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Opinion: Four Big Takeaways From My Testing Session At Human Powered Health

December 10, 2023 by
Photo Credit: Human Powered Health
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During training, we have a fairly limited view of the physiological aspects of our body’s performance. While we can take data points based on how we feel during the workout and check our heart rate, finding out our true physical capabilities requires much deeper testing. That’s where Vo2 max testing, lactate testing, and various other tests come into play.

One big thing: Recently, I was invited to Human Powered Health Labs at their new location in Boston, MA, to undergo various physiological testing protocols.

  • During the testing session, I underwent Vo2 max testing, lactate threshold testing, a gait test, a hydration test, and a sweat test.

I am not a professional athlete by any stretch of the imagination. However, this was a great opportunity to see where I was in my training and for my personal educational development in human performance.

  • While I won’t dive into a play-by-play of my results, here are four big takeaways that I took from the testing protocol.

1. Deeper Physiological Understanding Is Not Just for Pros: While the pros are the prime candidates for repeated iterations of these intensive testing protocols, it’s important to understand what these tests can bring to athletes and individuals at the amateur level.

  • Whether you’re trying to qualify for Quarterfinals or improve your overall fitness, these tests can bring immense value beyond simply benchmarking your fitness.
  • Tests beyond just the Vo2 max and lactate threshold testing can help you remain healthy as an amateur athlete and fitness enthusiast.
  • The gait test was incredibly useful for analyzing my running shoe’s compatibility with my foot and for giving me thoughts on improving my efficiency as I run.
  • Through this test, I learned that my lack of glute activation was the root of many of my running problems and that I need to focus on my warm-ups and activations to avoid injury long-term (even in the quick running workouts we see in CrossFit).
  • Moreover, I also discovered that my running efficiency drops off as I get slower, meaning that I need to focus on keeping my technique together, even during longer, slower runs.
  • I was also able to identify the amount of sweat and salt I lost over a two-hour training session, letting me know I was not drinking enough water or consuming enough salt or electrolytes.
  • In the weeks since these tests, I’ve been able to implement some of these changes and see some actual performance gains not just in my running workouts but also in how I feel post-workout after incorporating more electrolytes into my water.

2. CrossFit Carries Over: While I didn’t have high expectations for the force plate test (given that I don’t consider myself a fast-twitch athlete), one interesting finding that came through the test was how balanced my left and right legs were.

  • Despite years of rolled ankles, a partially torn Achilles, and a plantar fascia tear, my left and right leg had minimal asymmetry.
  • The same profile was determined during the gait test, where they found that I had solid symmetry across my left and right leg.
  • While no one can know the true reason behind my symmetry, both facilitators said that it was highly likely that they could attribute it to my CrossFit background.
  • The base that CrossFit provides is unparalleled in terms of strength, athleticism, balance, and overall athletic well-roundedness.
  • The ability to utilize CrossFit as a base for any sport should not be underestimated to develop balanced athletes in their overall physiological development.

3. Repeatability Is Key: Just like we would never max out our back squat and call that good for the rest of our lives, the ability to repeat a test and continue to push our limits is the secret sauce that makes every athletic endeavor worth pursuing.

  • While many of these tests — like the gait, hydration, and sweat tests — were incredibly insightful on their own and likely won’t change too drastically over time, the other tests rely more on their repeatable nature.
  • Tests like the lactate threshold and Vo2 max tests are designed to be repeated and engineered to push us to our absolute limits.
  • The most exciting thing about these tests is the ability to go back to the drawing board, work hard for another six to eight months, and see where you land.
  • It’s the element of fitness that almost becomes an art form. Drawing, sculpting, and creating to bring out the final product hidden within the Vo2 max or the lactate threshold test.
  • Just like we utilize one-rep maxes and “Girl” or “Hero” workouts to measure our improvement, these tests should also be utilized in the same fashion.
  • The magic lies in the continuous improvement of these snapshots rather than just one individual moment in time.

4. Don’t Get Caught Up in the Data: At the end of the tests, I was presented with an extensive data dashboard. The data revealed elements of my current fitness capacity in line with my lactate threshold and Vo2 max testing, as well as other elements I mentioned above, like my biomechanical analysis and hydration testing.

  • While I am passionate about data and its applications to the fitness space, it’s important to remember that these tests are just snapshots of our fitness profile.
  • They are simply markers of a moment in time, and it’s important to avoid getting too bogged down in the data.
  • While these tests can provide some precious insights, as mentioned above, it can be easy to get lost in overanalyzing the data and forget that, at the end of the day, we’re all just here to train and have fun with something that we love.

The big picture: While many of these tests were once reserved for elite professional athletes, recent technological advancements have allowed exercise physiologists to bring them to the consumer level. These tests are now valuable tools for the everyday athlete to monitor, gauge, and take their fitness to the next level. 

After undergoing several of these tests, I feel there is immense value in understanding what is going on in your body on a deeper level. It’s not just from the perspective of measuring your overall fitness but also in making sincere changes to help prevent injury and help you feel better and stay healthier.

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