Three weeks ago, I endured a massive amount of pain and humiliation. No, scratch that. Saying I “endured” it makes it sound like it was thrust upon me. Like I gallantly suffered, knowing I had no other choice.

What I should say is, “three weeks ago, I sought out, signed up, and went out of my way to enjoy an evening of pain and humiliation.”

In short, I had a body composition analysis performed (which is to say, I found out precisely how fat I am), along with a VO2 Max test (which is to say, I found out exactly how weak I am).

Today, I finally feel I have recovered enough to reveal the results of this ordeal.

But First, A Shameless Plug for Sans Auto
Sans Auto is one of the frequent commenters on this blog. What you may not know about him is that in real life he’s working on his doctorate in something impressive-sounding that has something to do with food and exercise.

Sans Auto is the one who volunteered to do these tests on me, and he’s also been giving me some great nutrition advice. He’s currently sharing that advice with others on his own blog. If you’re working on fitness and weight loss and are interested in hearing practical advice from someone who understands the science of nutrition, I’d highly recommend reading what he has to say. Check out these entries:

  • Bioenergetics: Here, Sans Auto describes the simple technique he explained to me — the technique that has helped me get halfway to my weight loss goal in eight weeks.
  • Carbohydrates and Hunger: As a cyclist, I’ve never bought into any low-carb diet — I know that if I don’t have carbs in my system, I can’t train for endurance cycling. What I didn’t know was how carbs work and what kinds to eat. Sans does a good job of explaining it. I had wondered why the brown rice and the rolled-oats muesli have been working so well for me. Now I know.

Sans Auto says he’s going to be doing more posts in his no-nonsense nutrition guide, mostly to help other people beat me in the B7 Challenge.


Back to the Evening of Suffering
Anyway, back in the end of January, Sans Auto said he’d help me measure my fat percentage and my VO2 Max. Having had my fat percentage measured with calipers before, I wasn’t particularly keen on the idea of a fat percentage test. But it wasn’t like that at all.

You know what it was like? It was like sitting in the Egg Chair from Mork and Mindy. When it’s sealed.

After that, Sans Auto (his friends call him “Sans”), gave me the bad news: I weighed 169.6 pounds, of which 36 pounds was fat.

That’s a fat percent of 21.3%.


Sans tried to soften the blow. “That’s really not too bad,” he said. “Just think what it would have been if we had done this test at the beginning of the year!”

Yeah, thanks a lot, Sans Auto (notice how I didn’t call you just “Sans” there?).

By the way, assuming my lean weight hasn’t changed, my current fat percentage would now be 18.6%. And if I hit my goal weight (148 pounds), my fat percentage will be about 9.8%.

When I get down to that weight, Sans says he’ll test me again. I’m looking forward to the comparison.

VO2 Max Test
While the fat percentage test is only emotionally painful, the VO2 Max hurts in a seriously physical way.

I strapped on a heart rate monitor, got situated on a stationary bike, and then let Sans attach a medieval torture device to my head, nose and mouth, the purpose of which is to ensure it captures all the breath I exhale while riding.

The rules were simple, Sans explained. Every couple minutes he’d increase the resistance by forty watts, until we reached 210 watts. Then he’d increase the resistance by twenty watts every two minutes. When I blew up, we’d know what my VO2 Max is.

Oh, and also he’d be taking pictures (you can click on any of the below pictures to see a larger, sweatier view, if you want to see my suffering in greater detail).

At first, I had my game face on. I’m very focused. I see no reason why I should not max out at 800 watts. I tried to impress Sans by showing what a fast cadence I can spin.

I assert, however, that whoever invented this contraption had no sense of style at all. That nose-pinching thing totally doesn’t go with the rest of the getup. Seriously.

Ten minutes later, though, I’m no longer so composed. At this point I’ve just hit 210 watts and my lactate threshold. I’m sweating hard and — due to my inability to close my mouth — I cannot swallow at all. My throat is painfully dry — and in fact, all the next day my throat would be sore from maxing myself out for twenty minutes without swallowing once.

By the time I had gone fifteen minutes, I was hurting for real. My legs hurt, my lungs hurt, and — as you can see from the way I’ve got a death-grip on the bars here — my arms hurt. This, evidently, is what 250 watts feels like.

I should note that by this time I no longer appreciated being photographed. In fact, I had gone to my wilfully-angry place, where I resent everyone and everything. 

In this final photograph, I am mere seconds away from shutting down. I no longer even realize that I am being photographed. I have shut my eyes as part of a clever scheme to block out all sensory input and just concentrate on turning circles.

There is nothing but the circle. Turn the circle. Turn nice, round circles. Turn the cir…oh mother, please! Stop the pain! Stop the pain! Please, just turn off the machine that makes the pain!

In the End
When all is said and done, I evidently have a VO2 max of 51.5. “51.5 of what?” you ask?

To which I answer, “51.5 units of pure pain.”

This number, of course, meant absolutely nothing to me. Trying to get a sense of how I did, I asked Sans, “So, how’s 51.5?”

“Not bad at all, for someone your age,” said Sans Auto.

“So, what’s your VO2 Max?” I asked.

“Around 60.”


Anyway, at my max, I was turning out 310 watts. My heartrate hit 195 — two beats per minute more than I previously thought I could hit.

Oh, and also I showed Sans Auto what I thought of his torture device by punching him right in the solar plexus.

No, that’s not true. Actually, I asked him to run the tests on me again in April, and then one last time again in July, to see what kind of progress I’m making.

You know, because I had so much fun.

PS: Today’s weight: 163.4

PPS: As of this morning, another frequent commenter on this blog, BotchedExperiment, will have turned in his doctoral dissertation. Except for the formality of defending this dissertation next week, he’s done. Please join me in congratulating his eminent doctrines, Doctor BotchedExperiment.

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