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  1. #1
    Senior Member VT Biker's Avatar
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    Vo2Max range for competitive cyclists & efficiency

    Okay - this is a multi-pronged question, as I have recently taken a few lab tests for Vo2Max and LT and am trying to better understand the data:

    Question 1: Does someone know a Vo2Max range for competitive amateur cyclists? So my test yielded a Vo2Max of 69, which when compared to the charts for the general public, looks decent. But let's face it - we are not competing against the general public, we are competing against other motivated and talented athletes. So it does know good to know that anything for someone aged in the 30-39 range is Superior when over a Vo2Max of 53, when that includes Joe Six-Pack (beer - not abs).

    Improving Economy So my power at Vo2Max was 377, but LT was 235, which means my LT to Vo2Max ratio is 62%. I was told I was highly inefficient. As someone who has only raced for a year, is this something that will just improve with time, more racing and a structured off-season training program?

    If so - what training program would you recommend?

    Or is economy in some way is what it is (Friel indicates it is trainable, but thought I would run this by the gang here)

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    ride lots be safe Creakyknees's Avatar
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    Those look like good numbers to me. Lose some weight, do some intervals, learn tactics, race more.
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    Quote Originally Posted by VT Biker View Post
    So my power at Vo2Max was 377, but LT was 235, which means my LT to Vo2Max ratio is 62%. I was told I was highly inefficient.
    I'm happy to see yet another misapplication of the word efficiency. (Either that or the person who told you this doesn't understand the relationship between VO2max, LT, and efficiency.)

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    V02 max is a fun number to know, but it doesn't actually effect how you should train. Same goes for hematocrit, max HR if you train with power, and anything having to do with cadence.
    My VO2 max is 60 if I round up, and I managed to go pretty far as an amateur in CO.

    What you do know is that your VO2 max will not be your limiter. Surely something else will, but this is 1 less thing to worry about.

    VO2 max is not particularly trainable except for losing weight. Power @ V02 max is. What separates the gods from the morals is their ability to hold 70 or 80% of VO2 max at LT. That is entirely trainable.

    The best thing you can do for your overall race success is train your LT. If you have read Friel, then you know what to do: Pick your peak, and work backwards until it's time to start base. My suggestion is: When setting up your plan, focus more on Z3/Z4 than anything else.
    Last edited by brianappleby; 09-13-11 at 09:57 AM.

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    Senior Member VT Biker's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by asgelle View Post
    I'm happy to see yet another misapplication of the word efficiency. (Either that or the person who told you this doesn't understand the relationship between VO2max, LT, and efficiency.)
    Okay - I am not economical might be a better term? What would such a low LT vs. Vo2Max ratio mean in terms of training. I have been told lots of base, but also then have been told to train my LT. Well, there is a big difference between Z1/Z2 and Z4/Z5.

    Interestingly enough, I was told Z3 is a dead zone. You get 95% of the benefit from Z2 vs. Z3, without the increased fatigue. So my issue.....Z1/Z2 or Z4/Z5 in the off-season?

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    Quote Originally Posted by brianappleby View Post
    VO2 max is not particularly trainable except for losing weight. Power @ V02 max is.
    That implies efficiency is more trainable than VO2max. While there is some controversy over the degree (if any) to which efficiency is trainable, I've never seen any evidence that it is more trainable than VO2max.

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    Quote Originally Posted by VT Biker View Post
    Interestingly enough, I was told Z3 is a dead zone. You get 95% of the benefit from Z2 vs. Z3, without the increased fatigue. So my issue.....Z1/Z2 or Z4/Z5 in the off-season?
    Who told you this? Many of my friends/training buddies believe this too, but all winter they were doing z2 and I was doing z3, and all racing season I'm faster than them. To a point, I suppose it depends on what you are training for. For us, it's long road races w/ hills, and stage races. Obviously this n=1 case isn't proof of anything, but my plan worked great for me. It looks like this:
    Base 1 = Z2/Z3
    Base 2 = Z3 with just a little Z4
    Base 2 = Z3/Z4
    Build 1 = almost exclusively Z4 w/some Z5
    Build 2 = Z4/Z5.
    Peak = Z5 (or whatever you call VO2 max power)
    Destruction ensues.

    To make sure we're on the same page: To me, z4 is LT, z3 is just sub LT, and z2 is the pace you could hold for 2-3 hours or more if necessary.

    To me, saying that Z3 is a dead zone is odd because that's where most road races happen. Most of the day you're doing z3, until sh*t goes down and you're doing z4/z5 in order to drop people on a hill, or lead into a sprint.

    I'll buy the idea that training in z2 better prepares you to train for z3/4, but I refuse to believe that training in z2 will actually make you faster in z3/4 etc.

    I didn't mean to give contradictory info. In order to train your LT for races in April, you should be doing base in November. As much as you want to be doing stuff right now, you really should just be having a good time. Now is the time to think about losing weight (if you need to), and ride as far/hard as you enjoy. Do base if you must, but anything else is going to be washed out by the time the real base starts in Dec/Jan, or whenever it needs to be for your first peak.

    asgelle: You are implying that efficiency and oxygen consumption are the only things determining power. At the effort required to hit V02 max, plenty of anaerobic respiration is going on. This is trainable, and indeed must be trained if any performance gains for efforts under 20 minutes are to be seen. If what you say is true, than it's impossible to gain any power at V02 max, which simply isn't true.
    Last edited by brianappleby; 09-13-11 at 12:41 PM.

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    Senior Member VT Biker's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by asgelle View Post
    That implies efficiency is more trainable than VO2max. While there is some controversy over the degree (if any) to which efficiency is trainable, I've never seen any evidence that it is more trainable than VO2max.
    So is efficiency (or is economy the better term) just as genetically pre-determined as Vo2Max?

    You know - for a sport which seems so simple in terms of gross skill sets (as opposed to say stick and ball sports, which demand less fitness, but more hand/eye coordination skills), the amount of contradictory information on training amazes me. I am guessing I will pass away and there will still be controversy over training methods and effectiveness.

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    ride lots be safe Creakyknees's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by VT Biker View Post
    the amount of contradictory information on training amazes me.
    Think of the diet industry as a corollary. The answer to the question "how do I lose weight" is quite simple and has been widely known for decades.

    But still, there are thousands of diet and exercise programs out there, all touting their benefits.

    And, they _all_ work, to some degree or another.

    It's the same with training. For most of us amateur schmoes, almost _any_ bike riding, increase in volume, more time around threshold, will result in improved fitness. By far the simplest thing a typical cat 5 can do is "ride more" and "ride more at higher paces".

    The rest of this discussion is simply putting a finer point on the blade, but you already have the knife in your hand.

    / end mixed metaphors.
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    And that is what separates the "typical cat 5," from the one that develops into a successful amateur bike racer.

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    Quote Originally Posted by VT Biker View Post
    So is efficiency (or is economy the better term) just as genetically pre-determined as VO2Max?
    From what I understand moreso. But you realize that I'm using the word "efficiency" as properly defined to be work produced per unit of fuel or O2 consumed? It has nothing to do with the relation between VO2max and LT.

  12. #12
    Senior Member VT Biker's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by asgelle View Post
    From what I understand moreso. But you realize that I'm using the word "efficiency" as properly defined to be work produced per unit of fuel or O2 consumed? It has nothing to do with the relation between VO2max and LT.
    Agelle,
    this is really interesting. So if I am someone who uses more oxygen per watt, some additional research has yielded that LSD base miles help to increase density of mitochondria, which should help with efficiency (as you are defining it). This is due to the fact that fat vs. glycogen energy result in different responses at the cellular level. Is this a load of crap, and base miles are useless.


    (This is the case with me. According to the lab, I use more oxygen per watt than normal. According to you, this is really a fixed issue, then this can really limit gains from training for me).

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    Quote Originally Posted by VT Biker View Post
    (This is the case with me. According to the lab, I use more oxygen per watt than normal. According to you, this is really a fixed issue, then this can really limit gains from training for me).
    I think you're focusing on the wrong thing. Don't worry so much about efficiency or VO2 and focus on aerobic fitness. The moew power you can generate aerobically, the better off you'll be in almost every way. Increased mitochondrial density is improves performance because it allows greater aerobic metabolism. In other words it raises LT relative to VO2max which is just what you're looking for.

    Why not start with this and when this no longer works, look beyond it. http://velodynamics2.webs.com/OSFmodelplan.pdf

  14. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by VT Biker View Post
    I am guessing I will pass away and there will still be controversy over training methods and effectiveness.
    We can hope, otherwise things would be pretty boring. One reason for conflicting information is that everyone is different, no one system will be best for everyone.

    As for conflicting info about zone 3 that will never go away. There is evidence that endurance champions tend to have a "U" shaped distribution of their training stress with lots of very low and very high intensity exercise with relatively less in between. However, for working Joe an "n" shaped distribution appears to work best. That said a pro training >700h/a may have the bottom of his "U" at the same volume as the peak of Joe's "n" training at 300h/a; he's just doing so much other training on top.

  15. #15
    Senior Member VT Biker's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by asgelle View Post
    I think you're focusing on the wrong thing. Don't worry so much about efficiency or VO2 and focus on aerobic fitness. The moew power you can generate aerobically, the better off you'll be in almost every way. Increased mitochondrial density is improves performance because it allows greater aerobic metabolism. In other words it raises LT relative to VO2max which is just what you're looking for.

    Why not start with this and when this no longer works, look beyond it. http://velodynamics2.webs.com/OSFmodelplan.pdf
    So isn't aerobic metabolism the same thing as efficiency as you define it (i.e. doing more with less?)

  16. #16
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    V02 Max defines the maximum amount of oxygen you can take in. This maximum intake happens at much higher effort than anybody can sustain for more than a few minutes. While you're at V02 Max, you're maxing out on oxygen intake, but you're also making way more lactic acid than your body can get rid of. So while at V02 max, a significant portion of your ATP (and thus power) is coming from anaerobic processes.

    If efficiency as asgelle (correctly) defines it is power/oxygen consumed; to increase power, you either need to increase efficiency, or increase consumed oxygen. As previously pointed out, efficiency isn't very trainable (for our purposes), so the only other option is to increase oxygen consumption.

    If you want more long term power, you train your LT, and you will be able to sustain a higher percentage of your V02 Max for endurance-length efforts. You effectively train your body to take in more oxygen at LT. Efficiency can be same, you just use more 02.

    If you want short term power, you train at or near your V02 max power, but you're really training your anaerobic system. You've essentially maxed out the 02 you're capable of absorbing, so the rest of the power has to come from anaerobic, acid producing pathways. Efficiency at this point goes out the window, as anaerobic respiration is entirely inefficient, but in the short term you don't care. You just need to produce as much power as possible for the next 5 (or whatever) minutes, and you aren't worried about power/glucose or power/oxygen.

    Unless you have more results than you've shared, the issue isn't that your body requires more oxygen per watt, the problem is that your body only uses 62% of the total oxygen that it's capable of absorbing when it's at LT. Better trained cyclists are capable of pushing this number higher. They aren't becoming more efficient, they aren't changing their V02 Max, they are using more oxygen, and thus operating at a level closer to V02 max than previously possible.
    Last edited by brianappleby; 09-13-11 at 03:50 PM.

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    Senior Member VT Biker's Avatar
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    @brianappleby:

    So this leads me to the question of economy (i.e. - amount of oxygen used at given watt), and the impact on my ability to increase LT as a percentage of Vo2Max power.

    A) Is economy a fixed value (i.e.- will I always be someone who needs more oxygen at a given watt than others, or is this trainable).
    B) If it is fixed, then will this impact my ability to raise LT (in other words, since I need to use more oxygen at a given watt, this means that the LT threshold is reached sooner than others who are more economical).


    Just trying to better understand my body, and better understand what my physiological markers mean.

    I was reading from a Velonews article that Vo2Max is based on the ability of the lung/circulatory system to transport oxygen, and not the ability of muscles to utilize oxygen (this was from an article from November 2010). So then the question is, given the amount of oxygen my system can transport, if I can train my muscles to use less oxygen per watt, and become more efficient, then in turn, this should increase my LT (as well as power at Vo2Max).

    However - if economy cannot be trained significantly, then this in turn is a huge limiter on potential future gains, no? It makes me wonder if economy is actually more important than Vo2Max for determining potential?
    Last edited by VT Biker; 09-13-11 at 03:58 PM.

  18. #18
    Senior Member VT Biker's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by brianappleby View Post
    If efficiency as asgelle (correctly) defines it is power/oxygen consumed; to increase power, you either need to increase efficiency, or increase consumed oxygen. As previously pointed out, efficiency isn't very trainable (for our purposes), so the only other option is to increase oxygen consumption.

    A) What does this mean? When would it be trainable?
    B) Does a low economy result in an athlete being a slow-responder to training stimuli?

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    re-read the last paragraph of my last post (#16). I think that has the answers you want.

    In an attempt to be more specific:
    A) If we define economy as oxygen used/watt, than this is indeed a fixed number for long term (>10min) efforts.
    B) Your LT is not limited by your economy, because you haven't maxed out on the top of that fraction in (A). Keeping the same economy, you need to train your body to use more oxygen, and thus gain more power.

    You can do this because although V02 max isn't trainable, we aren't talking about that. We are talking about V02 at LT, which is absolutely trainable. It's the reason we are here.

    In addition: There is no reason to think that you are less economical than anybody else. You simply aren't tapping into as much of your total 02 consumption as you could be.


    This is all fun to discuss academically, but in reality, your body only knows response to stimulus, and the stimulus that you should provide is more or less agreed upon by all reputable coaches/authors on the subject. Do base, do LT, then do super intensity. The details (should you do more or less z3 vs. z2 or z4) are arguable, but the general trend is widely accepted at this time in the sport.

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    argh, my responses are lagging your questions.
    In response to your post #18

    A) Efficiency is trainable in the "untrained" person. That means you can take a fat slob off the couch and get easy gains relatively fast. But you and I are already at our genetic potential in that respect, and we aren't going to get much better no matter how hard we try. This is one reason why fitness gains are so pronounced at the very beginning of training. There is a lot of low hanging fruit that everyone has already picked up by the time they start asking the questions that we're discussing.

    B) I don't know. I can't see why it would. But again, I don't think there's any reason to believe that you have a low economy, so I wouldn't worry about it in the context of your training.

  21. #21
    Senior Member VT Biker's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by brianappleby View Post
    argh, my responses are lagging your questions.
    In response to your post #18

    A) Efficiency is trainable in the "untrained" person. That means you can take a fat slob off the couch and get easy gains relatively fast. But you and I are already at our genetic potential in that respect, and we aren't going to get much better no matter how hard we try. This is one reason why fitness gains are so pronounced at the very beginning of training. There is a lot of low hanging fruit that everyone has already picked up by the time they start asking the questions that we're discussing.

    B) I don't know. I can't see why it would. But again, I don't think there's any reason to believe that you have a low economy, so I wouldn't worry about it in the context of your training.
    Brian,

    thanks for all of the responses. It helps clarify my questions. The lab told me I was inefficient (i.e. - I use a lot of oxygen for a given watt of power), and was hoping that this was something that can improve through LSD rides etc..

    I am frustrated with how my season went, and through all of the riding and training, was hoping for both better results in my races, and increased power. However, I seem to have hit a plateau. At first - I thought it was Vo2Max related. But now - with such as low LT vs. Vo2Max watt score, I wonder if that discrepancy has something to do with my economy at any given power (watt).

    Based on reading your response, it sounds as if LT improvements are unrelated to economy, but fatiguing during a race is related to economy. Which I guess then, this might be solved by ensuring I consume an appropriate number of calories on the bike.

    So my final question then is this: How much of a limiter is economy in terms of performance. Obviously, Vo2Max is a limiter potentially in terms of your ceiling, but except for the elites of the world, likely is not going to impact your performance gains. But is economy a bigger limiter in terms of training and increases in power more-so than Vo2Max?
    Last edited by VT Biker; 09-13-11 at 04:34 PM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by brianappleby View Post
    argh, my responses are lagging your questions.
    In response to your post #18

    A) Efficiency is trainable in the "untrained" person. That means you can take a fat slob off the couch and get easy gains relatively fast. But you and I are already at our genetic potential in that respect, and we aren't going to get much better no matter how hard we try. This is one reason why fitness gains are so pronounced at the very beginning of training. There is a lot of low hanging fruit that everyone has already picked up by the time they start asking the questions that we're discussing.
    This would apply to most of the trainability of VO2 max, as well.

    OP, you appear to have a lot of potential to increase your LT, and your VO2 max is not currently your limiter.

    As for your question B), the lab told me I was highly inefficient, and needed more oxygen per watt than normal.
    This conclusion wouldn't come from comparing LT and VO2 max. It would come from directly comparing oxygen consumption to Watts produced. There a lot of reasons this would be. It could be stroke inefficiency, but factors like thermoregulation (being inadequately cooled, or overweight, eg. From your VO2 max, I wouldn't guess you're overweight, though) will throw that off, too.
    Last edited by tadawdy; 09-13-11 at 04:30 PM.

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    Senior Member VT Biker's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by tadawdy View Post
    This would apply to most of the trainability of VO2 max, as well.

    OP, you appear to have a lot of potential to increase your LT, and your VO2 max is not currently your limiter.

    This conclusion wouldn't come from comparing LT and VO2 max. It would come from directly comparing oxygen consumption to Watts produced. There a lot of reasons this would be. It could be stroke inefficiency, but factors like thermoregulation (being inadequately cooled, or overweight, eg. From your VO2 max, I wouldn't guess you're overweight, though) will throw that off, too.

    @tadawdry: yeah- the inefficiency comment was from an oxygen analysis as I was testing my LT and Vo2Max. My concern is:

    A) How does economy impact gains in LT power?
    B) Does this result in a lower potential upside in power from training than others who my have the same Vo2Max values.

    C) I weight approximately 144, but it can sway from 142 to 148 depending, but consistently reads around 144 in the AM.

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    OP, three questions.

    1. Did they give you your gross mechanical efficiency after your test? It would be expressed as a percentage likely. Something around the 22-25% range.
    2. Or, possibly, did they give you your gross efficiency expressed as watts/L of O2/min?
    3. You list our your FTP relative to your Power at VO2Max as being 62%. My guess is this is what they're referring to. In "well trained" individuals this would be closer to 75-85%.

    Maybe I'm beating a dead horse, but I didn't see these things asked/stated. I think others have mentioned training your FTP through various methods but, generally, this would tell me you should target this are until you reach a higher percentage of VO2Max and then consider working on that area. Regardless, to answer your original question, 69 is pretty solid. And all things being equal, your VO2Max doesn't seem to be your limiter at all.

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    I have a related question about VO2max. It relates to heart stroke volume. If VO2max is a "coded number" and not trainable, what role, if any, does increasing ones heart stroke volume over time impact VO2max or LT? This assumes that over time the cyclists heart gets slightly larger, the walls thicken and it gets more efficient. The amount of blood pumped per stroke increases thus delivering more blood per beat to produce power.
    "Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results." Einstein

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