, however, you wish to get the most out of your training then it is critical to be tested and re-tested as your fitness improves. I once heard someone say “you don’t know what you don’t know until you go through the process.” This was so true for me. In the time I've worked with SSSPC and had meaningful data to work with, I have increased my FTP (Functional Threshold Power) by over 20%. I now have new meaningful and measurable goals that are based on fact. I look forward to going back in a few weeks and following up this test with their Lactate Threshold test; more on that next time.


Reno Cycling Team

Established in 2013 our primary goal is to provide local cyclists a program, which at its core, is grounded in the principles of education, camaraderie, community involvement, and FUN!.

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