Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Ask the Doctor

Remember when I did this and looked really cool?

P1100332

Back in June I had the opportunity to visit Dr. Inigo San Millan, Director of the Exercise Physiology and Human Performance Lab at the University of Colorado's Anschutz Health & Wellness Center, for a physiological performance evaluation (VO2 Max, lactate profile and metabolism, body composition, heart rate, substrate utilization). For my full report on the experience, go HERE

This can be very confusing stuff, especially when your hobbies include watching the Bachelor and reading People. As Digital Running so eloquently states, “You see, no one actually knows what VO2 max is.” So, for a concise and easy-to-understand explanation of VO2 Max, read Digital Running’s article posted yesterday: What is VO2 Max?.

My humble opinion is that anyone training for an endurance event should have this testing done. For $250 you get major insight into how your body really works and hands on ways to improve training and performance. I had my test done on the bike, but hope to return for a treadmill test in September.

Here are the big lessons I learned that day and how I applied them to my half ironman training:

  • Train with a heart rate monitor to ensure I’m spending enough time in zone 2 (lower/endurance heart rate zone) in order to train my body to flush lactate more efficiently. I have not yet purchased a heart rate monitor and therefore did not use one in my training. I have never used one. I am not sure when I will train for my next marathon (probably when I can afford a HRM), but I will incorporate it into my training both on the run and the bike.
  • Eat more on the bike (50 carbs per hour). I started paying close attention to this right away. The SECOND I increased my carbs both before and during my rides I noticed a difference. I went from averaging 16-17 mph to 19.34 mph during the 56 miles of my race (admittedly, some of this due to aero bars, but I my heightened energy level on the bike I attribute to effective fueling and hydrating).
  • Give my body ample time to rest and recover. This only makes the body stronger and lets it adapt to the stresses being put on it. I paid a lot of attention to this, incorporating a recovery week every fourth week of training. I took my rest days seriously and was careful to refuel properly after workouts. At the first sign of pain, I pulled back and rested.
  • My V02 max is above normal, and given that, I should be seeing higher performance results when I race. This tells me that I have a lot more potential than I am using. That is where the heart rate training zones come in. I am convinced that if I start training in the correct zones, I will see improvements in my marathon time, and can maybe get closer to a 3:30 (my current PR is 3:42).  Exciting to know that there is room for improvement. Science tells me this, but so does my heart/gut/intuition.

Now, it’s your turn. Dr. San Millan had agreed to answer your training, weight loss, and performance questions.

  • Want to know why you exercise consistently and frequently but never lose weight?
  • Want to know why when you train for a marathon you do your long runs at a pace much slower than marathon pace?
  • Want to know if everyone has the potential and capability to run a marathon if they train correctly?
  • Want to know why time and time again you can’t get that PR?
  • Want to know if this type of testing is right for you and what you could gain from it?

Here is your chance. Leave a comment asking the good doctor what you’d like to know!

SUAR

57 comments:

  1. I'm really good at the resting part :-) I probably do it WAY more than required...I am an overachiever.

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  2. I'm interested in the first question.

    I'm a 6 ft 185lb Army guy. Which means in addition to the 35-40 miles a week I run, I also do quite a bit of cross-training as well, mostly low weight, high rep type of stuff. Very seldom max my weights. My running is a standard combo of LSD, recovery, Speed/Hills.

    I don't eat like an idiot but I'm at 185; I would like to lean down to 180 or 175. Am I just a steady state 185? Should I even care about this?

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  3. I want more info on the Z 2 training. I feel like I'm speed walking in Z 2 but then z4 feels like death after 20 mins. Uggg

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  4. Q for Dr:
    What's the best way to increase VO2max?

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  5. CAn you please go into more detail about what these HR "zones" are and which ones you should be in? I have a HR monitor but don't know anything about what zones I should be in so it really doesn't help haha!

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  6. I want to know about all the questions you posted above, especially the first one about not losing weight. I also want to understand the heart rate zones better. I, too, feel like my zone 2 is super slow and not where I want to train at, but why should I be training there? This stuff is really intriguing to me and I want to know MORE!! Thanks for this!

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  7. God, yes, I would LOVE to know why I'm not losing weight. Counting calories (1300 a day) and running five days a week. I am *netting* 1300 calories a day, which means that I eat back the calories I burn from a run. I use the HRM with my Garmin, so I imagine I'm getting a pretty fair accuracy in terms of calorie burn. It took me 70 days to lose 10 pounds, and I definitely have at least 10 pounds to go. Haven't lost anything in three weeks--no idea what I'm doing wrong. I'm starting a new training period for a half-marathon and am not sure if I'm eating enough. I mean, if weight loss is simple calories in versus calories out, I should be seeing a loss, I think.

    I am short (5'2"). Not willing to list my weight on the interwebs. :)

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  8. How do you find a doctor who does this kind of testing?

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  9. I would absolutely love the answer to that first question about weight loss. I'd also like to know why running doesn't seem to ever get easier for me! I'm a race walker (4 full, 5 half marathons)but I've been running more and more over the past 12 months and it doesn't seem to get any easier! I always feel like my lungs are going to explode.

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  10. I am interested in the weight loss question, too. I have lost a bit over 15 pounds but now am stuck. I'm also training for a half marthon and my miles each week are increasing but my weight isn't budging. So too many calories or too few or not the right carb/protein combo?
    I'd like to know about HRM zones, too.

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  12. This. Is. AWESOME. I so want to do this- was it a VO2 max test that you did?? I am so with you on the HR monitor way of working out. Tells you so much!

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  13. I would love to hear more on the first question. I exercise 5 days/week (running, spin class, strength training) and I really need to lose 15 pounds. I feel like I eat fairly healthy, but I do indulge every once in a while (not every day). I cannot get the scale to budge!! I'd love to hear some insight on losing those last hard to lose pounds.

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  14. Any advice for getting over that "I am feeling winded so I MUST walk for a house or two" feeling/low self-esteem? I do it whether running casually or in a race. I mentally know (or should) that I have endurance for a 5K or 10K, so what makes me walk. UGH!

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  15. You can great deals on HR Monitors on ebay. I bought 2 basic HR watches with HR straps for $25.00. However, if you're using a Garmin Forerunner that has HR capabilities but you don't have a HR strap, I have 2 extra straps, one being brand new that I can give you. Let me know if you're interested.

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  16. I'd love to know if this testing is right for me. I'm a casual runner - 5ks and 10ks mostly - with weight and resistance training in between.

    I'd also like to know if there is a semi-effective way to determine heart rate zones WITHOUT getting this test done. The formulas online seem very standard, so I'm wondering if there's a way that I can tweak it to be more accurate, until I can afford the test.

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  17. I'd also like to hear his opinion on the best way to increase V02M.

    I don't necessarily agree with you about the fact that you should be doing better than you are now, just because you discovered you have a higher than average V02M. You already do much better than the average woman in your age group. Wouldn't you assume that the top women in your age group also have a higher than average VO2M? I'm not saying that you don't have the potential to improve - everyone has that potential given the proper training. I'm saying that just because you have a high V02M doesn't mean you should be winning your age group every time out. There's many other factors at play there.

    And if you can afford entry into a half iron, you can afford to buy a brand new Garmin w/ HRM ;) Or you could always go cheaper and get a non-GPS watch and wear them both! Unless your just fishing for a freebie here...in which case, please continue chumming the waters.

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  18. Mark: my thought that I can be more competitive is b/c this is what the doc told me based on my numbers. It doesn't mean I'm gunning to win my age group or even think I can do that. I was just excited that there is improvement to be had with a different approach to training.

    I am a newer runner still, so I do believe that my Vo2 max indicates that I can possibly make some great strides.


    As for the HRM, LOL! Love it when people make assumptions about what I can and can't afford! Just b/c I registered for a HIM 8 months ago doesn't mean much about my current situation.

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  19. Oh wow how kind of your doctor!

    I've asked a nutritionist and a Dr. 1 the nutritionist says I'm doing it right should be seeing weight loss the Dr. (or I believe it was an intern who then consulted the Dr. after speaking to me) said to FACE FACTS I'm getting old and my metabolism is slowing down so this might be my new weight!!! Or even better she suggested I might be able to try a specialty diet like Atkins (after I told her I was vegetarian).

    So I got my number for calories in 1650 to lose about 1/2 lb. per week and I measure calories out via my HR Mon. I too had my VO2 Max numbers so this should be fairly accurate. I keep a food log and have been trying hard for the last 6 months to lose weight with only 2 lbs out of the 15 lost which I had to do twice...

    Weights 2 x per week, 2 runs per week 1 long easy 1 intervals, 1 swim session and 1 bike session this is my minimum per week...

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  20. I am curious about weight loss. (Heck, I may just go get myself tested. We have a lab at the university I work at.) I work swing shift, walk around my whole shift, plus fit in an hour-1.5hr workout before work (following a training plan for my 1st marathon in Nov.) I have tried both increasing and decreasing calories, fad diets, during the past year, but have actually gained 15 pounds! I do my crosstraining with weights and bike.

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  21. YES!!!! i want to know the answer to ALL of those!!!! ive been stuck at the same weight, same pace, same distance hurdle for over a year now (partly due to injury) but even during optimal training, i plateau and never improve.

    question for you: what kind of areo bars did you get, i have the same (but one year older) bike as you.

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  22. I am lucky to have a partner who just so happens to be an exercise physiologist. She once gave me a lactate threshold test which involves pricking my finger several times and alayzing the lactate in my blood (?) or something like that, and what we found was -- I needed to slow down. I was running too frequently at too high of an intensity. This is actually the most common thing people learn. My heart rate is too high on my every day runs. Okay, this was 2 years ago -- so I like to think that if I was tested today, I've improved that. But anyway, I just think that stuff is super cool to know about yourself. And you look super sweet with that mask on.

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  23. So cool that he's willing to take our questions! Here's mine -

    I've never been lab tested, but the highest number I've ever seen on my Garmin in terms of heart rate is 223 (during a speed workout), so I usually use that as my MHR. But, when I race and really feel like I'm giving 110% effort towards the end, my heart rate only ever gets to 212-215. Any idea where the discrepancy comes from? (Lately I've been running 5 & 10Ks.)

    Super interesting VO2 max article at Digital Running, BTW!

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  24. Great information!
    Does he know anything about Vocal Cord Dysfunction? I qualified for Boston in 2009 with a 3:34:44 time..I was unable to run it due to vocal cord dysfunction..... is there hope for me to qualify again and actually compete to my former potential again??

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  25. What!?!?! You mean if I eat more I could go faster on the bike too!!!!??? I've just been wondering about to get past that 17mph place I've been at forever. Maybe that is the answer.

    I haven't read all the other questions but I have one. Someone recently told me that HR zones don't change. I thought they did as you became more fit. But maybe not, maybe you just go faster and keep a lower hr. Which is true?

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  26. "Want to know why you exercise consistently and frequently but never lose weight?"
    Story of my life right now. HELP.

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  27. Question for the doctor: I've heard elsewhere that you should train for endurance events in the aerobic zone but even when I run at a leisurely pace,I'm in what the formula would call my "anaerobic" zone. (I'm 28 and my heart rate is usually around 165 when running.) Because of that, I've ignored the whole heart rate thing because it doesn't seem to apply to me. Any insight?

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  28. Hunger, why do I always get so, SO hungry within 20 minutes of starting a run?

    I eat wholesome, I eat what seems to be a sufficient amount of food, I even feel satiated, but inevitably, 20 minutes in...

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  29. I had an MRI done and was told that the capsule around my knee is torn. How long does this typically take to heal itself?

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  30. Congratulations on that superb half ironman. You did amazingly well.
    VO2 measurement on bike or treadmill? How does the doc think your results will vary, and why did he put you on the bike when you have come from a running background?

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  31. James/Helen - they are two different tests with two different results and trianing recommendations. He put me on the bike b/c that was the sport I needed most help/improvement on.

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  32. Congratulations on your superb half ironman. You did amazingly well...with the tough dig deep attitude that we admire so much.
    VO2 measurement on bike or treadmill? What difference does the doctor think the treadmill may show? Why did he put you on the bike when you have come from a running background?

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  33. Oopps.... first time commenting on your blog.too many Internet names lol..thanks for the prompt response.

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  34. I'd love to hear more about the theory of doing your long runs 1-2 minutes slower than anticipated marathon pace. I don't understand how I can possible run marathon pace for 26.2 if I haven't at least trained a few long runs near that pace. Thanks!

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  35. I have been exercizing 5-6 days a week for a least an hour a day, alternating workouts, and 2x/week doing daily doubles, and my weight is the same as it was last November during my recovery season. I have been stuck at 148lbs forever it feels like. Most of my friends, who just started to run over the past month have been dropping weight like crazy, but I don't seem to be headed anywhere...I pay pretty close attention to my diet and not sure what to do about my weight plateau....I could use some help!

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  36. I wish someone could tell me why I performed better when I (almost) always ran 2-a-days then I do when I only run once a day. But that might be too individualize a question for this format. Maybe there are other crazies out there doing it my way and the good dr has come across this before. Here's hoping!

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  37. I'd like to know why long runs are done at a slower rate? I used to think I had to be a marathon pace to build confidence, so I would LOVE to know the science behind this doc!! :)

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  38. Cool opportunity, thx!! My question: what does the doctor think about runnin with asthma. My flow has been measured at below optimum and I fight breathing all the time. Any ideas on that getting better?

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  39. i'm wondering - where can i have this test done near bloomington, indiana?

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  40. I have the same question as many others have posted. Why don't the pounds just melt off when I'm marathon training and also doing some swimming, cycling, and strength training? My metabolism is low (RMR = 1251) but still you'd think I'd see some progress.

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  41. My question is that if I'm sugar intollerant (think lactose intollerant symptoms, but when I eat sugar), how do I get carbs? Standards like electrolyte drinks and chews and gels and even chocolate milk are a no-no, so what can I use to recover and get the necessary fuel while training/competing?

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  42. I am no where near one of the centers that does the test.

    What is a good way to determine my max HR so I can figure out what is zone 2.

    The typical 200-age probably doesn't work well for me. I am more active than the typical 54 year old woman. This year I am doing 2 marathons,6 half marathons, and 3 sprint triathlons)

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  43. Thanks so much to your doctor for doing such an amazing thing for us!

    Should I be concerned with my heart rate when I am weight training? And if so, how should HR differ from my running HR? How do I know if I'm strength training at the right HR?
    And WHY does the treadmill make you have to poo?! 5Min after I start running...I'm running to the potty!

    Congrats on your Half Ironman...we knew you could do it. :)

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  44. Grannie - there are a few articles on the internet on this. For bike, I do a 10 min w/u and then 20 min at TT pace. I reset my HRM when I start the 20 min TT pace and stop it after - the average is my LT. I do this every 4-6 weeks (I HATE IT :)) to verify results.

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  45. I sure would like to know how to get faster. I have been running for 8 years, have done speed work and just don't get any faster. In fact this past half marathon I was 5 minutes slower than last year after doing more speed work. (2:40 half-marathon)I am over 50 so I know age probably has a lot to do with it.

    The weight loss thing would be really helpful too, I could stand to lose 10# which I find almost impossible these days. Sigh!

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  46. Someone already asked my question. Waiting with bated breath. For real.

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  47. Can I improve my VO2? is it true that I can only improve my speed for 7 years (after initiating running) and after that, I will maintain for awhile and then decline in speed? is there a way to determine the minimum mileage I should be running every week in order to increase speed and endurance when NOT training for a marathon?

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  48. I could write a comment that is pages long, but I won't... I will say a few things: for running i have never needed a test to tell me what pace to run. (I can feel if I'm running to hard or not hard enough, but I have been running hard for over 25 years and coaching for 15years). Heart Rate Monitors I find are a wast of time for running. I might well have 2 Ironmen behind me, but I have really never done any cycle training. But I would say it could help on those long rides.

    The other thing is yes it is time you got your focus on running a couple of short races and notching up a couple of fast PR's.

    Good Luck

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  49. Wow Beth, REALLY!! Increasing your carbs really helped?? I'm terrible about how to eat on that bike, how much etc(obv!) Ok my question. Yes the first one. I exercise, don't eat junk, not kidding! My weight hasn't budged in 7 yrs! I mean I have been the same weight no matter how much I exercise! If I try to cut my calories I really feel awful.

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  50. Coach Dion - unlike you I've never been good at pacing myself, so I think a HRM would be a good guide for me.

    I'm actually not that interested in shorter races with PRs at this point. I tend to like the longer ones.

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  51. How awesome to have a Q&A for us!

    What I'd like to know, and maybe it's a bit of topic, but, how does one accurately find out their maintenance calorie intake?

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  52. I would love to know more about the first question, and specifically how I should figure out how many calories a day I should be eating.

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  53. I've done lactate testing so my run numbers are Zones (pace/km) only NOT heart rate. My questions:
    -is your training solely heart rate? Isn't heart rate affected by a number of factors (sickness, stress, heat, cold etc) so can't that skew training?
    -any advice on recovery nutrition? I use beta allanine and creatine but any other tips are appreciated.
    -weight loss alludes me...I am working my butt off AND watching calories and I love ounces...every 2 weeks...

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  54. Want to know why when you train for a marathon you do your long runs at a pace much slower than marathon pace?

    yes and also how do we know that on race day we will be able to run faster than we did for the LR and for the whole race

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  55. dont know if this is in his expertise...but I have salt issue..I loose a lot of it. it does not have to be super hot or really long runs either. Best way to prevent this? Is it before..as in the day before a 10 miler or the morning of or during? Can I be proactive with this or it does no good to try to increase salt intake prior to a run?
    how do we know we are ok as far as sodium level goes...

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