how fit are you?

Do this test

answer truthfully now.

Screenshot 2014-08-02 13.47.13


there is no way my VO2 is 62 – my polar HRM used to say it was around 57-59


What is your fitness age?

good article from WELL in the NYT ….

Trying to quantify your aerobic fitness is a daunting task. It usually requires access to an exercise-physiology lab. But researchers at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology in Trondheim have developed a remarkably low-tech means of precisely assessing aerobic fitness and estimating your “fitness age,” or how well your body functions physically, relative to how well it should work, given your age.

The researchers evaluated almost 5,000 Norwegians between the ages of 20 and 90, using mobile labs. They took about a dozen measurements, including height, body mass index, resting heart rate, HDL and total cholesterol levels. Each person also filled out a lengthy lifestyle questionnaire. Finally, each volunteer ran to the point of exhaustion on a treadmill to pinpoint his or her peak oxygen intake (VO2 max), or how well the body delivers oxygen to its cells. VO2 max has been shown in large-scale studies to closely correlate with significantly augmented life spans, even among the elderly or overweight. In other words, VO2 max can indicate fitness age.

In order to figure out how to estimate VO2 max without a treadmill, the scientists combed through the results to determine which of the data points were most useful. You might expect that the most taxing physical tests would yield the most reliable results. Instead, the researchers found that putting just five measurements — waist circumference; resting heart rate; frequency and intensity of exercise; age; and sex — into an algorithm allowed them to predict a person’s VO2 max with noteworthy accuracy, according to their study, published in the journal Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise.

The researchers used the data set to tabulate the typical, desirable VO2 max for a healthy person at every age from 20 to 90, creating specific parameters for fitness age. The concept is simple enough, explains Ulrik Wisloff, the director of the K. G. Jebsen Center of Exercise in Medicine at the Norwegian University and the senior author of the study. “A 70-year-old man or woman who has the peak oxygen uptake of a 20-year-old has a fitness age of 20,” he says. He has seen just this combination during his research.

The researchers have used all of this data to create an online calculator that allows people to determine their VO2 max without going to a lab. You’ll need your waist measurement and your resting heart rate. To determine it, sit quietly for 10 minutes and check your pulse; count for 30 seconds, double the number and you have your resting heart rate. Plug these numbers, along with your age, sex and frequency and intensity of exercise, into the calculator, and you’ll learn your fitness age.

The results can be sobering. A 50-year-old man, for instance, who exercises moderately a few times a week, sports a 36-inch waist and a resting heart rate of 75 — not atypical values for healthy middle-aged men — will have a fitness age of 59. Thankfully, unwanted fitness years, unlike the chronological kind, can be erased, Dr. Wisloff says. Exercise more frequently or more intensely. Then replug your numbers and exult as your “age” declines. A youthful fitness age, Dr. Wisloff says, “is the single best predictor of current and future health.”

and my result …?

Screen Shot 2013-11-01 at 12.27.36boll*cks – in my dreams


The Giant’s Tooth

I was recently sent a copy of the fine paean to fell running, “Feet in the Clouds”, to review for the Caught By The River website.

Within minutes I found myself reading about the Giant’s Tooth fell race, which is not the most significant rumble in the calendar, it just happens to be where I haul my sorry 49 year old, 15 stone carcass two or three times a week in futile effort to turn the clock to back to my “proper athlete” days. Unfortunately for my poor body, which has suffered some fairly torrid abuse since the halcyon days when I would turn out to run for Birmingham University back in the early 80s, Richard Askwith’s writing on the torture, privation and sheer lunacy of fell running was perversely persuasive. I found myself resolving to get up on New Year’s Day morning 2012 and compete in this winter’s Giant’s Tooth race.

It’s not really a Giant’s Tooth you know. It’s a big lump of millstone grit, painted white and plonked at the summit of an arbitrary path at a Pennine beauty spot called Ogden Water. There’s some yarn attached to the stone, a giant called a Boggart lost his tooth whilst rampaging across the moor…or something. Whatever the tall story, it’s only marginally less plausible than the notion that I’ll be able to run this race in anything like a respectable time….by which lofty heights of ambition, I mean “mid-division”. This will mean a target of 25 minutes, when the winner will stroll home in around 16 minutes and the octogenarian plodder will manage about 35.

The good news is that I don’t weigh 17 stone, as I did about a year ago, before resolving to run a bit and cut down on the wine calories. I actually look and feel reasonably trim at just under 15 stone. However, my racing weight used to be under 11 and my target is to shift as many pounds as I can before the race, whilst improving my VO2 Max and anaerobic fitness. Carrying 15 stones up a naggingly steep incline for 5 minutes is, I promise you skinny readers, no fun at all.

As some sort of treat to myself and knowing that I have that boyish, “have new toy, will play” mentality, I bought some Inov 8 X Talon 212s (a review of those to follow separately). They have done the job in terms of motivating me to get out and run more, as has the Endomondo app on my phone.

So, you can have a peek at the route. It’s short, about 3 miles, not an especially hard climb (though it does feature some smaller slogs to kick you when you are down later in the race). I’ll relay the glorious tale of my progress over the coming weeks as the pounds evaporate, the wings on my heels emerge and the glory of an improbable top half finish beckons. Hollywood will want this story. You watch.


Introducing SUBVERT BEATS: Post 1 Running the right way

BY BEN @ SubvertBeats.

A couple of weeks back, Rich posted a blog entry about HR (Heart Rate) zones, and calculating your MHR (Maximum Heart Rate) using generic formulae that will be pretty accurate for many folks.
However, never one for being average, these calculated methods have typically been way off the mark for me.
In response to that post I commented about the fact that I seem to have a naturally fast HR, and even slow to medium paces would see me in zone 4, finding it nearly impossible to exercise in zone 3 or below (discounting walking).
I’d kind of resigned myself to this being just a part of my genetic make-up.

Well, since then, in an effort to increase my pace, I decided to focus on my running efficiency.
Like most people, I’ve never been taught how to run ‘correctly’.
You just lace up your shoes and leg it right? Apparently there’s more to it than that!

Having a high aerobic capacity helps (and at least I’m no longer crippling myself in this respect by smoking!) but is for the main part inherently limited by your genetic make-up.
Paula Radcliffe measured her VO2 max over a period of five years, and it was observed that she exhibited an 8% decline in her VO2 max. Yet over the same period her pace improved (to the extent of improving her 3000m time by 46 seconds!!). How did she manage that?!
Well, all becomes clear once you learn that over the same period, she became over 10% more efficient in her running.

As I understand, the two most important factors are to reduce wasted energy through vertical movement, and to reduce braking forces exhibited during the foot strike.

This analysis of 3 runners from the 2008 NY City Marathon is pretty insightful.
I was surprised to see such differences between these elite level athletes.
This reinforces how Paula Radcliffe has been able to become a faster running despite her aerobic capacity declining.

So, back to me…..apparently (according to studies conducted by folks like Jack Daniels (not of whiskey fame) for distance running, the optimum strike rate / cadence for maximal efficiency is around 90 paces per minute.
Not yet having a foot pod for my new Garmin FR610 (mini review to come), I had no idea what my cadence typically is, but I knew that it wasn’t near that optimal figure of 90. Turns out (just from counting) it was typically between 70 and 75.
So on the last couple of runs, I’ve tried to keep a higher cadence.
I haven’t really pushed for increased pace, as these have been (for me at least) fairly long runs of between 8 and 10 miles. Yet despite that, my pace has increased. But most notably, it’s been easier to maintain that improved pace.
Instead of running 12 minute / mile pace at around 160 bpm, yesterdays run averaged 9.42 minute / mile pace with my HR average being 158:

I’m pretty chuffed with that!

Another benefit of efficient running style is reduced risk of injury – when you’re racking up the miles this is an extremely important consideration – next year I’m looking to do my first half marathon, and later on a full marathon – the last thing I want is to train for weeks only to be unable to compete due to injury….so I’m going to continue to work on running the right way. Of course it’s no guarantee of remaining injury free, but anything we can do to improve our chances has got to be worth trying, especially with the associated performance benefits.

For a funny video on (in)efficient running styles check out this recent blog post from Rich

5 a side football (soccer) – and what it does for you aerobically and anaerobically

Played football (not to be confused with that American game played with hands and an egg shaped ball HANDEGG?) last night for the first time in months. I had given up after a brutal kicking one night but headed the call when short of players and popped down to Firhill where the games are played on astroturk and the boards at the side ensure that games don’t stop (unless you catch a breather in goal.

Put on the Suunto t6c to see what workout I got in an hour and I was pretty surprised at the result. Definitely in the anaerobic camp of exercise.


Heart Rate average was 149 but this includes time in goal – HR max was 180 (not bad I thought my HRmax was high 170 odd)

Heart Rate

You can see brief warm up then game on – following a goal we normally change goalies and you can see where I went in (and the long nearly 10min stint where I didn’t concede a goal) then out again and later on another shorter goalkeeper stint.

What also surprised me was my predicted VO2 reading of 49 ….


Here is some blurb gleaned from the internet …. my VO2 should be higher if I can do a sub40 10km race …. (52??)

Here’s how to use the number to make some predictions in your race times and your mortality
If your VO2max is less than the number listed by your age, your decreased fitness is at least as risky as smoking one pack of cigarettes per day or having diabetes or hypertension.


Age 20-39             36.75  less than this is as risky as smoking cigarettes
40-49                   34.65

50-59                    30.80

60 and up       26.65


  In addition, a VO2 max check-up can give you some idea of what to expect in an upcoming 10K.  For instance, if your VO2max is approximately 40, you should be able to run the 10K in about 50 minutes.  With a VO2max of 45, you should cruise through a 10-K course at about 45:15.  At 50, you’ll run a 41:20, at 55 you’ll post about 38:06, at 60 you do about 35:30,   65 gives you 33 minutes, and 70 equals 31 minutes flat.