Why Knowing Your VO2 Max Helps You Run Better!
Joining us today is this blog by Amanda J. Ward.
She stopped in bringing positive vibes and good energy to visit and take her first VO2 Max Test and here is what she has to say :)
Please follow her movement at www.awardinglife.com
Life Trainers "Light Warriors"
If you’re a runner, an athlete of any variety, or someone who follows athletes, you either know or want to know what the Vo2max is!? VO2 Max is defined as the maximum volume of oxygen that your body can consume and utilize during an exercise session. A VO2Max test monitors how much blood the lungs and circulatory system process, and the amount of oxygen your muscles can get from the bloodstream. Several factors are involved in determining an individuals VO2Max, including genetics, age, and training lifestyle. As you get older, you lose about 1% of your VO2Max per year! Depending on your training, though, you can increase/improve your VO2Max and override or enhance genetic dispositions.
I had an amazing opportunity recently and am going to share with you the VO2Max testing experience I had with trainer, David Piggott, of Power Endurance Systems. As trainers with shared vision and interests in helping you become the best version of yourself in a variety of ways, our main goal in such testing is to gain information and then use that information to improve performance, wellness and quality of life! I walked away from this experience with exactly those gains and am so excited to share what I learned, and how I’m implementing it. I hope this helps you evaluate your own training needs and desires with more authenticity, as well as provides you resources for doing so!
I showed up at David’s with high anticipation, exhausted from a day at Bush Gardens the day before. (I don’t do theme parks ‘well.’ Yes, you can laugh at me.) After some trainer talk and getting all harnessed up (see that photo!) I hopped on the treadmill, ready to go. I was SO eager to get some data that was unique to me that wasn’t from your run of the mill smart-device-run-watch. We all know these resources are amazing and helpful, but not always accurate! And nothing, nothing, can replace the value and effectiveness of information that is exchanged between two people, in real-life, human interaction!
We started the run off at a light easy jog, and progressively increased the pace every 2 minutes. I ranged from a 10 minute mile pace to a 6:30 minute mile pace over a 15 minute period of time. The most difficult part of the whole test was trying to run in alignment with the hindrance of that mask and hose attached to my face like a resuscitating horse! That little session, running in front of another trainer, also helped me gain clarity on how/where to tweak my current speedwork sessions to up level my speed-endurance a bit more! Although I can run fast intervals, they are short intervals. I need to back off my pacing a bit to lengthen the intervals! It was difficult for me to hold those faster paces for 2 full minutes. You’ll begin to notice a theme, starting now:
Slow down to speed up.
This is a concept I coach for almost all clients- fitness, nutrition, and personal 1:1. The thing we most often hold on to, attempt to control, is the very thing that will give us freedom. Recognizing and embracing the potential in our conflicts is what helps us overcome them! How do you think we gain strength from our struggles? It is not by fighting our struggles, it’s by releasing them. Oh man, does this take some grace, empathy and mindfulness, but is oh-so-freeing when you can begin to experience it!
Life coach mode off.
Back to VO2Max. Upon dismounting the treadmill, I was met with numbers, so many numbers. But I want to point out the most significant ones for you. In less than 15 minutes I gained the knowledge of knowing my anaerobic threshold, as well as my VO2Max levels. The threshold is actually more significant, and I’ll explain that for you to apply in a very normal-person-non-athlete way, if you’d like!
For my age group, 30-39 female, you’ll see in this graphic that >40.0 (greater than 40 milliliters of oxygen per kilogram of body weight) is in the superior range. My peak VO2Max level throughout the test session was 53.4! Yes, that makes me happy, as I seek excellence in all training endeavors for myself and clients. I have been purposeful in my approach to support a healthy VO2Max even if I didn’t have the data to know for certain! In short, what I’ve been doing is working! Now, it’s important to remind us that some of your VO2Max is indicated via genetics, so we’ve really no idea where my genetic baseline was or how hard I would or wouldn’t have to work to improve it based on predispositions. But, regardless, my results were great, and that’s great!
Now for the more complicated numbers. It’s important to know your anaerobic threshold (AT) because it’s the heart rate at which you switch from using oxygen to lactate to keep going in a workout. It’s basically the indicator of your intensity level. Knowing this is significant because how much time we train at certain intensities is what determines our overall performance, our fat burning potential, and our general experience with exercise, as well as our cardiovascular health and potential.
My aerobic threshold, 70 – 130 heart rate according to this test, is when my body is creating energy by burning carbs & fats in the presence of oxygen, producing CO2 (breath and sweat) as a by-product. This is your fat burning metabolism in action. My anaerobic metabolism, as indicated by this test, kicks in around 170 heart rate. That’s when my intensity is so high that the aerobic system cannot keep up! My body will start to burn stored energy at this point and lactic acid is produced faster than it can be metabolized (used). This is why ‘breathless + burning,’ as I call it, can only be sustained for brief periods of time… it’s hard, exhausting and painful work!! The space between these two different metabolic systems is called the threshold and mine sits right around 140 – 160 heart rate.
Now, what does this mean? It means that the more efficient my heart is with oxygen (VO2Max score is relevant here), the longer I can fuel my aerobic system before the anaerobic system needs to take over. If I improve my aerobic efficiency, thus raising my anaerobic threshold, then I’ll be able to do more work (faster pace!) in the aerobic zone! How do you do that? You spend time training based on the goal. So, because my goal is currently to increase my pace for a marathon, I need to improve my aerobic efficiency, therefore requiring that I spend more time investing in training in the aerobic zone.
Knowing your heart rate and the anaerobic threshold, in conjunction with knowing your VO2Max, will help you know how to move forward with progress toward your goal. I have run the same pace in the marathon for 3 years now, and my goal is to push through that wall. I have to adjust my training to support that goal. Because I know my VO2Max is great, I know that I cannot improve any more if I continue the same balance of training that took me through the last 3 years. Knowing that my next level is to improve efficiency with a lower heart rate gives me the information I need to discipline myself in focusing more on that zone of training.
This doesn’t mean I’ll stop training in the higher zones, or that I’ll slow down my overall desired pace, not at all. It does mean that I’ll adjust the delicate dance between endurance/aerobic training and high-intensity interval/anaerobic training. My plan is to add at least 1 to 2 sessions a week of aerobic zone training, via the rower, spin bike or a run.
Everyone is different.
I have to reiterate that this blog is purposed to put some perspective and education on a concept that can help almost all of us improve our efforts. Efficiency is often the key to progress- getting more bang for your buck, right? Being a more efficient athlete means my heart will have to work less-intensely for the same effort-output, therefore giving me greater health and wellness overall. I’ll sleep better, I’ll burn fat better, I’ll fuel my workouts better based on my own internal systems!
In short, this very complicated exercise-science lesson is a metaphor for exactly what Awarding Life teaches: knowledge may be powerful, but applying that knowledge is what creates your freedom. It’s so difficult to gain and apply knowledge on your own, and I’m so grateful for the opportunity to reach out to a trainer like David to help me. This is what I advocate for and why I suggest we talk if you’re in need of some clarity! You cannot read the label from inside the jar, no one can!
If you want to talk about how these numbers can help you, just reach out! Better, yet, use my free Facebook community to include others who may benefit from your questions! And don’t forget, if you’re looking to run a half or full marathon, the Awarding Life Marathon Method implements balanced training that will get you to your next up level as a runner.
Even better, still- if you’re local to Williamsburg, VA, I highly recommend you pay David Piggott a visit. Whether you and I work together or not, he can set you up for the test and provide you with stellar recommendations for training implementation based on your results! Visit David’s website to find out more and contact him directly! If you’re not local, I’m certain someone near you will provide this test, and I’d love to hear how it goes.
Peace out for now,