Setting a new personal maximum is a great way to track your progress towards your fitness goals – so what’s the easiest way to do it? A sensible step is improvement VO2 max, which is a measure of how much oxygen your body can absorb and use during exercise. The more oxygen your body can use during exercise, the better your performance will be, whether you’re running a long-distance race or playing a sport like tennis or soccer.
How to measure your VO2max
Your VO2max is typically measured in a laboratory or medical setting, where you wear a mask that measures the amount of air you breathe in and out and a heart rate monitor while you exercise and gradually increase your exercise intensity. Depending on your fitness level, the amount of oxygen you use eventually reaches a plateau where your body switches from aerobic to anaerobic respiration. This is your VO2 max. In general, the higher the plateau, the better your fitness level.
Properly measuring your VO2max requires a lot of specialized equipment, which means it’s usually only done for specific purposes. There are other ways to estimate VO2max that require less equipment but aren’t quite as accurate, called submaximal exercise testing. These tests generally involve a structured exercise, such as B. running on a treadmill, with the results used to calculate an estimated VO2max. For example the Cooper test has you run or walked as far as you can in 12 minutes and then uses that distance to estimate your VO2max. If your performance on the test improves, that’s a sign that your VO2max has improved as well.
That VO2 estimates provided by your activity tracker are calculated in different ways depending on make and model, but they usually involve a comparison of running or walking speed with changes in your heart rate – but these measurements are only rough estimates.
How to improve your VO2max
There are two general strategies that are helpful for improving your VO2max. The first is closed Build your aerobic base, which is achieved through lots of lower-intensity aerobic exercise. In running, that would mean lots of long, slow miles with the goal of building up your mileage over time. When you do this, your overall aerobic capacity increases, which in turn helps your body take in and use oxygen more efficiently.
As a training physiologist and Ironman coach Alan Couzens noted in a blog entry In his experience working with athletes, SimpliFaster typically finds the greatest VO2max gains when their training schedule includes a lot of lower-intensity aerobic exercise.
In addition to those long, slow miles, consider adding in some more traditional “VO2 max” workouts that involve short bursts of high-intensity work 90-95% of your maximum heart rate. These short, intense bursts help further increase your body’s capabilities.
While it can be tempting (and feels good) to push yourself with every workout, High-intensity intervals should only make up a small percentage of your overall training routine – for example, if you’re preparing for a race, you want to avoid overdoing it too soon. As Jason Fitzgerald wrote for Outside the magazineYou should avoid prolonged work at a VO2max level as it is hard on the body. Instead he advises“save most of those intense, specific workouts for the final phase of training when preparing for a race.”