11 February 2011

VO2Max testing at the Tokyo Metropolitan Gym - Sendagaya

Redacted VO2max Data
Gunjira of TCC had a very-hard-to-get reservation for VO2Max testing at the Tokyo Metropolitan Gymnasium in Sendagaya on Tuesday that he could not make, because of a last minute overseas business trip.  I drew the lucky straw and was able to take the test in his place.  MOB tried to do this back in 2008/09, but was never able to get a spot.  It requires calling at precisely the right time, many weeks in advance, and maybe winning a lottery on top of that.

I had no preparation, and was still recovering from a cold (I coughed and wheezed a bit in the lung capacity test, but the results were fine so they let me go ahead), but still jumped at the chance.

First, it was a fun experience.  It was great to be tested with a med technician, several trainers, a doctor, lots of machines -- a full "team" standing by.  I can understand why people say this test, whatever the result, makes you feel like a pro.  And all for 1650 yen.  No wonder it is difficult to get reservations.  Thank you, fellow taxpayers!

Second, I was able to get a pretty decent understanding of what to expect from searching online blogs for 東京体育館 全身持久力想定 -- Tokyo Metro Gym VO2Max test.  One blog mentioned in passing that you can bring SPD cleated shoes -- then you can ride with cycling shoes instead of needing to use their toe clip.  This is not written down anywhere on the materials they provide, and I was just told to bring "training wear" and "training shoes."

Also, I quickly realized that most people who bother to go do this (and post the results online) are pretty serious athletes -- there was one by an "A" class cyclist in his 30s whose peak wattage was about 20% more than me.  And lots of entries by people with under (or just over) 10% body fat (somehow I am still at 24.5%).   I learned that it is really boring reading about other people's scores on these tests -- so for anyone still reading at this point, don't expect the post to get any more interesting below.

And I learned that VO2max is a "per kg" rating -- ml of oxygen per kilogram of body weight per minute -- ml/kg/min.  I do notoriously poorly on "per kg" ratings, since I'm still at 96 kg, whereas most of those whose Japanese blogs I read are in the 50-65 kg range.  Then I read that VO2max starts to decline in the early 30s and goes down by 1.2% per year for men, 1.7% per year for women. So I set my expectations low.

I was reasonably happy with the results, and the advice I got.  My VO2max tested at 51 ml/kg/min.  The associated peak HR was 177 bpm, and power was 409 watts.  Extraordinarily good for a 48-year old lawyer.  190% of the median for my age (and again, this is a per kg number, so I'm capable of processing at least 2.5X the oxygen of the next guy on the subway train).  But not so great for someone who might actually want to race a bicycle!  My AT "anaerobic threshold" was 31.5 ml/kg/min, or only 61.8% of my VO2max, and the associated heart rate was 140 bpm.  I guess I think my AT heart rate is actually higher, but who knows? Some of the discussion:
  • I could probably get the VO2max number up to 52-54 just by shrinking the "kg" denominator a bit as I train this Spring.  And I have plenty of fat left to shed, so losing some fat and converting some more to muscle is still "low hanging fruit" in terms of improving performance.
  • I should do LSD and try to maintain a steady 150 bpm.  (I guess at 150 bpm I would drop the "S" and just call it "LD", but I get the point.)  
  • I need to do intervals to boost my AT.  The med tech explained that I should do intervals at 170 bpm -- starting at 30 second bursts, and gradually increasing the length as I get better at it, then do not rest too long -- just long enough for my HR to drop to 140 (apparently this is where most people wimp out -- too long a rest between intervals).  It took less than one minute at the end of the full test for my HR to go from 177 to under 140 bpm.
  • Given my desire to work on climbing and improve climbing speed and endurance for Transalp, she suggested I do my intervals on the hills.  It is really easy to get up to 170 bpm when going up a 10% grade ... though not quite so easy to get back down to 140 bpm quickly and keep going up the hill.

As I was wrapping up the pre-test interview, someone behind me who was next in line nodded at me and said in Japanese "I did a brevet with you in 2009.  My name is Aoyama."  Sure enough it was Jun Aoyama, the fastest rider in the 400 km Brevet I did back in September 2009, by almost 2 hours, and who I had helped by pointing him in the right direction as they tried to find the approach to "Jerome Hill" (Umegaya Toge) -- in the blue long sleeve Discovery Channel jersey in this photo.  Somehow I was not surprised to see someone I recognized, and a really strong rider, at this test.  Apparently they used to get mostly runners, but in recent years more than 80% of people coming for testing are cyclists.  Aoyama-san's VO2max tested at 57.8.  The trainer was kind enough to point out to me that, after all, he is 10 years younger than I am, so it is to be expected.

A few other points, if you want to try this:   I think non-Japanese speakers should only go if you have a friendly interpreter to help out.  And if you are an athlete, you need the "direct" method of testing, which is only offered on Tuesday and Thursday.   Indirect testing tops out at too low a wattage to be meaningful, I was told.  Information about reservations is on the TMG website here.


TOM said...


jun said...

Hi, David L san.
This is Aoyama and I was very supriesed to see you because ... と、あまり英語は得意でないので日本語で失礼します(^^;
Positivo Espressoのジャージを着て、PBPのことなど話していたので「ひょっとして!?」と思いましたが(^^;


Tim said...

Hi David! Glad you could do this. By the way, did they have the new, larger size facemask available?

David L. said...

Tim: The face mask was large enough for me, and I think they said it was the largest they had. They needed to pull the straps VERY tight for it not to leak any air ... but my nose is neither low bridged nor small, and it worked for me.