Vo2 and Vo2Max

Hi there!

For the unitiated athlete, not our top ones, I have decided to try and explain some terms you may hear Nick saying to you at training!! Of course I may be totally or partially wrong in some areas but hopefully he’ll correct me!

You’ve heard mention of your VO2 and VO2 max many times. These terms are to do with the fact that our body needs oxygen to exercise.

VO2 is a measurement. It is the difference between the oxygen you breathe in and the amount you breathe out. This difference in oxygen levels between the air you inhale and the air you exhale indicates how much oxygen your body is using.

VO2 max is the maximum volume of oxygen the muscles can consume in 1 minute. One running coach described it as ” representing the size of your aerobic engine -It’s the rate at which oxygen can be used” [Jason Karp, Ph.D., running]

Vo2 max is not something intrinsic; it’s an external parameter that is affected by things such as how many red blood cells you have, how adapted your muscles are to distance running, and how much blood your heart can pump.

In most people, it will be somewhere between 30 and 60.Increasing it means that your body can take in more oxygen and deliver it to your muscles, enabling you to run faster for a given effort.

Vo2 Max is a measure of 2 things:

  • Physical lung capacity — a measurement of the actual cubic feet of airspace available in your lungs. This is a genetic factor, which cannot be trained up
  • And the ability to transfer oxygen in your blood stream. Increased red blood cell counts mean more carriers are available to transport oxygen to the active muscles in your body. This can be increased through exercise

There are a number of considered approaches to improving your V02 max. The most prominent of these approaches is high intensity interval training (HITT). Examples are:

  • Fartlek intervals — alternating jogging and running at your fastest-pace
  • Hill intervals — alternating runs uphill and jogging back down
  • Lactate intervals — pushing muscles to their limits at your fastest pace

The more efficiently you can use the oxygen, the more efficient you become at removing lactic acid from the blood. And the faster you run, the more lactic acid you build up, so your VO2 max becomes more important.

Although VO2 max is a useful measure of aerobic capacity. It is important to point out that a high value will not guarantee a win over runners with lower V02 max, as other factors such as running form, overall strength also play a part.

Hopefully you might now know a little bit more about it and understand why Nick pushes you in training!

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