Thursday, February 07, 2008

The Biology of a Baboo Part 1

Yesterday the GEEKGRL and I went to the Sports Physiology lab at the University of New Mexico to begin the testing that I got for Christmas this year. We are getting all kinds of stuff done and it is all top of the line. As a matter of fact this is the same lab where the elite Kenyans and Ethiopians who live in New Mexico come. This week we had power and VO2max tested.

Power was tested using something called the "Wingate Test" where you are on a stationary bike and you pedal as hard as you can and then they drop weights onto the flywheel which instantly increases the tension to a predetermined level based on your body weight. Once the weights are dropped you continue to pedal as hard as you can for 30 seconds. According to the exercise physiologist testing us the Wingate test causes about 10% of people to puke. The other thing the Wingate test does is measure your concentration of slow twitch versus fast twitch muscle. As a matter of fact the only test more accurate for this purpose is a muscle biopsy.

I was set up for the Wingate first and hit it as hard as I could…it was a long 30 seconds but I got my numbers and as far as I’m concerned they looked pretty good. Now I can’t say that I understand all the numbers involved but we are currently awaiting written repots, well, that is after we gat all our testing done.

My Wingate by the numbers:
Max power was just shy of 1600 watts
Average power output was right at 480 watts

Here are the numbers I don’t really understand but I can explain a bit or give comparisons.

With reguard to slow twitch versus fast twitch muscle fibers I “score” a 61. A person with nearly pure slow twitch muscle makeup scores about a 55 and most people score about a 65 so I have a higher percentage of slow twitch muscle and am more resistant to fatigue. I’m not sure if the 55 for pure slow twitch represents a real number or a theoretical number.

The other important number that I got from the Wingate test is my power to weight ratio. This is a number that I have no idea what exactly it refers to but I have some very cool comparison data. My number was a 16. The comparison data the lab had were for pro soccer players, power lifters and, strangely enough, Ultimate Fighters, those crazy mixed martial arts guys on T.V.

Remember, my power to weight ration is a 16.
Pro soccer players – 9
Power lifters – 12
Ultimate fighters – 14
Whoo Hoo! I win!

The VO2max test was done on a treadmill with the ventilator hooked up to a computer. That test was also tough. You gradually increase speed up to a max speed that you can maintain for a while and then they start to increase the grade until you are completely maxed out and can’t run anymore. My max speed was 9.5 mph and then we started going up in grade. I think I made it to 4% and blew up in about 40 seconds. The test is expected to last between 10 and 15 minutes and mine was a bit over 13 minutes.

I have some additional cool information on VO2max that I will add.

My VO2max is 53ml/kg. In my handy dandy book “The Lore of Running” by Tim Noakes it says VO2max values measured in otherwise healthy young men (between the ages of 18 and 24) is usually between 45 and 55ml/kg so my numbers make me a very healthy 18 to 24 year old. Yipee! I am 41 years old so for my age group I am at about the 95th percentile. To put that another way if you get together a random group of 100 men between the ages of 40 and 45 I will be more fit that about 95 of them. To put it yet another way my fitness is “excellent” for a man my age…there is no higher level of fitness so I guess I could just be even more excellently fit.

Ok, maybe it sounds like I’m crowing…well, maybe I am a bit but here is the real bit of humbling information. Also in my handy dandy book “The Lore of Running” by Tim Noakes it says that the VO2max of average people is about 60% lower than the VO2max of elite athletes. Let me throw a few numbers at you to illustrate.

Remember, my VO2max is 53ml/kg – excellent fitness for your average Baboo.

Frank Shorter 2:10:30 marathon VO2max = 71.3ml/kg
Alberto Salazar 2:08:13 marathon VO2max = 76ml/kg
Joan Benoit 2:24:52 marathon VO2max = 78.6ml/kg
Steve Prefontaine 3:54.6 mile VO2max = 84.4ml/kg

So all I have to do is work harder, right? NOT! Unfortunately VO2max can only be improved by 5 to 15% so assuming that I could push my VO2max up by the full 15% that would put me at 60.95ml/kg, well below elite levels. I suppose I’ll just have to forget my dreams of taking on Macca mano-e-mano.

Some final numbers… I was measured at an even 6 feet tall and 206 pounds. The exercise physiologist said my greatest limiter was my “mass.” Mass sounds so much better than “fat ass.”

So what do I take away from this?

I am in fantastic health and having been a 300 pound couch potato at one point and I must say I am very pleased. I have excellent power and my muscles are built with a nice mix of speed and endurance. I am pretty happy and am looking forward to the rest of my testing. Next up will be body fat percentage measured by hydrostatic weighing.

Public Service Announcement for your local U:

Most of you reading this are probably not very average Baboos either so you should check out your local University to see if they have an Exercise Physiology lab and get the testing done for yourself. Because the local U receives public funding it can't advertise to the general public because it would always undercut private sector pricing. However they love people to come in because it gets them some extra funds for cool new equipment and if gives their graduate students a chance to practice their craft.


  1. Hey, SB

    Great news on the testing and congratulations! So, now what are you going to do with the info? I've been wanting to get the tests for years but just have never gottne around to it.

  2. I am duly impressed by your studliness...... even though I truly understand not much of it.

  3. 10% of people puke?
    Must. Do. Wingate. Test.

    You're making great use of the genetic hand you were dealt!

  4. “Mass sounds so much better than fat ass."
    Words to live by.
    --I'm not a fat ass, I'm just "massively challenged."
    No wait, that doesn't sound good.

    I'm mass-limited.
    I have a mass limiter.

    Oh, hell, I'll figure out some way to use this phrasing to my advantage.

  5. mmmmmmmmmm .... numbers! :)

    Great results btw

  6. Thanks B for sharing your stats. Very impressive and very humbling to a degree as well. Some of the Vo2 stats you posted were pretty amazing. Although I will say that it's a bummer that we can't "work hard" and improve our own Vo2 numbers.

    I think that I would be a nervous wreck about being tested (forget about puking) for fear of being told more quantitatively that I am slow, fat and should try basketweaving! ;-)

    You've worked hard! Great job!

  7. When we meet, if you are wearing your lycra racing suit and you find that I am staring, I don't mean to offend you, I will be admiring your large . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .


    I love the science of sport.

  8. now this sounds like a cool time of testing.

    great numbers. and mass challenged, ha!


  9. Great numbers, Brian. And truly a testament to your hard work over the past few years.

  10. Thanks for the explanation of VOmax and Wingate testing! I have heard much of VOmax is hereditary. Had mine done last April and I wonder if it has changed....

    My takeaway was that I'm slow simply because I'm lazy...but at least I know how many calories to replace per hour and that has worked well.

  11. Remember "FAT ASS" is a good thing in Ultras :)

    Great numbers, those watts, you might be able to power up your house for a couple of days with that wattage.

  12. I think we are in-great data-I love having data about myself.I want to be Slow Twitch when I grow up too!
    Sounds like "Flacko" is the name for you for sure now. Or S. Flacko?

  13. That was really cool to read. Very impressive #'s.

  14. well no wonder your so strong. Noakes book weighs a hundred pounds. To thumb through that regularly you would have to be strong