Doing a max VO2 test on a treadmill is a lot like ordering the “suicide spicy wings” at a restaurant.
You’re doing something extremely painful, and you are doing it voluntarily. Lots of people will gain entertainment, or else be confused, by your antics. Most people probably think you’re slightly stupid. Most people don’t do it.
It should always come with a waiver. A waiver that says “I understand that I will be in extreme pain shortly and I will embrace the pain. I am doing this challenge because of (insert your reason here). Reasons include: pride, fearlessness, stupidity, bravery, backing up a dare, your own ego, and: “I’m trying to impress that chick at the bar! Enough with the waiver already!”
Whether or not the spicy wings analogy applies to you, you can probably guess where this is going: the treadmill max VO2 tests hurt. A lot. But this, my friend, is what we call a “Champagne problem”. Which is to say that when you get to train for your job every day, life is really good, and doing intervals that test your mind as much as your body aren’t really a problem at all!
*In case you’re wondering what a VO2 Max test is: your VO2 max is the maximum volume of oxygen that you can use while doing physical activity. So the higher your number = the more oxygen you can process = the faster you can go, in theory. We test this number on a roller ski treadmill that moves at a constant speed but gets steeper every minute. You ski on the treadmill as long as you possibly can, usually between 9-11 minutes, while breathing into a tube that measures your VO2 (this is the science part that I don’t know how to explain yet). When you can’t take another stride, you usually fall off the back of the treadmill (at this point, most athlete are blacking out a little from total exhaustion, hence the word “max”), and you’re caught by a harness.
I was really happy with how testing went this spring. I’m coming into the season very well rested, and I know this not because of the good test results, but because I’m super excited to train every day. I’m bouncing back from workouts better than I was last fall. I was able to hit the highest heart rate I’ve seen in the last 2.5 years on the treadmill – which is 186, if you’re curious. Apparently, I am a 43 year old woman trapped in a 23 year old body! I don’t remember my VO2 max number, which is fine because personally I like to think racing fast is so much more than having a big VO2, or having perfect technique, or having the perfect strategy. It’s a collection of 100 little factors that need to line up on the right day. And I still haven’t seen a test that measures your grit, your willpower and your mindset when faced with a huge challenge. Although to be honest, the treadmill test comes close because you can choose to end it whenever you want, and only stubbornness keeps you hanging in there.
My point is, the testing we do every spring and fall is great because it helps us stay on track, helps make sure we’re not injuring ourselves or overtraining and gives us good feedback that we can use to plot out training. But it’s also important not to take the testing too literally. We tested strength, mobility, technique efficiency, VO2, and did physical screening, all of which plays a part in determining what we need to focus on over the summer.
But the best part of camp has been getting back into training with my teammates again! It’s always hard getting back into shape. I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t. I’m hungry all the time, sore, and generally uncoordinated…but it comes back pretty darn fast. And I like this time of the year because when I’m sore, it feels like I’m really going somewhere, like I’m taking big steps towards my goals. Most of the time we are dealing in a game of inches, of working countless hours to improve one second over the course of a 5km. But in the spring? You see the big changes being made as you catch up to where you left off!
We have been logging some good distance sessions with the focus on technique, and it’s been so awesome learning from my teammates. I find that the best way for me to learn is by mimicry, so, uh, yeah…monkey see, monkey do! I’ll hop in behind whomever I want to be for the day, and try and match their tempo and technique.
We worked on speed and moving quickly again, and I was psyched with how quickly the coordination came back! I mean, it still felt a little awkward, but after following my teammates around and focusing I felt like I was moving my limbs together again.
Another fun session for me was the ski walking and bounding intervals we did up the Canyons. Normally, this workout is the bane of my existence. When it’s sunny and hot, I overheat and I’ve had major troubles breathing in the hot dusty weather. But yesterday it was cool and chilly and controlled. For the first time, I had fun during this workout format!
Of course, I’ve also been loving gym sessions in the Center of Excellence (COE), our US Ski Team training center. It’s been so great to see all my friends there and meet the new interns, who are so enthusiastic and awesome. Tschana Schiller, “T”, is our strength coach, She’s super fun, and if you try and slack off she will call your bluff in a nanosecond. I love her for that!
Today is our day off, and we have another week of camp left. I’m looking forward to some good chances to improve technique and get stronger!