Estimating Your Own VO2 Max and Your “Fitness Age”- PART 2

This article originally appeared in the Capital Bicycle Club Newsletter December 2013

CERGSince last month’s edition, the VO2 Max/Fitness Age Calculator that I directed you to as the basis for my article has undergone some changes. This is partly due to the fact that over 1.5 million people have used it in the span of a month! The original interface that I described to you has changed somewhat, but the data you’ll input is the same when you go to The key difference now is that you’ll be given the choice to provide additional health data if you choose. Now, then, let’s go onward! The question I left lingering in my last edition was how we might CHANGE that VO2 Max and maybe get a little “younger” in the process!

As a reminder, VO2 Max is the measurement of the greatest amount of oxygen a person can transport to working muscles, no matter how hard the muscles are working. Clinically, this measurement is one of the best predictors of cardiovascular health, however, it’s generally quite expensive to obtain because of equipment/expertise requirements, and cost. Usually they are done in a lab. This VO2 Max Calculator takes a few simple measurements and compares them to the test results of people actually did the lab testing. This provides you with a comparison of your VO2max to 5000 of your Norwegian peers! Gosj!

Of the measurements input into the calculator, frequency and intensity of exercise is where most of us will have the greatest opportunity to impact our fitness levels. Indeed, when I used the calculator to input different levels of intensity of workout, I found that I could change my fitness age from 21 years old to 46 years or more just by lowering the intensity of my exercise! The Cardiac Exercise Research Group (CERG,) who developed the calculator, recommends starting with 3-4 weekly sessions of exercise that contain high-intensity intervals. For their workout plans, they include 4 minute high intensity efforts (85-95% of your maximum heartrate.) This is a very hard, all out, interval, and harder than most of us would maintain during our usual workouts. Between the 4 minute hard effort is a 3 minute OFF interval where the goal is to recover and let the heart rate drop back down. The overall workouts would progress from doing 1-2 of those in the beginning to 4-5 of the efforts as your body adapts to them. Their main suggested modes of exercise are running & walking, but that the format would work just as well for cycling, skiing, or swimming.

In the realm of specificity to cycling, I have used Chris Carmichael’s interval workouts for a long time in my training. They follow a format that is similar to the above program, though his high-end intervals, aims to have a 3 minute “all-out” effort followed by 2 minutes of light riding for recovery. A full workout would have 6-8 of these intervals sandwiched between a warm-up and cool-down for a short (but sweet) workout. In my experience, these fit well into a workout on the trainer because you are able to fit it all into just over an hour or so on the bike. On the road, it’s often hard to find a spot to go “all-out” without worrying about traffic, stop signs, and sneaky hills that often show up during a rest interval!

Whatever style of interval you choose, using a heart rate monitor or power meter to measure the intensity of your efforts is a hallmark of these programs. After about 8 weeks of your program, you should be able to re-test and find some changes to your estimated VO2 Max and Fitness Age. Even a small change represents a big accomplishment!

For more specifics on the recommendations of the Cardiac Exercise Research Group, you can look at the following webpage:

**Please consult with your doctor if you have any questions about starting an exercise program like the ones described above.

What better time to start than January? How old do you want to be by the end of 2014?

Photo Credit: Cardiac Exercise Research Group

See you on the road…

Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments Getting Great Bikes to the Right People

I know that the bicycles I’ve had throughout my lifetime have been tools of change for me. More than just moving me from place to place, they’ve provided me with freedom, joy, speed, pain, and healing (okay, maybe an injury here and there…) Like magic, a bike ride can easily turn a bad day into a good one. I can’t imagine what I’d do or who I’d be if I didn’t have a bike.

Vetbikes AlexYoungI recently had a chance to visit with fellow RAD Racing NW dad, Alex Young. He’s become a steady presence at regional cyclocross races with a tent for The organization collects used parts and bikes and builds them up into high-quality rides that are then given to combat wounded and injured veterans. It’s a way to keep these vets active, rehabilitate injuries, and keep moving forward on a pathway of healing. Recently, they posted on their Facebook page that they had several high-quality bikes heading out to new homes for Christmas. Almost all of them were for combat wounded/PTSD soldiers.

If you have some parts or even a bike that you would like to donate to them this year, here’s more info on how you can help the most:

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Estimating Your Own VO2 Max and Your “Fitness Age”

This article originally appeared in the Capital Bicycle Club Newsletter December 2013

CERG2Endurance sports such as cycling, running, rowing, etc are all types of exercise where one of the major factors of performance is how much oxygen your body can transport to working muscles. The clinical measurement of this is called VO2 Max. Specifically, VO2 Max is the maximum volume (V) of oxygen (O2) that your body can take in and consume during a minute. It is generally expressed as either Liters of oxygen per minute or as milliliters of oxygen per kilograms of body weight per minute. VO2 Max can also be used as a possible predictor of early death from heart attack, although it is uncommon because the test is rarely administered to the general population.

Specific lab testing of VO2 Max is very involved, expensive, and performed in specialized facilities using devices to measure all of the air you breath in and out during a graduated exercise test. VO2 Max is found during the test when your consumption of oxygen levels off despite working harder. At the end of these tests, the subject will often rip off the mask/mouthpiece and noseplugs, gasping for air! Most often these tests are performed on elite athletes or college students looking for a little weekend cash. Outside of the lab, there are ways to predict VO2 Max, but they also involve an exercise test. Let’s be honest, not all of us are ready to push our hearts to the max without some sort of medical oversight, especially if there is a risk of stressing an unhealthy cardiovascular system.

I recently reviewed a method of predicting VO2 Max that does not involve an exercise test or lab equipment. All you really need is a tape measure and a watch. A group of researchers at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology did lab testing of a diverse population of over 4200 men and women. From that, they created a mathematical model to estimate VO2 Max without having to put a person through an exercise regimen. For most of us, that estimate will be close enough to know our risks, and add a valuable piece of information to us about our health.

I put myself to the test in this, and here’s what I found: My estimated VO2 Max is 56 mL/kg•min and my estimated fitness age is 20. This means that my VO2 Max is calculated to be above the average 20 year old. Take that suckas!! (Oh wait, did I type that out loud?) With the online calculator, I can also see what factors influence that age. For instance, if I drop from daily exercise to 2-3 times a week, my VO2 Max drops to 53 mL/kg•min and my “fitness age” jumps up to 28. (Interpret that as 8 years less life expectancy, and you can see how your choices can make a big difference in how long you may be around!)

Now the big question… how do I stack up against the Big Guns of VO2 Max? An average healthy male my age has a VO2 Max of 47 mL/kg•min. I’m beating the average there! And then there’s Norwegian cyclist Oskar Svendsen who is said to have a VO2 Max of 97.5 mL/kg•min. I’m not even close! Elite male runners commonly measure 85 mL/kg•min while elite female runners measure about 77 mL/kg•min. How do you stack up?

Stay tuned next month to see what you can do to change your VO2 Max. SPOILER ALERT… It’s going to be time to make some New Year’s resolutions before you know it… See you on the road! APR

Image Credit: Cardiac Exercise Research Group

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Scientific Investigations into the Foam Roller

This article originally appeared in the Capital Bicycle Club Newsletter November 2013

Foam RollerIf you’ve followed my articles over the past few years, you’ll know that I frequently encourage cyclists to use foam rollers in their stretching and exercise recovery plans. In this article, I won’t go too in depth on “how” to use one as I will review “why” you might want to use it. Hopefully the information I’ll present here will encourage you to give one a try. You may be surprised what kind of impact it can have on your riding. Here goes:

Certain types of stretching have gained a bad reputation for temporarily decreasing muscular strength when done before exercise. Not so for the foam roller. In fact, researchers looked at the effect of just 1 minute of foam rolling on the quadriceps and found that range of motion of the knee increased up to 10 degrees without any significant loss of strength. This makes foam rolling a viable tool for mobility work prior to exercise. (Macdonald, et al., Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, March 2013.)

One of the observations that I have had with using the foam roller is that I seem to be able to ride a little bit harder for a little bit longer before I start feeling burning in my legs. This observation is reflected in another 2013 research study in which the subjects reported a delayed feeling of muscle fatigue. In training, this delayed fatigue might give an athlete the ability to have more training exposure and thus improve conditioning over time. There was no immediate strength gain seen from foam rolling, but, more importantly, there wasn’t any loss of strength. (Healey, et al., Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, April 2013.)

Perhaps the most interesting article that I found investigated the effect of foam rolling on the flexibility and function of blood vessels. The authors found that foam rolling reduced arterial stiffness and improved the physiological functioning of the lining of the blood vessels. I find this a really interesting article because it’s less about range of motion and more about the function of soft tissue other than muscles. I see this as strong evidence for the impact that the foam roller can have on post-exercise recovery. (Okamoto, et al., Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, April 2013.)

There will be more research to come in the future. I am awaiting more specific guidance on how often and how intense foam rolling should be, for example. For now, the best recommendations I have heard and offer are to use the roller at an intensity that can be done daily. Further, we should avoid using the foam roller over bony prominences where pressure could intensify. Also, those with bone loss in the spine (osteoporosis/osteopenia) should probably not be using the foam rollers over their spines/ribs. I have some technique videos that you can review ( and by all means, if you have any questions about whether or not using a foam roller is appropriate for you, please feel free to drop me an email or give me a call at my office. I hope this information helps you in your endeavors! See you on the road.

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Rad Racing Wreaths are on sale now!

Rad Racing WreathRad Racing NW is once again firing up their Holiday Wreath sale. All proceeds will benefit Rad Racing NW and go toward youth cycling development. Orders must be made by November 17th and will be delivered on December 1, 2013. My daughter has been a Rad Racer for two years and has had some awesome experiences through their program. Please email me if you are interested! Each wreath sells for $25 >>details<<

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Enrollment for January 2014 cyclecore class is now OPEN!

Cycle Core 2014Today is the first day of registration for a class that will begin on January 2, 2014. This will be the 5th edition of the class that I have co-taught with my friend and OOA Racing teammate, Stefanie Ramsay-Werts. This year will host some great new features, including our new host facility, The Strong Center. Thanks to David Ross, we will be in a new, open format facility with upgraded bikes. We will be able to use heartrate and power to monitor each individual’s efforts of training. The bulk of the class is training on bikes, and is led by Stefanie. This portion of the class is inspired by her years of experience on indoor and outdoor bicycles. Each of these classes is then followed by a short session of strength and conditioning exercises that I have put together to focus on areas that cyclists typically ignore. The goal of this portion is to round out some of the imbalances that often plague cyclists and limit their lifetime of enjoyment on the bike. We’d love to have you join us! Registration is open as of today, October 15, 2013, and will continue until the class is full @ 20 members.

More Info or to Register

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Deadlift Basics for Cyclists

This article originally appeared in the Capital Bicycle Club Newsletter September 2013

Deadlift THE LIFT

Deadlift THE SETUPThe deadlift is weight-bearing exercise that can be a great addition to a cyclist’s year-round strength training program. Honestly, if only one exercise existed in the world, I’d hope it was the deadlift because in addition to targeting some beneficial muscles for cycling, it also trains a fundamental movement pattern of lifting. It can help build your tolerance to longer rides and also improve your core strength. The deadlift can also make you a little more bomb-proof from “off-the-bike” injuries that may limit your training time, especially people with recurring episodes of lower back pain. You can do this exercise at the gym or at home. In this article, I’ll demonstrate using a 25 lb kettlebell. In the gym, you’ll have flexibility to work up to higher weights with a bar and plates, but ALWAYS train the movement with lighter weights until you are confident that you have the form absolutely correct. If you aren’t sure, ask a fitness professional to observe your form. Here’s how to do it safely:

The Setup: Straddle the kettlebell with the weight positioned between the ankles on the floor. Push your hips back and lower them to the floor while keeping your back flat and holding your chest and head up slightly.
The Lift: Rock your hips slightly back until you feel your body weight shift your heels. Point your elbows back and stand up by driving your heels into the ground as you pull your hips up and forward. Stand tall at the top without leaning backwards. Lower the weight to the same spot you lifted it from, and stand up tall without the weight. This completes one repetition.
Recommended Weight/Repetitions: After perfecting your form with little or no weight, try a 15-25 lb kettlebell. From there progress to a weight where you are challenged, but able to maintain form for 8-10 repetitions.

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Fine Tuning Your Water Bottle for Hot Weather

This article originally appeared in the Capital Bicycle Club Newsletter August 2013

Clean Bottle Daniel TorresHuzzah! Huzzah!  The clouds have parted and allowed for some really great summer cycling.  For most of us, that means longer rides and the challenge of staying hydrated while getting the right amount of fuel to keep us enjoying our efforts.  One of the problems that cyclists may encounter on their longer rides is that they take on a higher calorie load than their body can actually digest in an effort to stay hydrated simply because they are drinking more volume of their chosen sports drink.  The result may be very uncomfortable symptoms such as bloating, nausea, diarrhea, or vomiting.

For a large part of the year, our cycling trips are shrouded in mist, rain, clouds, and cooler temperatures.  During those rides, our sweat rates are lower than they are in hotter weather (in case you haven’t noticed!)  Once the weather changes, and demands for staying cool increase, our bodies start producing abundant sweat to keep us from overheating.  The body operates best in a fairly narrow temperature range, and sweating is one of the ways that it tries to regulate the stress of exercising in the heat.

Although everyone adapts differently to heat stress, here is an example that may help when you think about putting this information into action:  On a 100 mile ride in 50-70° F you may sweat at a rate of 0.8 Liters per hour.  If you complete the ride in about 6.5 hours, you’d need roughly 4.6 bottles of water (20 oz.) to keep yourself hydrated.  If you ride that same 100 mile ride in the same amount of time, but now the temperature is 70-90° F, your sweat rate may jump up to 1.5 Liters per hour or more.  To stay hydrated under these warmer conditions you’d need to drink about 10.5 bottles (20 oz.) to stay hydrated.  It may sound like a lot, but consider that Alan Lim, sports physiologist, has seen professional riders complete a 5 hour stage in the Tour de France, while drinking up to 25 bottles of water.  Regardless of this high quantity, they still showed significant dehydration at the conclusion of the stage!

One of the solutions to stomach upset that Lim has come up with is that he keeps the concentration of his sports drinks to approximately 4% or 100 calories per 20 oz. water bottle.  That’s about the top end of what we can reasonably absorb in liquid form without upsetting the balance of concentration of water in the body (i.e. diarrhea!)  If you are staring down the task of drinking 10 or more bottles during a day, paying attention to a detail like this might make or break your day of cycling.

Related to this conversation about balancing hydration with fueling is to consider how much of your food is coming from bars, gels, and powders.  For most of us, we’d feel awful if we sat around the house and ate these kinds of foods all day long.  I will admit that even my sweet tooth gets tired after a while and wants to eat something else.  One benefit of eating real food while you ride is that it stays in your stomach longer while it digests and therefore provides your body with fuel at a slower, steady rate to give you sustained energy.  It also takes the pressure off of having to drink all your calories from your water bottle.

Hopefully these tips serve you well and keep you on your bike instead of along the roadside with an ill stomach.  See you on the road!

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Annie “Londonderry” Kopchovsky, First Woman to Bicycle Around the World

This article originally appeared in the Capital Bicycle Club Newsletter July 2013

Annie Londonderry 2There are some questions that a 9-year-old daughter can ask her dad that seem impossible to answer. One of them is this: “Why isn’t there a women’s Tour de France?” (All of my rationalizations were met with dissatisfaction, as they should have been.) It’s for that reason that I was very happy to stumble across some cycling history that I could proudly share with my Annie. In what was then named the “most extraordinary journey ever undertaken by a woman,” Annie “Londonderry” Kopchovsky’s trip around the world (1894-1895) made her one of the era’s most famous women. It also did much to push the cause of the Women’s Suffragist Movement forward.

Annie Londonderry 3With her determination, a change of clothes, and a pearl-handled revolver, Annie Kopchovsky left Boston and headed West to Chicago on the first leg of her journey. She started her ride on a 42 pound Columbia women’s bicycle and wearing a long skirt. By the time she reached Chicago, however, she traded them in for a 21 pound Sterling men’s bicycle and bloomers.

Her initial plan was to ride westward around the globe, but once she reached Chicago, her plans changed. She decided, instead, to travel eastward with Chicago as her new starting point. From New York, she sailed to Europe, traveling first through France, Egypt, Jerusalem, and Yemen. She then sailed to Singapore and Sri Lanka before arriving back on U.S. soil at San Francisco. From there she bicycled through the southwest and finally back to Chicago where her journey had begun. The whole trip took 15 months to complete.

Originally, the journey was triggered by a wager between two Boston businessmen. The terms of the wager required that she complete the journey in under 15 months, and also earn $5,000 along the way. It was a challenge put forth to prove whether a woman could make her way in the world and survive on her own. …and survive she did! She sold advertising placards and ribbons that she attached to her bicycle and pinned to her clothing to fund her trip. She even took the name of her first sponsor, the Londonderry Lithia Spring Water Company of Nashua, NH. She was known to be bold, and outlandish and she used her vehicle and this journey to break the mold of Victorian Era “female propriety.”

Annie Londonderry 1To take the journey in the first place, she temporarily left her husband, three young children, and a job behind in Boston. Further, she adopted bloomers and other clothing more fit for cycling over the skirts and corsets that were the expected fashion of women of the time. These actions combined are representative of how the bicycle was contributing to change for women at that time. She was well-supported by the Women’s Suffrage movement and in the year after Annie’s ride, feminist pioneer Susan B. Anthony claimed that “[the bicycle] has done more to emancipate women than anything else in the world.” She may well have also said that Annie Londonderry was the rider of that bicycle.

And so to Annie Londonderry, I give my gratitude for helping lead the way toward a world where my own daughter can enjoy the freedom of riding her bicycle without having to prove anything to anyone. My hat is forever off to you, Annie!


Click here for more info about Annie and her travels.

Click here for an article by Peter Zhuetlin, Annie’s great-grand nephew who is extensively involved in researching/writing about his beloved aunt.

Click here for more info about the impact of the bicycle and women cyclists on the Womens Movement of the 1890s.

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Andy Rosser’s First White Paper… of sorts.

This article originally appeared in the Capital Bicycle Club Newsletter June 2013

Sometimes I get kinda carried away. I’ll admit that sometimes, I find myself asking how I got where I am. After all this time, you may even ask, “Who is this chiropractor writing these articles every month?” (And why doesn’t he write about chiropractic?) Well, tonight, after teaching a stretching class for the Bicycle Commuter Contest, someone finally asked, “So, how is all this tied to chiropractic?” To be honest, I was surprised how hard it was for me to answer! If I could rewind and give the answer again, it would sound like the rest of this article. Please pardon the indulgence.

Dog Riding a Penny FarthingSome of the saddest times of my life have been when I didn’t own a bicycle. Thankfully, those times have been rare, but the most profound one was just after chiropractic school. On the eve of a cross country move to Olympia, I abandoned a bicycle. By that, I mean I literally leaned it up against a dumpster and walked away from it!

In the first few years of getting my practice started here in Olympia, I didn’t even miss bicycles. But, then, I got jealous. There I was, sitting peacefully on my front porch, watching my neighbor leaving for a group ride, AGAIN. (You know who you are!) I thought how pitiful it was that I wasn’t doing the same. Well, those feelings didn’t sit well, and before long I got a bicycle and carried on.

At about that same time, I had the opportunity to meet and study with Dr. Jeff Spencer. He was a sports-focused chiropractor who was working with professional cyclists and teams including, you guessed it… Lance Armstrong. Spencer was the team chiropractor for all of his Tour de France wins, and it was from that perspective that he spoke and inspired me. From his lectures, I was challenged to think about how our bodies move, how they get injured, and how they heal. I was inspired enough to seek out more training and then commit the following year to study, travel, and post-doctoral certification as a Certified Sports Chiropractic Physician (CCSP.)

Soon after that, I also became obsessed with becoming a USA Cycling coach, thinking that it would help me tie some of what I’d been learning into my clinical practice. As it turns out, though, I obtained that licensing in secrecy and then hid the certificate in a drawer for a very long time. I was scared to death that someone would actually find out I had it! (If you’ve ever seen me race, you’d know why I would have been scared!) The truth was that I still couldn’t connect the sports certification and the coaching license into what I was doing in the office with my patients on a daily basis. I had some struggles with it but I continued to try and understand how I was going to make it all work together.

Ultimately, the platform that I discovered works for me is in reflecting on the fact that ALL bodies heal based on similar principles and mechanisms whether they are the bodies of athletes or not. I finally found the solid ground that I needed! I view my job as helping people discover their body’s most efficient way to recover from an injury or by helping to prevent injuries in the first place. My sports training informs that work greatly. It may come in the form of teaching a stretching routine, providing core exercises, applying manual therapies/chiropractic treatment, or referring a patient for other treatments. One very concrete place that this shows up in my office is in the medical bike fit program that I have been developing over the past few years.

On a day-to-day basis, my path has led to a very interesting and challenging practice where I have the opportunity to take care of people from all walks of life. To those of you in the cycling community who have inspired me along the journey with your trust and GREAT questions, I am forever indebted to you for the opportunities to grow. I only hope to keep learning and be of greater service to you through these pursuits.

And that, my friend, is what I would have said. 🙂 See y’all on the road!

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