Monday, July 21, 2014

Should Women Cut Their Hair Short?

I have been wanting to cut my hair short (like really short) for a while now.  I've always thought it looks cool and figured it would be SO much easier to manage with swimming, biking, & running.  But, I have also always been afraid to do it.  Why was I afraid?  I mean, it's only hair.  It grows back, what's the big deal?  Why did it take me years to get to the point to actually do it?   Well, I guess these were my main concerns:

-I was worried I would look like a man
-I was worried it would look unprofessional
-I was worried people would think I switched my sexual orientation
-My family loves long hair.  Even talking about cutting my hair has always been met with negative feedback. (Except for Kurt - he's always been super supportive!)

Turns out my family are not the only ones who frown upon short hair.  I went online looking for ways to style my new short hair and found a ton of blogs/forums/websites dedicated to reasons why women shouldn't cut their hair (written mostly by men).  I was really surprised at how sensitive people are about this topic!  According to these writers, long hair is a sign of youth, femininity, & fertility and:

-Short hair is unattractive to men.  Period.
-Celebrities can't even pull it off so neither will you.
-If you cut your hair, you will stand out, but not in a good way.
-Having short hair amplifies your flaws.
-Short hair is a near guarantee that a girl will be more abrasive and more masculine.
-If you have short hair, there is something wrong with you.

Some guys are really stuck on this issue and there is no changing their minds.  One blogger said this:  When I date girls nowadays, I don't even try to reason with them on this. I just tell them, "Never cut your hair. Do not even think about it. It is the worst thing you could do to yourself."   Wow, he sounds like a real catch!

I even read an account of a woman who was dumped because her boyfriend told her he was no longer attracted to her after she cut her hair!  Are dead cells growing out of the top of our heads really that much of a deal-breaker???

Another thing I read that made me laugh was that supposedly women encourage other women to cut their hair short and say that it looks cute so that they can one up them in the looks department.  Really, we are that competitive with each other!?  Haha, that was probably one of the most ludicrous things I read.

Here are two amusing lists I found:

16 Reasons Why Women Cut Off All Their Hair

17 Things You Don't Say To A Woman With Short Hair

Anyhow, I've really been enjoying messing around w/ my short haircut.  Not only is it super practical for working out, but there are so many ways to style it!  I've learned that becoming friends with product is essential and that I shouldn't even try for a faux hawk when it's really humid outside.  I don't plan on keeping my hair short forever, but I'm glad that I finally did it and am going to rock it for the summer.  And lastly,  I feel like the only appropriate way to end this blog is with a bunch of selfies of some of my recent hairstyles!

The Posh Spice

Brushed Back

Beyonce's Pixie

My favorite, the Faux Hawk

Halle Berry Messy Style

Short hair is not sexy.

Monday, July 14, 2014

The Mark Allen Approach


If you're looking for a great summer sports-related motivational inspirational read, try picking up Iron War.  I read this book a couple years ago and really enjoyed the intense tale of rivalry between super-human triathletes Dave Scott and Mark Allen.  The book chronicles their numerous battles at Kona, culminating with the legendary 1989 Ironman World Championship race in which *spoiler alert* Mark Allen finally beat Dave Scott for the first time.  In addition to being entertaining, this book also made me start thinking about the science behind the training.  It was the first time I'd ever encountered the "Mark Allen Approach."

Early in his career, Mark Allen had the same approach to training that most people do - the harder and faster you train in training, the faster you will become as a racer.  He has openly talked about how this approach led him to fatigue, burn out, and the inability to reach peak performance.  As he matured he started doing things differently which he believes allowed him to ultimately beat Dave Scott and become a 6-time Ironman World Champion.  What did he do?

At the start of every season, he spent a long (3-month) block solely focused on aerobic threshold training, meaning that he monitored his heart rate and kept it at or below aerobic threshold (AeT) for all training sessions.  Even if it meant he had to slow down or walk up a hill he did not exceed that number.  Week after week he would time himself in an 8K, keeping his heart rate at or below AeT.  In these time trials he would expect to see a consistent 5-6 second drop per mile per week.  The theory is that during this time, his body's aerobic capabilities were increasing such that he could spare carbohydrates, rely on fat as a fuel source, and run at a faster pace at the same given heart rate.  Year after year of this type of training allowed him to run at 5:30 pace with a heart rate of only 150 bpm!

So, why don't more athletes employ this type of training?  In this video, Mark Allen says that it's because "aerobic training isn't really sexy."  Because the intensity is so low you don't feel like you are really getting a great workout.  It can be kind of boring and difficult to run at a slower pace if you are used to burning it up for every workout.  And it takes patience to continue with this type of training for an entire 3-month block!

Granted, Mark Allen seriously ratcheted up the intensity of his training after the base period once his speed phase kicked in, but he believes that doing the aerobic base training allowed him to make greater gains from the speed block of training which lasted about 10-12 weeks.  After the speed block, he did a short recovery period before a very hard 8 week training push leading into Kona.  In addition, through the entire cycle he was putting in 30-40 hours per week of training.  I also forgot to mention that he did weight training twice per week in the base period.  Here is a link to an article on SlowTwitch with an except from The Lore of Running that goes into much greater detail on Mark Allen's training regimen and is certainly worth the read.

Anyhow, I find his approach interesting and I think scientifically it does make sense.  My previous coach had me do something very similar to this the year that I ended up qualifying for an elite license in triathlon.  I started my season with very high volume low intensity base training.  As the races got closer I started working on speed.  And then some of my hardest sessions, although short in duration, were at the beginning of a taper leading into a big race.  That approach worked for me.  However, I never religiously monitored my HR.  And I believe that too many people are going too hard when they should be going easy.  Then again, I was doing high volume (20-25 hours/week) and some people say that volume is the ultimate trump card...

So, at this point I'm training for the Savannah full marathon in November.  I obviously don't have time to do an entire base training period right now, but I have started training by heart rate, so I guess you could say it's going to be a little mini cycle of the Mark Allen Approach.  These are the reasons I'm using it:

1) I'm working on gradually building up my mileage and I want to prevent injury.  If you increase mileage too quickly, intensity too quickly, or both at the same time your risk of injury goes way up.  I'm hoping that keeping the bulk of my miles at low intensity will help me stay healthy.

2) Doing easy runs at AeT allows you to have enough energy in the tank to really crush the hard days, which is where you make your speed gains.  This method of training is also referred to as polarized training and I am a VERY strong believer in that model.  Here's a great video (long but worth it) on the subject.

3) I want to see if the Mark Allen Approach really works.  It may take an entire year to really test it out, but if I can get a decent result at Savannah, I just might do that :)

If you've ever tried the Mark Allen approach, please leave a comment and let me know how it worked for you!  And if you are a naysayer, I'd like to hear your thoughts as well!

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Quinoa: The Mother Grain

Five years ago no one knew what the heck quinoa was.  These days I'm finding that quinoa (pronounced "KEEN-wah") is a common household grain.  If you don't have any quinoa in your pantry at the moment, then maybe this blog is your call to action to purchase some next time you hit the grocery store :)


Quinoa is an ancient grain that has been around since at least 3000 BC, originating in the Andes mountains of South America.  The Incas thrived on it and referred to it as "The Mother Grain" because it is so nutritious.  Quinoa contains more protein than any other grain, delivers all eight essential amino acids, is a good source of fiber, and contains calcium, B vitamins, vitamin E, and iron.

Nutrition Facts (1/4 cup dry)
160 calories
2.5 g fat
28 g carbohydrates
3 g fiber
6 g protein

Cooking quinoa is super easy and QUICK!  All you do is add water & quinoa to a saucepan (2 cups water per 1 cup quinoa).  Bring the mixture to a vigorous boil, then lower heat and simmer, covered, until quinoa is tender but still chewy and white spiral-like threads appear around each grain.  This takes about 15 minutes total.

Quinoa is delicate in flavor, perhaps slightly nutty.  The texture is fluffy once cooked.  It may be used as part of a main dish, a side dish, in soups, salads, and even desserts or breakfast foods.  One of my favorite uses of quinoa is as the basis for a grain salad.  I'll cook quinoa and combine it with a variety of veggies, kind of like how you would make a cold pasta salad.  These quinoa salads are the perfect thing to pack for lunch because they deliver vegetables & whole grains and free you up from the boredom (and cancer-causing nitrites) of deli-meat sandwiches.  Plus, they are great for summer because they are light and refreshing!


Because quinoa is such a great food, it's the July Food of the Month at TOPS.  In addition, I'm inviting everyone to participate in a Quinoa Cook Off!  Whoever produces the best quinoa salad will win a FREE one-month unlimited membership to TOPS Athletics!  Here are the rules:

*Spend the month of July perfecting your quinoa salad recipe.  The only caveat is that it may not contain any animal products (come on, it should not surprise you that I'm looking for whole foods plant based recipes here people!)

*When you have perfected your recipe, send it to me at tara@synergyonelab.com along with your name, your email address, your phone number, and the name of your recipe.  This will be your official entry into the contest.

*Cook a batch of your quinoa salad and bring it to the TOPS tent at TryThursday on August 7th (exact time TBA, but it will be around 5:30/6:30 pm).  [TrySports at Mayfaire in Wilmington, NC]

*All participants at TryThursday will be invited to sample the quinoa salads and cast a (blind) vote for their favorite.  The winner will be announced that evening and recipes will be available to all!

To provide you with extra inspiration, my friend Heidi Bucher, owner of Heidi's Healthy Kitchen, will be making a new quinoa salad every week in July.  She'll be bringing samples to TOPS every Tuesday for you to try!  And OMG I absolutely love her Healthy Honey Balsamic Red Quinoa Salad which is going to be the first sample, available TODAY!

Put your creativity in the kitchen to the test this month and use this as a good opportunity to introduce  quinoa to your family, friends, & coworkers who may still be living in the dark when it comes to incorporating this healthy superfood into their diets.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Race Report: Asheville Half Marathon


On Saturday I raced one of the toughest half marathon courses I've ever done.  I knew this race was going to be hilly when I signed up given that Asheville is basically in the Smokey Mountains, near the Blue Ridge Parkway and Appalachian Trail.  BUT, I got a little bit more than I had bargained for.
The city itself sits at 2,134 ft and I swear coming from sea level I could tell a difference in the "thin-ness" of the air!  The night before the race I took a quick look at the elevation profile of the course and was a little nervous to see that it had about 500 more feet of elevation gain than the Mistletoe Half Marathon, which is probably the last hilly half marathon that I've run (other than trail races):

Elevation Profile of the 2014 Asheville Half Marathon
In preparation for this race I didn't do any hill training because there are no hills here in Wilmington.  Yes, I could have gone downtown and run the bridges and yes, I could have run on the treadmill with an incline, but I did neither of those.  My preparation including sticking to my awesome training plan by coach Tom Clifford of Without Limits and cleaning up my diet to drop some body fat.  I averaged about 40-45 miles per week for a month leading into this race and consistently ran 13-15 miles on the weekends, plus a track workout each Wednesday night.  I also ate pretty much a fruitarian diet, sticking with fruits, veggies, some nuts & seeds, and soy milk.  I was able to lose about 5 pounds and about 3% body fat.  I felt really good eating this cleanly again and I found that I recovered really quickly from all my hard workouts!

Ok, so Saturday morning we were driving to the race start and talking about competition.  Just as I was telling Kurt that the website wouldn't have boasted "world class competition" and a $3000+ prize purse if there weren't going to be fast people there, Susan Jerotich of Kenya ran by with some of her fellow countrymen.  They looked ... really fast.
Susan Jerotich of Kenya
The last time I saw Susan and the rest of her pack was at the start of the race.  I lined up near the front and as soon as the gun went off the insanity started.  The first 1.5 miles were pretty much down hill.  I looked at my watch and I was running about 6:30 pace.  It was a tad fast, but I remembered a text that Tom had sent me that morning, "Remember, run the downhills...that's where you get fast in the mountains."  So I kept going at that pace and tried not to let myself break myself.  I was hoping that most of the people in front of me were doing the 10K, but at the split many of them turned onto the half marathon course.  Rats!

The first crazy hill hit at around mile 2.  It started going up and it just didn't stop.  And, it was steep.  I didn't dare look at my watch to see how slow I was running b/c it felt like I could have been going faster had I been crawling.  Finally, after a bunch of switchbacks, there was nice long downhill.  Well, actually it wasn't that nice because when you "run the downhills" they are actually tiring!

Miles 4-5.5 were relatively flat and I was hoping to gain some time here.  However I could tell my legs had taken a beating from that initial climb/downhill because they weren't springing back to full force.  In my mind I should have been running around 6:45 pace on that flat section, but in reality was actually running around 7:05 pace.  I didn't want to force myself to go faster b/c I knew there were more hard hills coming up.

Enter miles 5.5-7.  More crazy switchbacks into thinner air.  Around mile 8 or 9 there was a very long sustained climb.  I had a mile that clocked in at 7:45 pace.  I wasn't happy about this b/c it was a full minute off my desired goal pace.  But at that moment in time, it was just about putting one foot in front of the other and continuing to move forward (and upward).  I reached the summit of that hill and decided to tear down the backside of the hill, clocking the next mile in 6:27.

Hurting big time!
I knew the last 2 miles would be mostly uphill and mentally clicked into gear to push through the pain.  I remembered listening to Ironman World Champion Mirinda Carfrae speak at Revolution 3 Triathlon Quassy 70.3 a couple years ago after her win on a very hard course.  She said, "it's just pain."  With about 1-1.5 miles to go, I was delivered a little treat.  A carrot to be exact.  I was catching up to another woman!  This gave me a task to focus on for the last part of the race.  Within a half mile to the finish I barreled down a hill and noticed that I had gained significant time on her.  I kept using this strategy of running really hard down the hills, just hoping that my quads weren't going to give out!  This paid off because at the very last turn on the course, at the bottom of the very last hill I caught her!  There were only about 50 yards left in the race, all straight uphill.  I braced myself for an uphill sprint to the finish but when I passed her she didn't surge at all.  Fine by me.  I ran strongly up the finish chute (there was no way you could even think about walking this final hill b/c it was lined with spectators) to clutch 5th place overall for the women.

My total time was 1:34:25 (7:13/mile).  Not close to my PR (1:25:55) or to the goal pace I had in my head (6:45/mi), but still somewhat decent considering the difficulty of the course.  It was certainly a challenge and I was very happy to complete it!  I walked back to mile 11 where I met Kurt & ran with him to the finish.  It was amazing to see so many people tackling this course and refusing to give up!  Congrats to all finishers on a job well done!

Kurt & I spent the rest of the day indulging in the offerings of Asheville.  Yes, we basically ate and drank our way through the city.  We found some pretty cool micro breweries and even a place called The Chocolate Lounge where all they serve are desserts made out of chocolate.  YUM!  We didn't make it to the Biltmore, but hey I guess that gives us a good reason to come back next year and run this race again!  To quote the website, "If you're a runner, this is one to run!"

Glad to be done!


Monday, June 2, 2014

What the HELL is Nutritional Yeast!?


The food that I've selected for June Food of the Month is Nutritional Yeast!  I realize that many people have never heard of nutritional yeast and may be turned off by the name of it.  BUT, don't let that stop you from trying it!  

Nutritional yeast is inactive yeast that has been cultured in a mixture of sugarcane and molasses and then dried. The end result is tasty little yellow flakes, which are sold in health stores, such as Whole Foods, often in the bulk section. Nutritional yeast has a tangy nutty cheesy flavor and is super healthy. It contains a TON of B vitamins (is a great source of B12 for vegans) and has ~8g non-animal protein per tablespoon! In addition to it's nutritional benefits, I have a friend who swears that it prevents hangovers when eaten late-night after overindulging in alcoholic beverages! However, user beware! This stuff is so good that it is seriously addictive - another friend refers to it as "hippy crack!"

Here is a little list of great ways to use nutritional yeast!

1.  Popcorn.  Probably my favorite usage of nutritional yeast.  Sprinkle nutritional yeast on top of popcorn and I guarantee by the end of the bowl you will be licking it off your fingers :)  Even better (but a lot more unhealthy), take nutritional yeast with you into the movie theater - it tastes awesome on movie theater popcorn.

2.  Potatoes.  Add nutritional yeast to your mashed potatoes for added cheesy flavor.  Sometime I also sprinkle it on baked potatoes and sweet potatoes (this is a great substitution for butter or sour cream).

3.  Soups/stews.  Stir in some nutritional yeast as a savory flavor adder.  

4.  Kale chips.  Lightly mist raw kale with oil.  Sprinkle with Mrs. Dash & nutritional yeast & bake until crispy.  Yum!

5.  Pizza.  Sprinkle nutritional yeast on top of cheese-less pizza.

6.  Spaghetti.  Ditch the green can of processed Parmesan cheese.  Instead use a few sprinkles of nutritional yeast.  

7.  Vegan pesto.  Substitute nutritional yeast for Parmesan cheese in pesto recipes.  See below for one of the BEST vegan pesto recipes EVER!

8.  Vegan mac & cheese.  Nutritional yeast can be made into a cheese-less sauce, perfect for vegan version of kid's favorite meal!  There are tons of recipes

9.  Vegan nacho cheese dip.  Sounds weird, but tastes amazing.  See below for recipe!

10.  Grits.  Craving good old fashioned sausage & grits?  Simply cook some grits, add some Gimme Lean veggie sausage, a little unsweetened soy milk & vegan butter, + nutritional yeast and you will think you are eating the real thing!

11.  Roasted veggies.  Sprinkle on top of roasted veggies to add cheesiness. 

12.  Bread crumbs.  Use nutritional yeast in place of bread crumbs!

13.  Salad topper.  Sprinkle on top of salads to add flavor without all the added fat calories in typical salad dressings. 

14.  Vegan gravy.  Nutritional yeast provides a flavor boost to vegan gravies.  

15.  Dog food.  Yes, dog food.  One client told me that her dog would never eat it's food until she started adding nutritional yeast to it and now her dog can't get enough of the stuff!


Vegan Pesto
2 cups fresh packed basil
3/4 cup nutritional yeast
1/2 cup olive oil
2 cloves garlic
1/3 cup walnuts
salt & pepper to taste

1.  Blend all of the above in high-powered blender until consistency of pesto is reached.  
2.  Toss with whole wheat penne pasta.  


Nacho "Cheese" Dip, from The Everything Vegan Cookbook by Jolinda Hackett
3 Tbsp vegan margarine
1 cup unsweetened soy milk
3/4 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp onion powder
1 Tbsp peanut butter
1/4 cup flour
1/4 cup nutritional yeast
3/4 cup salsa
2 Tbsp chopped canned jalapeƱo peppers
[I also sometimes add in a little Cholula and Red Hot to add to the depth of flavor in this dip!]

1.  Heat margarine and soy milk together in a pan over low heat. Add garlic powder, salt, and onion powder, stirring to combine.  Add peanut butter and stir until melted. 
2.  Whisk in flour, 1 Tbsp at a time until smooth.  Heat until thickened, about 5-6 min.
3.  Stir in nutritional yeast, salsa, & jalapeƱos.  
4.  Allow to cool slightly before serving, as sauce will thicken as it cools.  



Monday, May 5, 2014

May Mango Madness


The Food of the Month for May is one of my favorite fruits - mangoes!  Mangoes are so delicious and are in season right now so it's likely you'll be able to find some really good deals on them in the grocery store right now.  (Buy a case at Whole Foods and receive a 10% discount).

How do you pick a good mango?
*Gently squeeze the mango; ripe mangoes have a slight give, similar to a ripe peach or avocado.
*As mangoes ripen, the skin turns from a green to a more golden hue.
*Ripening may be accelerated by placing the mango in a paper bag.
*Once ripe, mangoes may be stored in the refrigerator to prevent over-ripening.

How do you cut a mango?


Like all fruits, mangoes are super healthy for you.  One mango contains:

  • 124 calories
  • 1.7 g protein
  • <1 g fat
  • 31 g carbohydrates
  • 3.3 g fiber
  • 0 mg cholesterol
  • 23 mg calcium
  • 348 mg potassium
  • 2 mg sodium
  • 75 mg vitamin C
  • 89 mcg folate
  • 112 mcg vitamin A
Mangoes are also packed with phytonutrients called carotenoids.  Carotenoids are vitamin-A precursors that give foods their deep yellow/orange/red color.  They have anti-oxidant and protective effects in the body.  Some carotenoids found in mangos include:
  • beta-carotene - antioxidant & anti-cancer properties
  • lycopene - preventative against prostate cancer
  • cryptoxanthin - possible immune system booster
  • lutein - preventative against macular degeneration & cataracts
  • zeaxanthin - beneficial for eye health
Chopping, cooking, & pureeing caroteinoids increases bioavailabily (amount that is absorbed), so making smoothies out of frozen mangoes is an awesome way to eat this fruit.  Here is one of my favorite mango recipes from Dr.Fuhrman.com!

Mango Ice Cream (makes 2 servings)
2 cups frozen mango chunks
1 frozen banana
1/2 cup soy milk (or other non-dairy milk)
2-4 pitted medjool dates (optional)

Blend ingredients in high-powered blender until smooth.  Top with cinnamon if desired. 

Come in to TOPS Athletics this month for more yummy mango recipes!

Acai bowl from SurfBerry with delicious mango!

Note:  The best source of carotenoids is food.  Don't take high-dose supplements of carotenoids (or anything for that matter) because the body cannot regulate absorption as well and consuming too much can be dangerous.  For example, studies have shown that taking extremely high doses of carotenoids in supplement form increased risk of lung cancer in smokers.  

Saturday, April 26, 2014

What's Your VO2 Max?


If you’ve ever spent much time around endurance athletes then it’s highly likely you’ve heard the term VO2 max thrown around.  VO2 max is generally accepted as the best indicator of endurance capacity.  Technically, it is the maximal amount of oxygen one can use during intense exercise.  Having a high VO2 max is a prerequisite for reaching a high level of competition in endurance sports.  It “punches your ticket.”  

VO2 max and the amount that you can increase your VO2 max are largely genetic.  Training can increase VO2 max by 15-20% in a sedentary person, but the more highly trained you are, the less you will be able to increase your VO2 max (because you are already close to your genetic potential).  Improvements in VO2 max through training are due to increases in the size & number of muscle mitochondria, greater cardiac output per heartbeat, and increased capillarization to the muscles.  

I’ve always wanted to do a VO2 max to find out what mine is.  Part of it is curiosity and part of it is to improve the structure of my training.  By knowing your VO2 max, you can determine what heart rates you should be training at when given recovery, easy, cruise, tempo, and race-pace intervals in your workouts.  It prevents you from going too hard on your easy days and makes sure that you really nail your speed and pace workouts.  In addition, a VO2 max test will tell you your aerobic threshold and your anaerobic threshold.  Aerobic threshold is the heart rate below which you are burning fat for fuel.  As heart rate increases from aerobic threshold to anaerobic threshold you begin to rely on a greater percentage of carbohydrate for energy.  Anaerobic threshold is the point at which you are producing lactate at a higher rate than you can clear it from the blood and is presumably a rate-limiting factor in the ability to continue performing exercise.  Here's a short clip of my coach Tom Clifford of Without Limits talking about how a VO2 max test can help structure training (sorry, we had technical difficulties, so second is pretty poor quality)!


So last week I booked a VO2 max test at TOPS Athletics.  I was pretty excited about it but also nervous.  Given that it’s a maximal effort test, I knew I’d have to push myself to max exertion which inherently is not easy.  Additionally, even though I’ve been curious about it for a while, I wasn’t 100% sure I really wanted to know my number.  I knew I’d be disappointed if it was low.  Also, you have to fast for 4 hours prior to doing the test to minimize metabolic effects of digestion.  I like to eat very frequently throughout the day, so I knew going for 4 hours without food wouldn’t be pleasant.  I ate a large, carbohydrate-rich meal 4 hours before the test, but sure enough I was getting pretty hungry when it came time for action.  

The first step was to fit the mask.  The mask has a one-way valve that allows room air to flow through the top and into your lungs.  When you breathe out, gasses are collected through a long tube that connects to the computer which does all the analyzing.  Anyhow, it’s a lot easier to breathe without the mask.  It’s kind of heavy and does not feel natural.  But, it’s part of the test, so if you want to know your VO2 max you’d better wrap your head around the idea of producing a max effort while breathing into a tight-fitting mask wrapped around your head.  


The test starts out very easy; I think I started with a walk at 4.0 at 0% incline on the treadmill.  Every minute thereafter, the test administrator increases speed and/or incline.  So the first 5 minutes of the test are actually very easy.  I got up to 7.5 on the treadmill, which was the pace at which we planned to run the test, so after this we used incline to get me to my max.  From there, things got progressively more difficult.  I tried to keep good running form, remain calm, and focus on my breathing.  Jeff kept encouraging me to keep going.  In the final stages of the test I got up to a 12% grade at 7.5 mph.  The test ends when you can’t continue any longer.  It’s so hard not to quit when you get towards the end of the test!  Your chest is burning and so are your legs!  At the very end, I hit the stop button on the treadmill and jumped to the sides of the treadmill, took off the mask, and gasped for air while Jeff measured my 2 min heart rate recovery.  All in all, I think it only lasted about 12-13 minutes, but it was INTENSE!  Here's a quick look at what the test looks like in action:



My VO2 max was measured at 68.8 and I was happy with this.  I think I maybe could have pushed a little harder, but that’s always easier said in hindsight when breathing plentiful quantities of ambient oxygen!  Here is a table that compares VO2 max of non-athletes, cyclists, swimmers, and runners by age.  In general, women have a  10-25% lower VO2 max compared to men.  VO2 max appears to decrease with age, although this is thought to be due to decreases in training, such that if you continue to train intensely as you age, decrements in VO2 max will be attenuated.  Pretty interesting stuff!

VO2 Max for Non-Athletes & Selected Sports

Group
Age
Males
Females
Non-Athletes
10-19
47-56
38-46

20-29
43-52
33-42

30-39
39-48
30-38

40-49
36-44
26-35

50-59
34-41
24-33

60-69
31-38
22-30

70-79
28-35
20-27
Cyclists
18-26
62-74
47-57
Swimmers
10-25
50-70
40-60
Runners
18-39
60-85
50-75

40-75
40-60
35-60

Highly trained athletes can reach their genetically determined VO2 max within 8-18 months of heavy endurance training.  In fact, among trained endurance athletes, VO2 max is not the best predictor of performance.  This does not mean that after 8-18 months the athlete cannot get any faster.  At this point improving anaerobic threshold becomes the metric of interest.  I’ve been doing some research into how to improve anaerobic threshold, but that’s another blog for another day :)  


If you are interested in knowing what your VO2 max is, visit www.topsathletics.com and click on the SynergyONE tab to find out more about the test and to make an appointment.  Trust me, it’s a lot of fun and you won’t regret doing it!