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Publish date 02.01.2023
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Do you know what one of the most important parameters is when you want to build good form and not be out of breath after a few hundred meters of running? It’s VO2max or maximum aerobic ceiling.
If you’re just starting your running adventure this strange acronym is probably new to you. However, this should change quickly if you want to build form and run better and better.
You found yourself here for a reason – it means you want to learn more about VO2max. Great!
This article will tell you what VO2max is, how to increase VO2max, and why knowledge on the subject is needed. Rest assured, you won’t find useless knowledge here! See what you should do to make your workouts even better.
For short distances, the most important thing is speed. However, for long-distance running, the most important thing is not time, but endurance. That’s why a lot of times the term for long-distance running is endurance training. It requires a lot of prowess not only physically but often mentally. However, what does this word mean in the case of running?
It is difficult to define endurance exactly. In general, the focus should be on the individual body’s resistance to fatigue. This includes not only physical fatigue but also mental fatigue, which also affects how you feel, and how much energy and desire to train and exercise you have.
The longer workouts you do and the longer running competitions you plan, the more important your endurance is. It is what will get you from start to finish.
Endurance has a direct connection with aerobic capacity. What is it?
Aerobic capacity is the body’s ability to perform prolonged exertion and, in addition, cover the energy requirements of muscles to perform movements.
Aerobic capacity can be divided into aerobic and anaerobic.
Anaerobic processes are used for short-term efforts. These are movements where rapid and intense muscle contractions occur. Anaerobic processes are experienced by muscles when you take part in a sprint, for example. This means that it happens during workouts or runs that are short but very fast and done to the max.
Aerobic processes are responsible for providing the energy to help muscles perform movements during prolonged efforts – that is, for movements that last many minutes or even hours.
Now that you know what aerobic processes are, you can see why they are so important for a runner who runs long distances.
A high VO2max is important for all athletes who practice long workouts. In addition to marathon and ultramarathon runners, it is important for those who practice endurance sports such as soccer players, swimmers, and cyclists.
Maximum oxygen consumption is otherwise known simply as VO2max. It stands for V – volume per unit time, and O2 is the chemical abbreviation attributed to the chemical element oxygen. VO2max determines the body’s ability to absorb and use oxygen in energy-forming processes. Therefore, the more oxygen you can take in, the longer and more intense aerobic effort you will be able to endure. This, of course, translates into endurance and running length.
Some people take very deep breaths while running with the idea that this will get more oxygen into the body, especially the lungs, and they will be able to breathe better and run longer. Is this true? No. If your oxygen ceiling is low then deep breaths will not help. Your body will not be able to utilize the oxygen you are taking in completely.
The maximum oxygen consumption is expressed in milliliters of oxygen per kilogram of body weight per minute (ml/kg/min). Its value indicates the volume of oxygen that the body can use to produce energy delivered to the muscles during exercise.
VO2max can also be determined by giving liters of oxygen per minute. However, this is not a very effective way.
Here’s a simple reason why. It is difficult to determine whether someone is at a high oxygen ceiling or a low one. We have two runners running. Runner #1 takes in more liters of oxygen per minute than runner #2. However, this does not mean that runner #1 has a higher oxygen ceiling. Before concluding that, one would have to weigh them and see how much oxygen they took in per kilogram of body weight.
This is a complicated process and not entirely accurate.
It’s the factor you can’t do much about. All because it is genetically bound. This means that what your VO2max is has been passed on to you in your DNA and you have to live with it. It’s a barrier that whatever you do can’t be broken through. Many things are genetically conditioned and you have to live with it.
“I will train solidly, systematically, and for a long time.”
This is a very good attitude, but it won’t help much. Even if you train regularly, your VO2max will go up by about 20-30% at most. Of course, it’s better than nothing, but it’s probably not what you expected after hours and hours of strenuous training, right?
I’m sure you’re wondering why your genes affect your oxygen ceiling and where the problem lies. Well, it’s all down to the number of fast- and slow-contracting fibers in your muscles. Slow contractile fibers are better suited to endurance efforts and can take up more oxygen. Therefore, if you have more of them, it is easier for you to run long distances.
People who have more fast-shrink fibers perform better in sprints and other short-distance runs. DNA can’t be cheated. Unfortunately, you can’t have it all, and if you want to improve your performance you have to train even though it won’t do much, it will still increase your endurance.
Genetics distribute V2Omax very unfairly. The average man before 30 years of age, 40-45 is considered the average aerobic ceiling. In women before 30 years of age, 36-40. It is different for people who are good at sports – ultramarathoners, cyclists, swimmers – they can break even 90. Great, right? Especially, if you are looking at previous figures that go up to 45.
You can shape your maximal oxygen consumption up to a certain point. You may reach your best form and no longer manage to perform better when it comes to this aspect. However, don’t worry about it as much. You will always be able to focus on other elements that are important for a runner.
A while ago, you read about how genetics affect what VO2max you have. However, it’s not just DNA that affects your oxygen ceiling. Several other factors are important.
Your VO2max is affected by your age. You certainly won’t be surprised if I say that the older you get, the more your maximal oxygen consumption decreases. You can reach your maximum when you are 18-20 years old. As you can see, this is a short period in a person’s life. Then gradually this value starts to decrease. As you get older, your respiratory and cardiovascular performance also decreases. This is most noticeable when you reach the age of 40.
Another aspect is the change in altitude. As altitude increases, the oxygen content of the air decreases, which lowers a person’s oxygen ceiling by around 10%. When exercising at altitude, the body learns to capture oxygen from the diluted air, which strengthens its work – the oxygen ceiling also increases in lowland areas.
VO2max is also influenced by gender. Which gender is more “lucky” here? Men. They are the ones who usually have a higher VO2max level than women. Why? Women tend to have less muscle tissue and more body fat. Therefore, they have less muscle and therefore a maximal oxygen consumption to fuel their bodies. You are probably wondering how you can train your body the most. Men can reach up to 95 VO2max. As for women, the figure is around 75 VO2max. As you can see, the differences are considerable. However, there is nothing you can do about it, this is how we are.
Your VO2max is also influenced by your level of physical activity (how many times a week you exercise), and your health (what diseases you have undergone, what illnesses you suffer from, what medication you take).
There are many methods to calculate VO2max. In this article, I will introduce you to several of them
Spiroergometry test – this is a test where not only the maximal oxygen consumption but also the maximum heart rate and the anaerobic test are measured under the guidance of specialists. Such a test involves running on a treadmill in a room. The intensity of the run is gradually increased until maximum fatigue is reached. During the test, you wear a special mask so that the whole test can be controlled. Such a test can also be carried out on bicycles and orbiters.
Fitness tests – these are commissioned for professional runners who want to know their fitness. To determine VO2max well, special formulas must be used to estimate the correct result.
VO2max = (HRmax / HRsp) x 15
HRmax – maximum heart rate
HRsp – resting heart rate
VO2 max = 3.542 + (-0.014 x current age) + (0.015 x weight*) + (-0.011 x HRsp)
* weight in kilograms
VO2max = (distance in metres – 504.9) / 44.73
To calculate your maximal oxygen consumption from this formula, you need to perform the Cooper Test. This is a special fitness test that involves running as fast as possible for 12 minutes. For a beginner runner, this can be very challenging. However, people who have been running for a long time will certainly have no problem with it.
Can you perform such a test at home? It is possible, but unfortunately, the result will not be precise. You will certainly not find out what your maximal oxygen consumption is. Therefore, it is better to go to a test that will precisely show you the results you need and show you what your VO2max is.
I told you earlier that what kind of maximal oxygen consumption you have is genetically determined. There is nothing you can do about it. However, you can with the right training and technique raise it by around 20-30%. It’s always better than nothing, right? But how do you do it? I will show you a few ways.
If you want your VO2max to increase or stay high then you need to remember to gradually increase the intensity of your workouts and exercise regularly. The fact that you can’t raise it despite exercising may be influenced by age, illness, or other factors. This is worth looking into. As you’ve already noticed, it’s not easy to increase your oxygen ceiling, so don’t get upset if it doesn’t rise much even after long workouts.
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