The Longevity Combine: Aerobic and Anaerobic Endurance (Part 4 of 4)
Practical Tests to Assess and Improve Your Health and Fitness
This week we’re closing out our 4-part Longevity Combine series.
This battery of tests will give you a complete picture of your current fitness so you can identify weak spots and modify your training approach to become a well-rounded human.
Let’s get into it…
Tests to Assess and Improve Your Aerobic and Anaerobic Endurance
DISCLAIMER: Consult a medical professional before doing anything you read here (or anything you see on the Internet for that matter).
If you have a known heart or vascular (cardiovascular) issue, it is critical to consult a doctor before even thinking about doing fitness testing. Your life could be at risk.
Aerobic Endurance: Long Duration Steady State Test
This test is simple.
Pick an endurance exercise that you perform frequently.
Running, laps at the pool, cycling, or rowing. Walking does not cut it unless you are very unfit.
You should be able to maintain consistent work output for AT LEAST 20 minutes without stopping. Bare minimum.
Were you able to perform your exercise of choice for 20 minutes at a consistent pace without stopping?
If yes, pass.
If no, fail.
Added Twist: Make It Harder
If you passed on your first time around, repeat the test but only allow yourself to nasal breath.
That means your mouth is closed and you’re only breathing in and out through your nose.
If you can produce 20 minutes of work at a consistent pace while nasal breathing with no breaks, no intervals, and no downtime, you’re doing good.
Keep improving. Remember that 20 minutes is the bare minimum.
I do ALL of my long-duration endurance training while nasal breathing.
It forces you to stay around your Zone 2 training pace which has been proven to be an effective method of building a strong aerobic base.
Anaerobic Capacity: Heart Rate Test
Pick an endurance exercise you’re comfortable with where you can exert max effort without having to worry too much about technical concerns such as proper form.
Sprints, air bike, rower, swimming. Doesn’t matter.
As long as you will be able to go as hard as you possibly can and get to a place of tremendous fatigue you’re good to go.
Something like a kettlebell swing is not a great option since you must have really good form. There are too many variables to worry about.
Now perform that exercise for 30, 45, or 60 seconds as intensely as you possibly can.
Measure the distance you covered and measure your heart rate (a chest strap will be much more accurate than a wrist strap).
Were you able to go all out for 30-60 seconds without stopping or letting up? How did you feel afterward?
Were you able to get close to your predicted max heart rate (220 minus your age)?
More importantly, look at your heart rate recovery.
After exerting max effort for 30-60 seconds you should be at your max heart rate.
Once you finish the test, start a timer and watch the speed at which your heart rate recovers.
You want to look for a ½ beat recovery per second:
60 seconds after you finish you should have recovered 30 beats per minute (bpm)
2 minutes post max exertion you should have recovered 60 bpm
And so on until you return to your normal resting heart rate
For example, I’m 24 years old. My max heart rate should be 196 bpm (220 – 24 years).
Let’s say I perform this test and am able to get my heart rate to 190 bpm.
Ideally, one minute post-test my heart rate should be down to 160 bpm. And two minutes post-test I should be down to 130 bpm.
If your heart rate recovery is slower than ½ beat recovery per second, you probably need to work on your anaerobic capacity.
Maximal Heart Rate: VO2 Max Test
If you recall the 9 types of exercise adaptation (the ways our bodies can adapt to exercise), maximum heart rate training is when you exert max output for 8-12 minutes.
VO2 Max tests are more intense than long-duration aerobic endurance since the goal is to measure your absolute maximum output over 8-12 minutes rather than your ability to sustain a consistent pace for 20+ minutes.
They’re also more painful than the anaerobic capacity heart rate test we just covered since instead of going all out for 60 seconds you have to go all out for 12 minutes.
It’s supposed to suck.
The gold standard for measuring VO2 Max is in a laboratory, strapped up with a mask that collects gasses (carbon dioxide and oxygen) entering and exiting your mouth and nose.
Since very few, if any, of us have access to that type of equipment, the following tests can be performed anywhere, with no equipment, for free, and will provide an estimated VO2 Max.
The Cooper 12-Minute Run Test
Run for 12 minutes as far as you possibly can. Record the distance you covered.
You can do a combination of sprinting, walking, or jogging. Whatever works for you.
Your goal is simply to cover as much distance as possible.
With your distance recorded, you can use these formulas to calculate your estimated VO2 Max:
Miles: VO2 Max = (35.97 x miles covered) – 11.29
Kilometers: VO2 Max = (22.351 x kilometers covered) – 11.288
Rockport 1-Mile Walk Test
For a gentler, submaximal version of this test, you can simply walk one mile as quickly as possible (without jogging).
Record your heart rate at the end of the test and the time it took you to cover that distance.
Then use this formula to estimate your VO2 Max:
VO2 Max = 132.853 – (0.0769 x your weight in pounds) – (0.3877 x your age) + (6.315 if you are male or 0 if you are female) – (3.2649 x your walking time) – (0.1565 x your heart rate at the end of the test)
VO2 Max Scores
At a bare minimum, men should have a score of 35 ml/kg/min and women about 30 ml/kg/min.
But ideally, men should be up around 55 ml/kg/min and women around 50 ml/kg/min.
What does “ml/kg/min” mean?
VO2 Max is measured in milliliters (ml) per kilogram (kg) per minute (min), abbreviated as ml/kg/min.
ml = milliliters of oxygen
kg = kilogram of bodyweight
So, it’s a measure of how much oxygen (in milliliters) you are capable of bringing in per kilogram of your body weight per minute.
How is VO2 Max calculated? (For the fitness nerds)
VO2 Max = Cardiac output * a-vO2 difference
Cardiac output = Heart rate * Stroke volume
Heart rate: how many times your heart is pumping/beating per minute.
Stroke volume: how much blood is pumping out of your heart per beat.
Arteriovenous oxygen (a-vO2) difference = Artery – Vein difference
The a-vO2 diff is the difference between the amount of oxygen in your arteries (arterial blood) minus the amount of oxygen in your vein (venous blood).
This tells you how much you took up in your capillaries, in your muscles.
Regular exercise improves your body’s ability to extract more oxygen from the blood in a given period of time.
And with that, we close out our 4-part Longevity Combine series covering practical tests to assess and improve your health and fitness.
In case you missed them, you can find the first 3 parts here:
Finish the week strong and have a fantastic weekend!
Much love to you and yours,
Awesome series of articles, Jack. As humans, we tend to get exercise grooved, doing what we do well over and over again. These 4 areas of testing inspire us to check our actual fitness against our perceived fitness over a range of measures. Much thanks!!