Friday, June 02, 2006

VO2Max... Do I really want to know?

My wife recently asked me what I wanted for Fathers Day. I'm notoriously hard to buy for because, frankly, I pretty much already have all of the items I want in life that cost less than $50. But this year I did come up with something I want: I'd like to get my fitness level tested at the Human Performance Lab at nearby Meredith College.

Or do I? Maybe I don't really want to know. You see, one of the key indicators of fitness and athletic performance potential measured at the lab is relative VO2Max. It's essentially a measure of how much oxygen your body can process over time as a function of your total body weight. In short, it calculates your genetic ability to do endurance related activity like running or cycling. The average college age male has a VO2Max of around 45. Lance Armstrong's VO2Max is one of the highest ever recorded, probably somewhere around 80. For better or worse, once you reach a certain basic level of fitness "competency", your VO2Max ends up being pretty much a genetically predetermined number. So even though our society likes to tell kids that they can grow up to be whatever they want, desire and effort only count for so much. There are only a select number of genetic freaks who actually have the physiological makeup required to win the Tour de France or the Boston Marathon.

If it turns out I have a high VO2Max, then I'll be glad I got the test done. But if I have a low VO2Max ("Well, Mr. Zimmerman, it appears that no matter how much you train you will always be a rather mediocre athlete") then frankly I'd rather not know.


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