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What is V02 Max? Can It Help My Running?

Many recreational runners are wondering whether they too should be monitoring their V02 max. You may well have seen photos of professional athletes undergoing V02 max tests in a specialised laboratory with breathing apparatus measuring their oxygen consumption as they exercise to exhaustion; it all looks very professional and exclusive for their needs. But the question is, is it something we should all be trying to improve or something best left to the elites? To answer these questions, let’s first take a closer look at what V02 max actually represents.

What Does V02 Max Measure?

vo2 max

V02 Max is a measure of the maximum volume of oxygen (02) your body can process when you are exercising, i.e. the rate at which oxygen can be taken from the air and delivered via the lungs into the bloodstream for use by your working muscles. It is measured in ml/kg/min, i.e. millilitres of oxygen per kilogramme of body weight per minute and is essentially determined by two factors:

  1. How much blood your heart can pump out to the muscles with each beat (cardiac output)
  2. How efficiently your muscles can extract the oxygen from the blood and utilize it

Essentially, the faster your body can process oxygen the faster you will potentially be able to run. Although genetics play a major part in determining your V02 max, did you know that higher v02 max values are more likely to benefit mid distance runners (1 mile to 10k) than half, full marathon, ultra runners?

So although V02 max is a useful measure of aerobic capacity especially for high end shorter distance runners, it’s still is a fairly poor predictor of race performance (just because you have a high aerobic capacity does not mean you have all the tools to take on the elites!). This is due to so many other physiological and psychological variables at play, especially running efficiency, i.e. how your running technique can effect utilising oxygen when running, and that’s where the services we offer at StrideUK come into play. 

Without promoting a one running style fits all, there are common traits seen in running technique that greatly effect loss of performance and vulnerability to injury, i.e How your body copes with gravity and the measurement of joint loading when making contact with the ground. If we can understand how your body copes with these forces, we can help reduce the likeliness of injury. If we can help reduce the likeliness of injury, you’ll find yourself training longer without training plateaus or set backs that cost you more time in a sports injury clinic and less time on your feet. 

In summary

Being aware of your current V02 max can provide a useful way of optimising the design, intensity and effectiveness of your training sessions especially for mid distance runners, but improving your running economy is more likely to make you more robust and give you better performance gains. With prices starting at £129 (equivalent of three visits to your physio!) you may find yourself saving a few pennies long term by visiting.


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