Getting the physiology right part 1

I have often heard people say that you don’t need a PhD, or any degree, to be a good coach. While this is true, every great coach I’ve met understands physiology correctly, and those who don’t often have success using cookie cutter programs and/or past athletic success. Should their approach not work, most cannot solve the problem, forcing the athlete to search for answers or a new coach. Case in point, one very famous coach (maybe the most famous) often got the physiology wrong on cycling, making claims about high cadence cycling that made no sense. Many would say, it doesn’t matter, his guy is winning big. Well now we all know it turns out that this coach was just a front for the real “coaching” and he likely had no role in coaching this athlete.

It may seem that I am always looking at the glass being half-full, and this is often the case. But personally and professionally speaking, if a coach cannot take the time to either get the science right, or ask someone else to get it right for them, what else are they cutting corners on? Moreover, I often get the sense that ignorance is combined with greed to create a milieu with the goal of just getting people in the door. More than coaching, though, nothing bothers me more than selling sh-t testing services with even sh-ttier physiological explanations that are so grossly wrong that I want to wretch. I had this experience this past week when I read a club newsletter that is actually just a vehicle for sponsors to advertise, rather deliver thoughtful, accurate advice. Advertising is fine, I do it here and on the podcast all the time. Maybe its bad business, but I believe its wrong to make stuff up to sell someone your product or service. So on that note, I have excerpted part of that article below followed a full correction of what the author got wrong.

Laboratory Testing: There are a lot of laboratory tests used by athletes with the two most commonly used tests being V02 Max Testing and Lactate Testing. All laboratory tests require a trained individual to conduct the test.

V02 Max Testing: V02 Max testing measures how much oxygen you are able to consume at maximum intensity before becoming anaerobic. In theory, those athletes who are able to process the most oxygen should be fastest as they are getting more oxygen to the working muscles. However, this does not take in to consideration the effect of proper technique. With proper technique, which is teachable, an athlete requires less oxygen to race at the same speed as someone using all of their available oxygen. VO2 Max is your highest potential VO2, a number that can only be identified through testing at your greatest possible fitness level. VO2 Peak is where your VO2 is currently. This is the number we identify with individual tests and is trainable. Since VO2 Peak is trainable, it is a great number to identify at the start of your season and reassess throughout the season as you work toward your goals.

The most accurate part of this article is also the most ironic, “All laboratory tests require a trained individual to conduct the test.” I would like to think this was just an oversimplification, but the explanation of VO2 Peak is so off base its non-sensical. VO2 peak IS NOT where your VO2 is now, nor is VO2 max your highest potential. Peak is the highest value measured during testing and usually falls short of specific scientific criteria, while max is max. However, for many Peak is max for all intents and purposes, so it is not a great number to know unless you want people to pay you money to test it, which is what this article is really about.

The fact that simply typing VO2 PEAK in Google gets you the correct definition of Max and Peak, makes me wonder whether the author let a high school student write this article, or whether they only care about selling someone on testing they probably do not need. Either way, buyer beware for those looking for quality testing services. If you live near Richmond and want a good block of testing done at a competitive price contact me and I’ll get you set up at our human performance lab at VCU; and no, I make NO MONEY by referring anyone. If you’re near Charlottesville, UVA offers great services too.

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