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Runners - What is your VO2max and how important is it

What's it all about?

Can you improve your God given vo2 max? and is it an accurate predictor of your athletic capacity. VO2max stands for maximal oxygen uptake and refers to the amount of oxygen your body is capable of utilizing in one minute.

It is a measure of your capacity for aerobic work and can be a predictor of your potential as an endurance athlete.

However its more important to note your velocity at vo2 max as well. Put simply, your VO2 max is a numerical measurement of your body’s ability to consume oxygen.  

It can affected by things like how many red blood cells you have, how adapted your muscles are to distance running, and how much blood your heart can pump.In a laboratory, it is calculated by measuring the volume (V) of oxygen (O2) that you consume while running on a treadmill.  In a VO2 max test, you’re hooked up to a breathing mask while you undergo a progressively more difficult treadmill test.

Your VO2 max occurs when your oxygen consumption maxes out—this usually happens at a bit faster than your 5k race pace.  

At this point, your heart rate is also maxed out, and you’re working very hard.If you get a lab vo2max test done the sport scientist will give you a number (usually between 30 and 60) to depict your vo2 max.  

The higher the number the better. But its important to note that between two athletes with the same vo2 max they will still run at different speeds. So its not an absolute measure of your ability but will give a great guideline for your training speeds. What you need to know is your Velocity at vo2max ..ie how fast can you run at that max oxygen uptake. 

Then you can base your training much like you would with heart rate zone training, on percentages of your max.While its true that elite athletes will have a higher vox2max than your average person its not the only measure of ability to run fast.   I

n a group of elite athletes its not necessarily the one with the highest vo2max that has the fastest time although all will have high vo2max’s.

Predominantly the vo2max is genetic, heriditary and you cant do that much to influence it however experts agree that you can increase your vo2max within your potential genetic ability by about 15%. 

That is to say if you are a well training athlete your vo2max can be up to 15% higher than your non trained self. So here are a few training session types that can increase your vo2max. 

1. This is only really valid of the untrained person. They can increase their vo2max considerably with just steady state cardio.  Slow cardio activity for relatively long periods of time will increase their abilities. 

However there comes a point in the training continuum where the athlete no longer gains from this type of training in regards to vo2max and has to move onto more intensive forms of training.  But this is a great place to start for beginners

.2. Using the 1:1 ratio all of the following training intervals will help improve your vozmax performance. 1 part at speed to 1 part at rest. 

The rest interval is as important as the speed interval. Its where the body gets rid of the lactate build up so you can go to the red line. 

If you just keep going to exhaustion your performance will drop off very quickly and you won’t be at maximum for long enough. 

So the first interval to start at would be 30 seconds on 30 seconds recovery. Repeat in sets of 5 then have a slightly longer break before completing another set of 5 and even a third if you are fit enough.Giving 15 sets at 30 seconds in the anaerobic zone and nearing your vo2max. 

These  should be run at your max speed. The next interval you can step up is 1 min on 1 min off and again doing sets till you get up to 10 min in the anaerobic zone max.

You don’t want to spend too much time in the red zone per week just enough to stress the body and make it adapt without over taxing it.

The third type is 3min on and 3 min off. This is really hard to do and you need to be strong, stable and fit enough to maintain top pace for the 3 min at speed and make sure your recovery 3 minutes is really a full recovery.  

You might want to do up to 5 sets at this level. Going longer than 3 min in a full on interval as said previously won’t bring you any more as you won’t be able to sustain the quality of the performance.

Another type of interval training and one that is less liable to cause injury and preferable then if you are a heavier runner or have niggling injuries or are not as yet  well trained is to do the intervals on a hill. 

Here you get the heart and legs pumping extremely hard but have far less impact on the joints than you do running at top velocity on the flats.  

Its also good for building strength in the legs.The intervals can again range but start with maybe 10 x 80 to 100 metres sprints up hill with recovery jogs back down in-between.To summarise the vo2max is an important indicator of your athletic ability but its not the be all and end all. 

For most athletes its not absolutely necessary to get a test done in the lab, you can gauge fairly accurately based on your 5km PR time so get your max speed and work out from there how fast to run your intervals. I have had my vo2max tested on numerous occasions and every time I was way below average and they wouldn’t advise a career as an endurance athlete… Luckily i never paid any attention to that them… so yes use the information to your advantage but don’t be put off if you aren't the most genetically gifted athlete on the planet and get out the keep doing it anyway.

If you want to up your running game. Want to learn how to run faster, stronger for longer without burnout and injuries download our free ebook at www.runninghotcoaching.com/ebook and join our facebook group at Lisa's facebook group