VO2 Max Test: Worth the Achy Legs

I wasn’t really expecting my appointment to be taken so soon and was hoping that I’d have time to lose at least the weight that I’d gained in Canada over the holidays. But you have to take what you can get when it comes to medical appointments in France, so I went in and worked with what I had.

And what I had was a glistening white torso that makes me think of the old person’s nudist colony I accidentally ran into on the Danube many years ago. I still have nightmares about that.

But Nurse Dubois was very happy about it and actually told me that some ‘Mediterranean men’ outright refuse to shave before the test. She had one guy who just didn’t come because of it. This is one reason I’ll never be Mediterranean, I guess. That and the fact that my skin looks more like a peach than an olive.

Anyhow, the test took a good 2 hours to do, including waiting time. I first got my body composition analyzed, which was done on a glorified weight scale. From this I learned the following:

  • I’m dangerously close to being overweight
  • I am shorter than I thought by nearly 2 cm!
  • Although I have plenty of fat, I’ve got enough muscle to bring my score up
  • I’m ‘balanced’ beautifully
  • My ‘Metabolic Age’ is 47, or 7 years younger than I am. I consider this better than the inverse.

From here ensued a long explanation on the many things I couldn’t do while I had the mask suction-cupped to my head, notably look down and speak a single word. All I was allowed to do was pedal and sweat.

After the pedaling began, I quickly realized that I wasn’t getting much of a warm-up. I thought that I had read in the pre-test literature that it’d be 10 minutes or so, but they started ramping up the power slowly after just a couple of minutes. It was so gradual, though, that I don’t think it played a factor. From here the power just went up and up till I couldn’t take it anymore and I quit.

This quitting happened after 14 minutes, when both my legs and lungs gave up the ghost at around the same time. Here are the results:

355 177
355 is where everything stopped

Compare this to 2012 when I did a similar test, but not for VO2 Max and therefore the doctor stopped me before my heart ended up in my throat.


These are a little weird because my HR actually goes down a couple of times in 2012. I think this is because I was just grinding the pedals at the end in 2012, whereas the team today made me keep the same cadence all the way through, i.e. the heart rate was higher. I’m not sure how to read this, but I’m taking it as a good sign that between age 44 and 54 there isn’t a huge difference.

To make me feel better about my effort, The max watts of 355 is 208% higher than a ‘normal’ guy my age. Of course, this is not the point of reference a cyclist wants, but it’s nice to know I can do something better than average.

Next up, what I went through all the trouble for – as of this morning I have a VO2 Max of 46ml/min/kg. It’s here where I’m kicking myself that I didn’t lose 5kg before the test, since one of the variables is weight (if I was at a decent fighting weight of 69kg, my VO2 Max would be 50). But even then, 46 is considered ‘excellent’ for my age, so I can only get more excellent with weight loss. That 46ml is 53% better than that ‘normal’ guy above, by the way.

Lastly, I have been trying to figure out my max heart rate for my ‘zones’ for some time now, and I landed on 169 bpm, partly based on the normal reduction you find in age and partly on an effort I did a couple of weeks ago up the backside of the Nimes hill. It’s here the controlled environment (and encouraging yelling from doctors and nurses) comes into its own. They found that my max HR was 177, or what I had deemed it to be way back in 2012. I’m not sure whether to be impressed that it hasn’t changed, or disappointed that I didn’t push hard enough 11 years ago. It must have gone down at my age.

And where do we go from here? Armed with this new information, I can now reset Garmin and Strava to reflect my very own personal HR zones, which I’ll be using for training this season. It’s good to know the top of my Zone Two, since I’ll be in it for much of the time. Whether the top of Zone Two is 70%, 75% or 80% of Max HR is for another article.

Apart from the training benefits in all this, according to the literature I got from the doctor today, your VO2 Max has a very strong prognostic value, being correlated positively with duration and quality of life and a lower risk of occurrence of chronic illnesses.

Thank you French Health System for my free VO2 Max and especially to Dr. Schuster for telling me I didn’t need to come again for another one anytime soon.

12 thoughts on “VO2 Max Test: Worth the Achy Legs

  1. Great! My hubbie loves doing these because, as a former swimmer turned cyclist, he consistently comes out with a much lower age. I do too but I don’t harp on about it like he does.

  2. Excellent. My Apple Watch provides me with an estimated VO2 max. Do you have a Garmin or similar device that provides you with an estimate? If so how does it compare?

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