V02 Max for Running

Been running for a little while? Then you have probably heard the term V02 Max, but main not know exactly what it means. Keep reading as I explain what V02 Max is, why incorporate it into your training and finally how to do V02 Max in training.

What is VO2 Max?

Three abbreviations make up V02 Max, V for Volume, O2 for Oxygen and max for Maximum

V02 Maxnoun

the maximum or optimum rate at which the heart, lungs, and muscles can effectively use oxygen during exercise, used as a way of measuring a person’s individual aerobic capacity.

Definitions from Oxford Languages

Put simply, VO2 Max is the maximum amount of oxygen you can use during exercise. As you increase your effort, the rate at which you consume oxygen also increases, until you hit a certain point at which the oxygen intake no longer continues to increase. This is your V02 Max, it’s possible for your effort and pace to increase above V02 Max. However, at this point, as your body cannot deliver the oxygen required by your muscles, lactic acid rapidly increases. This makes any endurance at this pace impossible to sustain.

Why do V02 Max?

V02 max is very important for endurance sports, as explained above, the higher your V02 Max the more oxygen your body has to use. By training your body to be more efficient at using oxygen, the more efficient you become at removing lactic acid from the blood. Think about it like having a bigger fuel tank in your car, a good V02 Max can allow you to go longer and faster. V02 Max involves intense training, which gives a bonus of building your mental toughness.

How to do V02 Max sessions?

Training your V02 Max engine is difficult. The effort required is very high and should not be done back to back with other hard training days to maximise the benefits of the training. Training heart rate for V02 Max is ~90-100% of your maximum (think almost maximum effort). There are many ways to do VO2 Max training. Following is an example to give a go.

1:1 ratio of high effort : recovery

This is a great interval session, and can be performed anywhere. Starting out give 30 sec hard, and then 30 sec easy for 10 repetitions a go. Over time, you can build this up to 20 repetitions.

As you improve, you can increase the duration to 2-3mins or even run up a hill and recover on the downhill for similar time durations. The goal is to keep the effort high (near maximal) for all the repetitions. This training is about quality not quantity. It is hard and will be mentally challenging, but you need to push through the discomfort. However, if your form is completely falling apart, better to call it and cool down. Come back next time and go one more repetition further!

The total time you want to aim training at V02 max pace / effort is 20-30mins, you need not do more than this. For example, a 60min training session could look like:

Warm up – 10mins (include a couple of strides after 5-6mins easy running)
Main set – 10 x 2mins sub maximal effort / 2mins easy run
Cool down – 10mins easy jog – Well done!

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