15 July 2009

Increasing your VO2 Max

While I haven't been doing much (okay any) running lately, I haven't let that stop from trying to read as much as I can on the subject in order to improve my knowledge. The hope is that when I do start running again I'm going to be a better runner loaded with all sorts of new found knowledge.

One area in which I haven't paid much attention to previously (ie pre injury) is the various forms of training that one needs to undertake if your goal is to really become a stronger and faster runner, and really improve your race times - and who doesn't want that right?

As a beginner runner all I wanted to do was get outside and run, I wasn't concerned too much with such terms as VO2 max and lactate threshold. If I was able to run at a reasonable pace without too much discomfort for anywhere up to 60 minutes I was happy.

I'm now starting to gain more of an understanding about the physiology of running and how having a greater awareness of your own limitations can help a runner to improve and not risk over training and injury.

I'm learning about things like VO2 Max and Lactate Threshold which sound like a foreign language to most beginners, but really they are basic fundamentals of running that all serious runners should have some knowledge of.

What follows a quick synopsis of what I have learned so far - feel free to skip the rest of the post if you know all this stuff.

VO2 max is the highest rate of oxygen consumption that your your body or muscles can attain during hard exercise. Typically once you have reached you VO2 max your performance or training intensity will begin to plateau as your muscles tire. With regular training at your VO2 max pace a runner can increase their VO2 max and thus will become fitter an faster.

A speed workout. Photo by Frankjuarez

That, as far as I have been able to ascertain, is the theory behind the 'Speed' workout. A weekly workout where one runs short fast repeats of anywhere from 200 to 800 meters with jogging spells of two to three minutes in between.

How fast should these repeats be run though? Well that depends on the individual but it need not be an all out sprint but rather should be at a speed which is appropriate to your current VO2 max. Run faster than your VO2 max pace and you risk injury or over training.

Your VO2 max can be estimated based upon your time for a 10k race. For example a runner who runs a 40 minute 10K it is estimated would reach their VO2 max if they were to run at 5:59 mile pace for 11 minutes.

It is considered that the best way to improve ones VO2 max is to run intervals at your VO2 max pace and therefore this runner should run their intervals at their VO2 max pace of 5:59 miles.

What does this mean for me? Well I've never races a 10K but I have run a 5k in 23 minutes. Assuming I get back to that level of fitness I presume I could have run a 10K in about 48 minutes which gives me a VO2 max pace of 7:07 mile pace.

Now I'm some way off doing any speed workouts but when the time comes now at least I have some knowledge of what the aim of this workout is.

Next time some thoughts on Lactate Threshold training.


Ewen July 16, 2009 at 9:01 PM  

That's a good summation Bruce. Longer intervals at 10k pace are a good VO2max workout (1000s, 1200s, 1600s). If the intervals are short, the recovery needs to be shorter, and/or faster.

One mistake beginners make is running these too fast - for example, if your current 10k speed is 48 minutes, don't run them at 45 for 10k pace, even if you can.

runnerinsight July 17, 2009 at 6:12 PM  

Wow! COngratulations on your future endeavors! : ) Just sweat it all out every time!

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