First Test – 31st October 2012
The night before: No calories after 10pm (hard!)
It’s a big day…Just how will I perform? In my heart of hearts I know that I’m pretty fit, but definitely feeling a bit apprehensive. It’s a massive privilege to have access to a facility like this, and there’s also the added pressure that it’s being filmed by HTC.
Its 8.55 am and we’re wondering around Loughborough university, (huge campus) trying to find the lab. No-one we’ve asked knows where it is, and we’ve been sent completely in the wrong direction. Heartrate up, as hate being late. Not ideal!
Finally I’m there…
Wow, what a place. Spectacularly clinical, and within a few minutes, I’ve met Dr James Carter and Dr Ian Rollo who will be doing my testing.
5 HTC One X’s mounted, Red Nose shoes on, Ben Dearlove (HTC) and Paul Redford (PSR photography) at the ready, its time to begin.
First test, a urine sample to see what my hydration levels are like. Too clear and I’m overly hydrated, Orange and I need to drink more.
Didn’t think you’d want a picture!
Hydration: 1.008 ( <1.010 Well hydrated)
Weight, Body Fat, Anthropometrics
Well I can definitely say I’ve never been on such a precise scale before and I undertook two different body fat tests. The first one was pretty unusual! I put a skin tight hat on and sat in an egg shaped capsule. This capsule then pumps in air, and using the air displacement, it calculates body fat. Pretty crazy, and the photos look like I’m going up to space.
Second Body fat test, was more traditional, involving me holding an electrode in each hand, and the machine then passes a current through yourself and measuring the resistance in current, works out your body fat.
Bodpod (capsule): 8.5% (7.1 to 11.7 well above average)
The rest of these tests were measuring dimensions, such as calfs, neck, abdomen etc.
For me this was the test I was most interested in.
Your body has two main energy sources during exercise, carbohydrates (food) and stored fat. As you can imagine, we’ve only got so many carbohydrates available to us, so for endurance events (like what I’ll be doing) it is important to discover how much carbohydrate I am burning during exercise and more importantly a plan on how I am going to replace it!
This test will show at what work rate I’m burning fats, carbohydrates and also eventually what my maximum oxygen intake is.
Harness, heart rate monitor and mask attached and off I go.
The mask feels pretty uncomfortable, both in terms of smothering your face, but also the weight. Not great.
You start off at a walking pace, and every level James or Ian would show me a table with how hard I feel I’m working. First few levels and actually for a fair while felt a little un-natural as with my long legs (194cm tall) my stride is pretty long.
I’m a fair while into the test now, and sweat is starting to drip down my face. The speed has locked in (I’m running at 9mph (14.5kph) and now in carb burning phase) and the incline is going up. Every minute it’s getting steeper.
All I can think in the back of my head, is that I’ve got to keep going. Doesn’t matter how much this is hurting got to push on… I’m hyperventilating, the sweat is pouring off me, I’m holding on by the skin of my teeth…Heart Rate 186bpm…
Definitely felt a bit wobbly afterwards, and within a few minutes a post exercise blood sample was taken. (one taken before too) These samples will be sent to the local hospital for analysis and also sent over to the US PepsiCo lab in the USA. Cool!
VO2max: 63.4 ml/kg/min ( average male 45, Miguel Indurain 88 )
As you can imagine I was in a bit of state, so having the next 20 minutes or so off to fill in lots of questions about how I train, what I eat etc was pretty nice! Still no food / fuel in the system, ravenous!
I was quite looking forward to this test. It measures your reaction time, decision making, attention, memory, motor skills and mental processing. Interestingly, hydration and fuel play a part in optimizing your performance.
The aim of the game? To extinguish as many lights as possible in 1 minute, whilst also reading out a randomly generated number when it appears on an LCD screen in the middle.
You get one trial go (not that great) and then you dive into the test.
Total Hits: 93 hits (Average 48)
Hit to misses: 98% (Average 64%)
Average reaction time (sec): 0.63 (0.72)
ISpan assesses motor skills – specifically, how quickly you process a target and are able to physically move your body to respond and de-activate a light disc.
Again you get one practice go, then you launch into the test where you have to de-activate 12 lights (in random order) as quickly as possible.
I left the test frustrated, with myself wasting time with 2 of the lights (couldn’t get them to go off!) Competitive? Me? Yep.
(Compared to other GSSI athletes)
Total time: 22.67 (Average 22.55)
Average time: 1.210 (Average 1.137)
Fastest Reaction: 0.839 (Average 0.802)
Slowest: 2.468 (Average 1.831)
Handgrip strength tests can be used to measure overall strength, but also can be used as a benchmark to measure gains over time.
This test was pretty straight forward. Squeeze the grip as hard as possible! Alternating between arms, until three readings had been captured.
I was pretty surprised with the result as I’ve always been pretty lean and felt that most of my strength was in my lower body. Seems I’m not as feeble as I thought!
Grip strength: 123.52kgs (Above average 113-122)
My word the bike is a thing of beauty, but the test is torturous!
Without getting too technical, but performances that require lots of energy require energy directly from sources in the muscle. Short fast bursts use ATP (adenosine triphosphate) and CP (Creatine phosphate), and longer duration activities use muscle glycogen (sugar stored in the muscle).
This test ultimately is designed to assess peak power and maintain high-energy output.
You slowly build up cadence (pedal speed) to your maximum and then resistance is added. For the longest 30 seconds of your life you have to try and maintain maximum cadence. Torture!
This was the last test… it was time to put absolutely every last ounce of energy into it. I was screaming, Ian, James, Paul and Ben were screaming at me. Even my soul was turning those pedals.
So how did I do?
Peak Power – 1120w (19 light bulbs – love stats like that)
Average Power – 909w
That was it… or so I thought!
Having nearly collapsed after the first one, I was winding down on the bike with Ben grabbing some more footage of me. James (GSSI Dr) asked if I wanted to do another one. Ok!
A second one done (actually not that great)… “You know, no-one has ever done a triple wingate before! ” hmmm go on then! (was far better than my second go).
Collapse! Felt physically ill, legs in pieces, head throbbing and wretching. I was in a bad way.
After stuffing my face with food I started to recover and went back to the lab for an indepth chat with James and Ian. (I had no idea of the results until then)
We basically talked through all the test, like I’ve written on here and it was great to hear that I was in good shape. However lots of interesting things to work on. They are:
Fat / Fat Burning
- Need to put on more fat. On Everest its going to be hard to fuel myself when on the mountain and using fat reserves will be important. If I go too lean, I’ll start eating into muscle.
- From my Vo2 max test, it clearly showed when I was burning fat and when I was burning carbohydrates. Ideally I need to get my body burning more fat. How? Doing more exercise at lower heart rates. Also by training on an empty stomach (no carbs for it to burn)
- Need to put on more muscle mass. Again on Everest I’m going to be working hard and keeping the levels of protein I need will be hard. Climbing Everest is like a game of chess, its all about patience and in reality I won’t get to summit it for many weeks, during which my body will be degrading. More time at the gym / using Vipr Log.
- I’m now far more conscious on the amount of protein I’m eating. 20 grams every meal (using whey protein supplements when away from home) and making sure I get protein in straight after exercise (Gatorade recover perfect for this).
- I guess I’ve always been pretty old school when it comes to training. I’m very much a three big meals a day kind of guy. Most of the time my biggest meal is also in the evening. This has to change. I aim to eat something, even if its just a few nuts every few hours.
- Never been too conscious on salt intake or electrolytes. I’m now far more mindfull of this.
I now know where I am at and what I need to do. It is going to be difficult, but with the help of the GSSI I am ready to begin making these steps to help prepare me for my journey.
How will I get on? Or how will I do this?
Stay tuned to find out…