As I mentioned in my January diary entry I’ve been part of some testing with the Human Performance Lab at the UofC over the past 6 weeks or so. It wasn’t something that I had set out planning to do, more-so something that just fell into my lap. I had been chatting with my wife (Kerstin) about potentially heading in to get some VO2 Max and lactic testing done along with a professional coaching plan – the problem was that those tests can be fairly pricey, and I’m always looking to save a buck or two!

Fortuitously a few days after our conversation Kerstin got an email through her triathlon club from the Human Performance Lab asking for subjects in an upcoming test series – what do you get in return for your contribution to science? VO2Max and lactic test results! A match made in heaven. A couple of emails later I was signed up.

Now, though I’m not allowed to go into the details of the program itself, the ‘testing’ portion of thing mainly consisted of three base tests with variations:

Maximum Aerobic Power (MAP):

These hurt a bit – You ride at a set power level and the difficulty is increased every minute until you essentially blow up and can’t go any longer.

Critical Power:
These were hard. Essentially there were two tests, both at constant power outputs designed to result in complete exhaustion. One lasted only 1 minute, the other, 7 minutes. Both were a tough grind!

Maximal Lactate Steady State:
I found these tests to be essentially mental battles. Here, they set the load on the bike to be just above your anaerobic threshold and had you attempt to ride for 30 minutes. The challenge is that by placing the load above your anaerobic threshold, your body is unable to clear the lactic acid building up in your muscles… So it just gets harder and harder…

In most of the tests I would either be hooked up to a ventilator-type machine, (which is pretty much as uncomfortable as it looks) or just flat out riding, interspersed with finger pricks to draw blood – which wasn’t so bad except on the longer rides where your fingers started getting pretty sore.

Overall it was a great experience, the staff at the HPL were awesome and though there is was a little bit of a time commitment involved, the gals at the HPL always tried to arrange things so I could do my rides before or after work hours. The other added benefit of being around a bunch of experienced exercise physiologists was being able to pick their brains about my training, general fitness topics, and their work with *real* athletes. All in all a great time.

Colleges and Universities are always looking for subjects, and you don’t always need to be an ‘athlete’ to participate. I found the whole experience quite rewarding and for what it’s worth I’d suggest giving it a shot! If you’re interested in seeing what types of volunteers the HPL is looking for in Calgary, they list them all on their website.