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My brother was studying for a degree in Sports Science in London a few years ago and asked me to come in to serve as a guinea pig for a project he was working on. He tells me that all I'll have to do is ride a stationary bicycle in bursts of 30 seconds full out 1 minute rest, repeated three or four times. I do basically no exercise, but this sounded like something I could handle and after all I have a filial responsibility.

So I think no problem, head down to his lab, and the first sign that something is going to be rough is that his friends are there (other students/guinea pigs) joking about how likely they are to throw up this time. Apparently it's fairly common to throw up after doing the trial properly, but it just doesn't seem plausible. After all, you are only cycling for a couple minutes. Even for a lazy bastard like me, that seemed doable.

I sit there with growing concern as the guy before me finishes his run and staggers over to one of the tables and crawls upon it. He lays there alternately going bright red and white and trembling like a fish too long out of water. He doesn't speak, and doesn't respond when spoken to.

My turn comes and my brother, laughing, takes me over to the stationary cycle where he tells me it has been set to an incline calibrated against my weight/height to cause maximum stress during the all out segments.

I start peddling slowly until he shouts NOW in my ear and then I grab the handle bars and peddle for all I'm worth, elbows and knees flying everywhere. Meanwhile my brother is shouting at me like a drill sergeant and through a combination of naivety and adrenaline I make it through my first 30 second sprint without too much difficulty. At this point my legs are burning quite a bit and I'm bright red with exertion, but otherwise ok. I coast for another 60 seconds and then the yelling starts again. RIDE YOU BASTARD, RIDE!!! I give it my best, but it's a bit harder this time, my legs haven't recuperated from the previous sprint and I am even more ungainly if possible. Twice more we go through the cycle and by the last time my legs don't even seem to be responding to my brain, they feel hard liked they have been pumped full of oh I don't know, blood and acid, and have barely any power to them. My final sprint is so uncoordinated that my brother has to lean on the cycle to stop it from flopping over. Lance Armstrong's testicle was undoubtedly spinning in its grave. A group of my brothers friends cheer me on, however the guy who went before me is still absent.

Finally, I make the end of the sprint, and stagger off the bike. My legs don't work, I feel like one of those floppy inflatable plastic guys they attach to a fan and use to promote used car lots, alternately staggering around stiff and floppy legged. I don't feel too bad yet, and some sort of manic euphoria has hold of me. You see, I tell my brother, some of us are just built out of tougher stuff. He laughs in my face and tells me to go sit down in a corner. I start to repeat my claims of being fine, but suddenly I feel like the earth has dropped away and I am in free fall. He looks at me again and his smile fades and a look of concern comes into his eyes. Seriously, go sit down. Apparently, I have turned an unholy shade of green. I stagger over to a corner, now feeling like I have reached terminal velocity and sort of flump to the floor. Apparently my body is so full of lactic acid or what have you, that it is overwhelmed, and starts wondering if perhaps a good upchuck would help. At this point my vision narrows to about the size of a penny, filled with dancing patterns and lights. I don't throw up but I assume it's only because my body just can't get it together to do that. I am vaguely aware of people standing over me, concerned, calling my name, but responding to them seems like an Everest of a task so I lay there in my flump, thinking to myself: You see? I was right, exercise is a terrible terrible thing. Even 2 minutes is too much. Never ever again. I begin to vibrate softly as every muscle in my body twitches.

My brother leans down and puts his hand on my head and says: "You'll be ok. If you need to throw up, please use the bucket in the corner. Sometimes people just throw up on themselves and it makes a mess. And hey, at least now you know what it's like so it won't be so bad when you come back next week".

I suppose he must have spotted the sort of mad murderous gleam that popped into my eye, because I doubt my mangled bleat of "whaaabastardfuhnextweekafuhcrazy" through nerveless lips was all that intelligible. He laughed and said, "yeah, I have to get two sample points, a week apart! So you have to come back, didn't I mention that?"

I did go back in the end, but I sure as shit didn't pedal all out. So I'm not sure if the body got better aerobics or insulin whatevers, but the brain, the brain learned its lesson.




If you get the chance to try it again, don't just stop suddenly when you have finished the exercise, but do a small warm-down phase of very little effort. That may keep the pass-out response at bay.

I'm not sure if this is a vasovagal response or not (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vasovagal_response) but I have this response also. In fact, mentioning it to my doc won me a full cardio work-up from a cardiologist. I get the response from intense weight-lifting and anaerobic cardio exercise (like what you describe) if I suddenly stop. If, however, I keep doing very light exercise, I don't "nearly" pass out (I've never fully passed out from it, only gotten to the dim-vision gray-out/dizziness described here, so I think I was close to passing out but not exactly sure).


Thanks, that was a gripping read.

Did your brother have any opinion on how that compared to a longer period of less intense exercise? /what were their findings


That kind of reminds me of when I applied to the RCMP here, they had a psychical test where you ran a course (figure eight, going over stairs, bars, etc...) six times, then had to carry weights over a certain amount of distance all within four minutes. When I applied, I looked at it and thought "piece of cake".

By the time I was done I was similar to yourself. I dont' even remember the last part of the test, just that I somehow did it and ended up in a chair with folks around me having that look that makes you wonder if someone should be dialling 911. They hook you up to a machine after the test to check your blood pressure and what not (I guess to avoid having people pass out afterwards?). I had to wait there for a 1/2 hour because the damn thing kept thinking that I had no pulse, which didn't help everyone's expressions (I was so out of it I thought it was funny)

Thankfully I passed with two seconds remaining, but the ole brain reinforced the idea that maybe doing police work just wasn't in the cards for me




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