Gosport, Hampshire, UK
On Monday I was at the Institute of Naval Medicine in Gosport, Hampshire, for physiological testing. This was generously offered to me free of charge as part of the RN’s support for my Pacific row. I don’t want to sound ungrateful, but I really hate these tests. For most-hated procedure it’s a close-run contest between the VO2 max test and bodyfat percentage analysis.
To do the VO2 max, I was rigged up with ECG leads attached to my chest to monitor my heart activity, and a mask was placed over my nose and mouth to analyse the volume and constituents of air inhaled and exhaled.
Then the hard bit – I had to row at a steadily increasing intensity until I reached the absolute maximum of which I was capable. It started out at very light pressure, but after each minute I was instructed to step up the intensity until I was going flat out.
For some reason – possibly the aftermath of climbing Kilimanjaro and/or a long-haul flight, I was feeling physically under par. As soon as I started rowing I felt nauseous. I managed not to throw up into the face mask, but the queasiness was definitely a distraction. I completed the test but the result was not especially impressive. 42 ml/kg/min. For comparison, a rower like James Cracknell would apparently have a max of about 60, while Paula Radcliffe would apparently have a VO2 max of about 70. Blimey.
VO2 max is apparently genetically determined, so I could with training improve my max by 10-20% but little more than that.
My bodyfat percentage on the other hand, is largely cookie-determined, so is capable of significant improvement from its current level of… no, actually, I’m not telling you. I’ll put it like this – I’m well famine-proofed.