Wednesday, October 17, 2007

VO2 Max

OK, there's something I didn't mention in my "things about me" post a while back. I enjoy being a study subject and participating in marketing research. Seriously. In the past few years, I was a subject in a bipolar study (which is actually a huge, NIH-sponsored deal), a study regarding new technology to measure resting metabolic rate, a small study regarding granola bars, and miscellaneous other research endeavors.

My latest foray deals with that which I hate most (no, not lithium): exercise. The criteria couldn't have fit me better: Over 35, overweight, sedentary, elevated blood pressure, and feeling guilty about it. Sign me up.

There's always some tasty reward for the rat--cash, free products, the satisfaction of knowing you are nobly representing your demographic in the quest for better products, marketing excellence, and occasionally science. In this case, I get eight weeks of a total of 24 individual fitness training sessions with two of the best-known elite sports trainers in the city, a nutrition plan, and most importantly, a $700 piece of exercise equipment. I know, I know, everybody's skeptical, but I'm not gullible by nature, so of course I checked it out.

I was told to show up for an intake evaluation at 4:30 today. Wear shorts. I sent an email. Please, can I wear stretchy yoga pants or will they interfere with the pinching of my fat, which I'll assume you'll be doing? The word comes back: yoga pants OK. I am relieved knowing I can still participate. Shorts would have been a deal breaker.

The researcher's office is a shared space inside of the local Jazzercise center. I pulled open the glass door and stepped inside. A perky blonde in workout wear appeared immediately and popped herself behind the desk. "Well hey there, how are you today?" I hated her on sight. I smiled and said I was looking for Bob. Blondie remained perky and directed down the hallway.

After the initial chit chat, Bob got down to business. We started with weight, and he tried to tell me that Mr. Scale is my friend. He noted my weight and said, "You'll weigh 15 pounds less in December." Next was a resting metabolic rate test--something I have actually done before. Bob kept checking the machine and commenting that the reading seemed high. He took a bathroom break came back, and checked the machine again. He seemed a little giddy when he said, "Hey, how many meals do you eat a day?"

I sighed and told him that it doesn't matter how much or how little I eat, I'm always hungry. My stomach growls. Since my weight never changes, I stick to a three-meals-a-day plan with a light afternoon snack. Bob's eyes lit up and he said, "When we see a reading like this, it tells us one of three things. Either you're a high-level athlete with an incredibly efficient metabolism, you're in the middle of the Kalahari, starving, or, you aren't eating enough and your body now thinks you're in the Kalahari starving. I'm guessing it's number three. Hey, May, good news! You're gonna eat more and lose weight!"

Before I go on, let me just say how nice it was to have someone validate what I've been saying all along. I love it when I'm right.

Throughout the battery of tests, our conversation was punctuated by the repeated, enthusiastic "Woo!s" of the Jazzercise class outside the door. Every time the women shouted out another "Woo!" Bob raised his arms and rolled his eyes. It was funny.

We eventually got to the test I suspected was coming but hoped was not: VO2 Max testing. This is a test that pretty much determines at what level of physical exertion you will puke or pass out. I looked at the bike, looked at Bob and asked, "What if I throw up?" Bob shrugged his shoulders and said, "I have a mop."

In this test, you put on a neoprene mask that is then attached to a tube. It feels like you're breathing through a straw, and you look like a sporty Hannibal Lechter. Very fetching. You pedal at a steady rate and every two minutes or so, the tester increases the resistance on the bike. At least they cheer you on. This process continues until you turn purple and fall over. Or something like that. I was on the verge of tears and my face was an alarming shade of crimson when Bob, obviously a man of mercy, pulled the plug.

Bob tells me I'm not as out-of-shape as I look or perceive myself to be as I sit on the bike heaving in big gulps of air and feeling like there's a lung gone missing. Apparently, I'm also a really good sport. No, Bob, I'm just a research slut who will work the maze however I need to in order to get something for free.

I had to tell Bob about my bipolar situation, but he felt that was just one more thing to make my research experience more valuable. He wants to take special notice of my lithium-induced balance issues to see if using this exercise machine improves my issues with gravity.

If I get my piece of exercise equipment, I'm going to sell it and use the money to buy something really decadent. Is that so wrong?

1 comment:

Spilling Ink said...

"No, Bob, I'm just a research slut who will work the maze however I need to in order to get something for free."

You see, May, why I like your brain so much? It's fabulous!