VO2 max testing

I recently had VO2 max testing for the first time. I wanted to share the results and their meaning in an effort to help others.

The summary of my results are: “35yo F- V02 max 58, AT HR 171, max HR 180”. You can read that as I am a 35 year old female. My VO2 max is 58. My anaerobic threshold is a heart rate of 171. My maximum heart rate is 180.

A member of our club and fellow test subject is an MD. He recently explained the results. I couldn’t do a better job than he did, so 90% of what you are about to read came from him…

The testing was performed while running on a treadmill with increasing speed and incline every 1 minute until we max’d out. We each (there were four of us) wore a very tight mask over our nose and mouth, which measured the amount of exhaled 02 and C02. (It was so tight in fact that my nose bridge was actually tender for 10 days afterward.)

VO2 max
The V02 max is the maximum amount of oxygen our body can use at maximum effort. The higher the V02 max, the more work we can perform since the more oxygen one has, the more energy one can produce to do work, ie-run. Now unfortunately, 80% of our V02 max is genetically determined. This is why even with unlimited training, we will never be able to match the results of Lance Armstrong or Steve Prefontaine.

Anaerobic threshold
The anaerobic threshold (AT) is the point where we start to switch from aerobic to predominantly anaerobic metabolism. This is why we wore the mask- when we exhaled more C02 than O2, we were into predominantly anaerobic metabolism. The longer one can use more 02 to create energy (the mitochondria in our muscle cells do this), the longer one can run without fatigue.

AT is trainable. Intervals on the track and threshold runs are what increase our AT. The closer our AT becomes to our max HR, the closer we are to taking full advantage of our V02 max. The fitter we become, the more blood our heart pumps out with each stroke (stroke volume); more capillaries form at the muscle cells,
thereby increasing the amount of 02 delivered; and the number of mitochondria in our muscle cells increase, allowing us to use more of the delivered 02 to create energy for the muscle cells to contract.

What it means to me
My VO2 results placed me in the “superior fitness” category. Woo-hoo! According to my fellow runner, the MD, my training has raised my AT close to my max HR, which is good. He does point out that we were at this effort for a pretty short time. I need to do intervals at very close to my max HR in order to maintain my high AT.

In application, it means that when I run intervals, I stay above 171 and try to reach 180, 181 and even a little over. The man who tested me said he thinks I can get my max heart rate to 184.

I have found this information incredibly useful. I never really ran intervals before because I didn’t know what my pace or heart rate should be. I focused on tempo training instead. However, now that I have the information, I am able to do effective intervals at the local high school track.

This morning, for example, I ran 400, 800, 1600, 800, 400 with 400 recovery in between and a one mile warm up and cool down. I did the same thing last week. My goal is to stay above 175 and to reach 181 within each repeat, while improving my recovery times … over time. This week I went slower than last week, but I still stayed within my target zones. I believe I went slower because it was much hotter, but based on my HR, my effort was relatively the same

I’m no expert on any of this. I am just a mom of three kids who likes to run a little longer or a little faster every year. (In fact, my partner at the track this morning was none other than one of my seven year old twins.) The more information I have, the better I can train. VO2 max is one more weapon in my arsenal!


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