VO2 Max

does any of you training gurus know the story with this?

so there I was playing around with my brand new Polar S210 HRM with which you can do what they call a fitness test that gives you your VO2 max figure, so I thought "cool, let's try this".

except I'd forgotten what exactly this whole VO2 max thing is about, so I looked it up and the bad news seems to be that Elite runners have very high scores and the rest of us are pretty much stuck with the mediocre scores that we're born with and there's only a certain percentage we can improve them (5 to 15 percent apparently), and therein lies the ultimate barrier to performance, at least that's what the two books said that I looked at. Bob Glover also says that a 1 per cent improvement in VO2max equates to a 1 percent improvement in performance, which doesn't seem terribly encouraging to me.)

so my question is, does anybody know if this is true? and what are the best work-outs for increasing your VO2max? cos apparently there's an ideal speed to run at to improve which appears to be around 5K pace?

it's a bit depressing to think that there's this personal brick wall that you can't get round - and who knows how soon you're going to hit it?

Shucks - I knew I should've never gotten that HRM! s.


  • drewdrew ✭✭✭
    Achilles, lots of things I read can be very depressing unless you put a positive slant on it. I've also read somewhere that for long distance runners it doesn't have as much bearing as other factors are more important than VO2max.

    The following link, if it works, is quite interesting, as is the whole of PPONLINE website. www.pponline.co.uk/extracts/extra4.htm
  • Drew - thanks very much for the link, that's really helpful!

    Actually I read a bit further on in Bob Glover after posting this and he mentions that Frank Shorter (1972 US Olympic Marathon champion) had a low aerobic capacity (VO2max) but made up for it by having a high lactate threshold - which I guess you can train for, at least. So maybe there's some hope.

    Anyway, I'll definitely be trying some VO2max-specific work-outs after this! s.
  • Achilles,
    I also recall reading somewhere that Alberto Salazar had a 'relatively' low VO2 max but could outperform other athletes because of his lactate threshold and perhaps more importantly, because of his ability to withstand the discomfort that goes with performing at that level for longer periods than his peers.

    A couple of articles regarding improving VO2 max can be found here:
    Boosting your VO2 max
    Improving your VO2

    Have fun, ;-) (the Horwill alternating pace 10K run recommended for marathon training is a hellofaworkout!!)

  • Achilles,

    Aside from making you despondent about VO2 max, do you find the Polar S210 to be useful? I have considered getting one because of the interval function (amongst other things), but wouldn't mind some feedback before shelling out the dosh!

  • Achilles

    I've been reading the Gordon Pirie book that someone provided a link to the other week (sorry I can't remeber where it was - I'll try and e-mail it to you). He say'y that running economy and efficiency makes a huge difference - which I tend to believe. But then you look at his sessions and it makes you think "sure we would all get better if we could do intervals for three hours 4-5 times a week". He also believes it can take 8-10 years before you reach your peak!

    Anyway I think the message is that VO2 max is only one factor in improving performance.
  • Thanks MM and Martin - I knew you guys would have the answer, that's a big help.

    I guess the message is up your lactate threshold, improve your running economy and learn to handle unfeasible amounts of pain (hmmm, not so sure about that last bit!)

    I like the sound of it taking 8-10 years to reach one's peak - especially when I read somewhere the other day that it's only three! That's more like it - at least I've got some time left.

    Dalya - it's early days with the S210, but it seems to be ideal from reading the manual and the interval function is great - you can set warm-up, interval (up to 30!) and recoveries, and cool-down, all as one session, and you can store your own customised work-out presets and so on, so it's pretty sophisticated (by my standards!). I'd say that compared to my old (bust!) Nike HRM]Triax, it's seriously good value.

  • Achilles, Dalya

    I also swapped a broken Nike HRM for a Polar S210. I figured that while the Polar has lots of functions I don't use yet, it will last me many years so I'll gradually grow into it.

  • Dear All

    Interesting thread - I tried the VO2 max fitness test thing on the Polar, and re-tested it the next day by which time it had got worse, so I stopped using that function!

    Still love the HRM though.

    I think it does take a few years to get towards your potential, and for me personally, the formula includes:

    * One long SLOW run per week (dont burn it)
    * One tempo run of 45m to 60min
    * One fartlet run of 45m to 60min

    I think the tempo run is vital - just weaving over and under your threshold pace.

    Good Luck Pals

  • Gavin -

    do you mean that you're running at tempo pace for 45-60 mins. (!) and if so what pace is that relative to your 10K speed? sounds like an awful lot of fast running to me.
  • I think that the main problem with VO2 max testing is one of motivation.
    To acheive an accurate score you need to run totally flat out for the test period(15 min Baulke or 12 min on Cooper).This can result in a significant difference if you test on an "off" day.
    Body weight is of great importance when considering VO2 max.It has been shown that even a modest weight loss can improve your score even without specific VO2 max training.
    I found the Frank Horwill articles posted by MM to be of great use and have been following the training programme for 12 weeks.In that time I have improved my score by over 10%.The only drawback is that this routine is VERY intense and hurts like hell!
  • Danny -

    could you point me in the direction of the Frank Horwill articles you mentioned? sounds like a lot of fun???!!!! interesting point too about body weight which I'd never heard before.

    I'm most impressed by your improvement - does that mean you're running 10% faster or isn't it as simple as that? ;-)
  • Achilles,

    On the weight issue, I recently did a VO2 max test. The absolute result of the VO2 max test isn't weight dependant, after all it is just the amount of air that you exhale into a bag (in one minute) when you are running at your peak. The score that Danny points out is dependant on the weight of the individual as the test is weighted so that like can be compared with like. Lose a kilogram and your score goes up and it can make a big difference.

  • If you visit www.serpentine.org.uk you will find the training articles.
    A basic VO2 max test is to run as far as you can for a period of 15min period.
    By running further on subsequent tests a higher score is acheived.
    As you are running further during the 15min period it follows that you will be running at a higher average speed overall.

    The increase in my score however may be due to a number of factors;increase in fitness,small weight loss during this 12 week period,increased lactate threshold.

    If you decide to do a test then usefull Vo2 max tables and calculators can be found at www.brianmac.demon.co.uk

    This site is a great source of training info.
  • Thanks Ironman and Danny - will check out the sites.

    Any ideas where I can get info. on recommended weight for height?
  • Danny - think I've found it, thanks, the Frank Horwill page seems to have everything.
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