Here's Your Long Awaited Post on Body Composition, Active Metabolic Testing, and VO2 Max.

Greetings!  Please prepare yourselves for a lengthy and self-involved post!  To those of you who know me in the meatspace, I beg you to overlook this momentary lapse into immature selfie snapping and First World Ruminations.  To the rest of you, I know what you are thinking, and I apologize for this conduct unbecoming a grown-ass woman.

Ok!  About four weeks ago, I had a very thorough (and very free) battery of tests at my fancy new gym.  They weighed me, measured my height and various body circumferences, and sent electrical current through me.  They took my blood.  They sent me across town to a "VIP Medical Center" to be immersed and weighed while floating in water.  And finally, they made me run on a treadmill at incrementally increasing speeds until I said, "Uncle."  This last bit was done while 1) fasting for 10 hours, 2) wearing a very uncomfortable and too-large heart rate monitor strap around my chest, and 3) wearing a purple neoprene mask with a closed oxygen supply and cords that smacked me in the shoulder with every stride.  Now, I know what you're thinking.  Yes, it was all very, very glamorous. 

I have some lovely test results, phone photos, and thoughts on the matter, which I'll share below.  But first, I'll get the dirty details out of the way.

I am 68.5 inches tall, measured to the nearest quarter inch.  With a laser!  I always thought I was 5'9, but there it is.  Lesson: I wonder how many people don't know their actual height, and therefore have their body metrics calculated incorrectly in their medical records?  Does this stuff matter?  Also, I will probably keep telling everyone I am 5'9. 

On the day of the testing, I weighed 124.2 pounds.  I mention this because on the day of the photos, I weighed 122.0 pounds and I know how much that stuff matters to you crazy body building types.  Lesson: Weight fluctuates, but you already know that.  Also, a quart of water weighs two pounds, so you do you.

My body fat percentage is 18.4% by electrical impedance (hands and feet) and 18.1% by hydrostatic weight.  Lesson: You hear a lot of warnings about the discrepancy between various methods of body fat measurements.  At least for me, the two methods used were shockingly close.  The lab admin running the dunk tank said this was unusual. 

My VO2 max was measured at 42.2.  Lesson: Because of where the metabolic testing fell in my training and injury cycle, I feel like my cardiovascular fitness was on a downswing.  Around the time that I met the Olympic qualifying time standards for swimming, I had my VO2 measured on a stationary bike.  As I recall, it was closer to 55.  Either way, I'd like to get this remeasured one day, but I am also taking into consideration that VO2 isn't really helpful except for knowing whether you are Lance Armstrong or a sled dog.   

My anaerobic threshold is 179, and my lactate threshold is 187.  (I think.  Someone please correct me if I am reading that second number wrong.)  My heart rate zones look like this:
Zone 1: 102-160
Zone 2: 161-168
Zone 3: 169-178
Zone 4: 179-186
Zone 5: 187-206

My HDL ("good") cholesterol is still extremely high.  Like, medical-anomaly high.  Apparently this is okay and my doctor is doing nothing.  Lesson: I have no idea. 

Now, if you're still reading, you may have noticed that I have yet to post any pictures.  Frankly, I'm hoping you won't make it to the bottom of the post.  In order to further guarantee you will run out of patience before reaching the lurid sports bra photographs, I will now share actual scans of the test results.  I did not get the print out from the "dunk tank" (ie. hydrostatic weight pod), because I was soaking wet in a fancy medical spa and I forgot.  Sorry.  I "scanned" these with my phone.  What can I say, I'm a busy person.  Sorry again. 

Here is the heart rate zone information, based on my treadmill/gas mask/chest strap experience.  The trainer wrote some helpful notes in the margin reminding me to spend 80% of my time in zones 1 and 2.  I probably don't do this.  Lessons: Basically, I can run up to about 7 mph (that's an 8:30 pace for those of you playing along at home) without being "winded."  I can run up to 8.2 mph (7:20 pace) before my body is like, "eff this, wolves are probably chasing us."  I used this chart for conversions, ignoring the part about the incline.  Also, I probably run too fast most of the time.  But it's just so fun!

I also want to point out as a super important lesson that my heart rate zones are SO SO DIFFERENT from what you get if you use the traditional "220 minus age" calculation method.  If I had relied on that method, I would have been slacking on my training.     

This photo has basically the same information (along with the trainer's notes AGAIN exhorting me to slow my running down).  But it also shows what energy source I am using for running at different speeds.  I guess the ratio of inhaled/exhaled gas allows them to calculate these numbers. Lessons: Apparently, I am an "efficient fat burner."  I haven't done anything in particular to get this way.  I eat a mostly plant based (read: "high carb") diet and I get regular cardiovascular exercise.  That's about it.  I know this type of YAY FAT BURNING is having a moment right now and there is a lot of trendy broscience that has people eating butter during races.  Mostly the type of people who run in sandals.  I don't participate in this, and I'm not trying to lose weight, so I'll probably go on eating candy corns during races.  

VO2 max table.  Lessons: I am not a sled dog.  Even if I were 13 years old, I would still be in decent shape.  Ok.

The gym also used my torturous treadmill run to make this "custom warmup" for me.  It's allegedly going to get me in "fat-burning mode" for the actual workout.  The trainer also said some stuff about this being the reason the first few miles of a run feel like a dance with Satan.  Lessons:  I probably don't warm up enough.  I blame this on not having hours a day to work out, but that's probably not a good excuse.  I will make an effort, especially for races.

Are you still reading?  Probably not.  Okay, let's take a moment here at the end to enjoy some photos.  I beg you, instead of thinking, "hey, here are some photos of Rheagan, who is hardly awesome, wearing summer gym clothing!" please think, "hey, here are some photos of a human body for which we know exact biometrics and isn't that interesting?!"  And yes, I put low-rent watermarks on these.  I will probably also post them elsewhere.

I am not flexed at all in this photo.  The electrical impedance machine indicated that I have a lot of lean muscle mass in my lower body.  My legs are JACKED, yo.  I want to point out that even though various fitness and bodybuilding forums (forae?) indicate women can have visible "abs" around 17-21% body fat, mine aren't really except for the top. 

Yes, you can be a fast runner, and have a relatively low body fat percentage, and still have "extra" on your legs.  I love my legs, and I don't really tend to think about specific body parts as problematic or whatever, because that sort of detaches them from your personality.  I mean, these legs belong to me and they do a fine job.  But I see a lot of blog posts and ESPECIALLY posts on fitness forums where women point out "problem" areas or want to spot reduce or whatever.  And I just want to make it clear that the goals you see on those sites may not be achievable for your body type.  Even if you reach a decent level of fitness. 

Again, here are my abs.  I think this one is important because people are always talking about how pregnancy destroys your midsection or you can never "get it back."  This is pretty much how I looked before pregnancy.  If anything, I have more lean body mass and I am stronger.  

And here's a photo showing that from the side, I am a completely ordinary looking woman.  I see a lot of photos from this angle where the subject is inhaling, expanding her rib cage, elevating a hip, etc. to create a concave stomach.  I don't think those photos are fair.  

Here's a photo to show that I need a better camera.  Just kidding.  I am attempting to show my calf muscles.  I see a lot of (mostly male) anguish online about calf definition.  So here are the calves of a lady runner with ~18% body fat.  For science.  I like how you can also see cellulite on the backs of my thighs.  If you are hoping to get to some particular body fat percentage to get rid of your cellulite, you may need to adjust your goals.  Just saying. 

On that note, I decided to also share a more detailed picture of my upper legs.  I know I've been standing on a soap box for the back half of this post, but no one ever really shows athletic women's legs this way.  Most of the time, you have the option of seeing a photo like this and hitting "delete."  Or untagging.  Or not sharing.  And I think most people do.

So there you go.  Again, forgive my indulgent behavior with this post.  Every time I started typing it up, I would think about how these issues are reserved for people with healthy bodies, clean water, plenty to eat, and a safe place to live.  If you are sitting here thinking deeply about these things with me, we are all truly lucky. 


Dolly said…
I made to the end of this post. Do I get a prize? Thank you for providing an in depth report on what actually happens during a VO2 Max assessment. What a difference pace makes when it comes to fat burning!! But, that 12 minute warm up is just too much, I'm the same as you when it comes to running above the first two zones, it's just more fun to run faster.

I will say that you are a bit on the slender side. I think you probably watch what you eat, and that you were also blessed with a smaller frame (genetics do matter). I feel self conscious because I'm eight inches shorter than you and I weigh a few pounds more than you do.. But, I wouldn't exactly call myself flabby.
But, still race weight matters, and I prefer to race at a weight that is a few pounds lower than I currently am. But, then dieting takes all the fun out of running. #navelgazing.

I also think you were pretty brave to post your photos and stats on the internet. Bravo!
Rheagan said…
Thanks so much for reading. I have been avoiding circling back to this post for a while, probably because it was so far outside of my comfort zone.

I do watch what I eat somewhat. We eat mostly plant based and no processed foods. I don't pay attention to how much I eat, though. I just eat to satisfy my hunger. I do pay attention to grams of carbs before and during a long run, and calories immediately after. Just to make sure I get enough.

A few of my track club friends are doing the "Racing Weight" method to cut weight during the summer. Apparently, it's better to do it when you mileage is lower. They are all looking for the secret to endurance without many calories, and I just tell them they are hoping for a miracle, haha.

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