Next Generation Fitness Testing

Our club, with the hundreds of members, have a considerable amount of experience regarding fitness and running. Topics such as training to run a faster 5k, how to increase mileage without injury, training for your first Marathon could be obtaining by discussing these topics with club members.

One topic often posted on the LRC Facebook site is gait analysis for runners. I decided research gait testing services, which lead me to Mclean County Orthopedics.

Gait Testing VS Next Generation Testing

My search eventually led me to email to Bryan Jasker of MCO.  Bryan is the director of physical therapy with McLean County Orthopedics.  He explained correcting biomechanical issues with gait testing is difficult.  Research has shown that other tests are more effective at improve fitness and overall health. These programs include a DEXA Analysis, CRA and YBT tests. All of these tests and concepts were new to me.

I scheduled my appointment with Bryan and his staff.  They provided me with a FAQ sheet on what to expect. It consisted of avoiding a heavy meal the morning of the test. Avoid a hard workout the day prior to the test, and wear workout clothes.  The test would take a few hours to complete.

Current State:

I’ve been cross training and some treadmill runs over the winter, but far from being in race shape. 2019 Goals are to remain active, avoid injuries and strive to being competitive in age group events. Do plan to run several 5K’ to ½ marathon or greater distances. Occasional mountain bike events, gravel bicycle races, and off-road motorcycle enduro are all on the radar.

DEXA Test:

DEXA is best described as a full body scanner. Karina at MCO, did a great job explaining how the DEXA scan works. After undressing and slipping on a medical gown, I hopped up on the DEXA table and held still for a few minutes while the DEXA scanner went to work. Within a few minutes had a printout of the results.

The results of the DEXA whole body scan contained several graphs. Measuring Lean Mass and Bone Mineral Content.  Percentage of body fat compared to a young normal individual and then age matched to my age. Additional Tests included:

Fat Mass/Height:

FM/H is a better marker of acceptable fat ranges than a BMI test.  Taking into account the amount of fat relative to a person’s size. Android/Gynoid ratio measures the fat around the trunk and fat around the hips, thighs and bottom.  A higher ratio results in a increased risk for metabolic cardiovascular diseases.

Est. Vat Area, Visceral Adipose Tissue (VAT)

Refers to the fat surrounding the organs. DEXA provides the estimated VAT in Mass, Volume and Area. According to multiple studies, VAT, through an increased fatty acid production, may be involved in the genesis of insulin resistance, which can lead to chronic diseases such as diabetes, hypertension and cardiovascular disease. 

Lean/Height :

Is a comparison of the amount of lean muscle versus height. Studies have indicated higher number will predict an increase in human performance and ability.  A decrease in this number over time can indicate a negative balance in protein as well as increased likelihood of injury. The multiple page DEXA report and the expertise which Bryan and Katrina provided were outstanding.  From these tests, we identified several areas to improve upon.


CRA (Cellular Respiration and Analytics Testing)

Moving onto the next phase of evaluation, was the Cellular Respiration and Analytics test. The CRA is an incremental exercise test used to determine your Prime, Anaerobic, and Peak heart rate zones. 

Test Preparation:

Karina started by measured my resting heart rate. She suggested that I use the Polar app on my iPhone along with a Polar 90 heart strap. MCO uses iPads with an CRA application to collect test results.

After syncing up with the heart rate applications, I saddled up on the exercise bicycle. Karina assisted the seat height for effective pedal stroke.  Karina explained that we’ll use the bicycle with a steady state wattage workload for a time interval.  Then continue to increase intensity while measuring blood lactate levels and monitoring my heart rate.

Test Duration:

I started the bicycle with a low setting of 30 watts and maintained it for a few minutes to get comfortable with the bicycle settings.  Maintaining the 30 watts, was not difficult. My resting heart rate at the start of the test was 56. Karina drew blood from the bottom of my ear lobe, testing blood lactate levels. The blood extractions would continue as the test progressed.  

On the bicycle, I was focused on maintaining a steady state wattage output.  The 30 watt starting point, was jumped up to 50 and was maintained for three minutes.  The testing would continue in this pattern, wattage increased, blood drawn and heart rate monitored and graphed.

Test Progression:

As the test progressed, so did the effort to maintain the workload level.  Pushing through the test was a fun challenge.  Karina was monitoring the blood lactate levels and heart rate. Approaching 180 watt workload, there was a changes indicated in my blood.  My heart rate was also increasing. I pushed on, taking a few sips of water and toweling off the sweat.  After about 55 minutes the test concluded, final blood sample and heart rate measurements taken.

Test Results

Based on the CRA test, my prime zone is the point at which my body is maximizing its use of oxygen and is burning the greatest amount of fat as a fuel source. My prime zone heart rate is 127-133 bpm.  Anaerobic zone, at 149 bpm is where I burn stored carbohydrates as sources for fuel, and no longer burning fat. The peak zone of 157 bpm, as indicated in my report is where risk of increase. Injuries and decreased performance could occur, as once depleted of stored fuels can start burning muscle mass.

CRA Testing

YBT Testing:

The Y Balance test is a way to measure dynamic balance. During YBT test, it became apparent that I have a considerable imbalance in mobility.  Once the YBT test was completed, Bryan printed out the results the DEXA, CRA and YBT.  Explaining my strengths and weakness and where I rank in my age group.


The MCO facility is state of art, spralling with treadmills, exercise equipment, even a pool inside.  Clientele from all walks of life were going in and out of facility. Good majority recovering from injuries, receiving physical therapy services. They have large staff of rehab specialist assisting patients throughout the facility.  Reviewing their Bio sheets from the MCO website, all have excellent credentials and most have competed in a variety of sports at various levels.

The DEXA, CRA and YBT testing at Mclean County Orthopedics was an awesome experience.  The outcome of these test will help refocus my workouts. I do feel these tests would provide a competitive advantage from age group perspective, or as a fitness baseline test.  I’m looking forward to scheduling a retest. After a couple months of solid training and adopting new strategies obtained from DEXA, CRA and YBT tests.


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