Perhaps no other training measurement is as important as VO2 max. The basic definition of VO2 max is the maximum amount of oxygen your body can use during exercise. As a runner, this is used to measure your level of fitness.
The V in VO2 represents volume, but not just as a quantity. It also represents a rate – how much over a certain period of time. The O2 simply refers to the chemical formula for oxygen. Your body has several VO2 rates. One such rate is your resting rate, that is how much oxygen your body uses while at rest. There are then rates for VO2 during exercise.
VO2 During Running
As you begin running, your muscles begin working above your VO2 resting rate. As a result they naturally need more fuel to sustain this increased activity. Part of this increased demand requires more oxygen so your breathing gets progressively faster and deeper as your running pace increases.
What is VO2 Max?
As stated above, it is the maximum amount of oxygen your body can use during exercise. It is a combination of how much oxygen your lungs can take in, convert into the bloodstream which is then pumped throughout your body by your heart and finally how efficient your muscles are in consuming and converting that oxygen for use. Since oxygen is the most critical component to running a fast pace, your VO2 max is the best measure of your running fitness.
As you begin running your VO2 rate will increase and continue to increase until a point it can increase no more. This plateau of where you can no longer utilize oxygen any faster is your VO2 max. The higher your VO2 max, the better your fitness level.
The only method for truly determining your VO2 max accurately is to have it read via a laboratory test. These are expensive and not really necessary except for elite runners striving to make incremental improvements and need that level of precision.
The rest of us can use a simple test called the “One Mile Walk Test” to determine our VO2 max. That’s right, we are going to walk…well, walk fast. For accuracy I recommend you conduct this test at your local running track. A standard track is 400m for 1 lap, so 4 laps equals 1600m or 1 mile.
Here are the steps for this test:
1) Walk exactly one mile as fast as you can without straining yourself or running. Think Olympic speed walking if you can manage it!
2) Note the time in seconds it takes for you to complete the distance.
3) Immediately upon completion take your pulse for 15 seconds and multiply by 4 to obtain your heart rate.
4) Input your results into our calculator below:
Interpreting Your VO2 Max Results
Take the result from our calculator to interpret your VO2 max results. As a runner you should work towards being in the good to high category and work to improve towards the lower range of the Athletic category for your age group to reach your potential as a runner. The elite level is rarely obtainable except for the most exceptional of athletes. Runners at these levels usually have natural gifts in addition to extensive training.
What Is VO2 Max?