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A Runner’s Guide to Understanding VO2Max

VO2Max used to be something only scientists talked about. Now, it’s a number you can see on your running watch. While it’s not as exact as a lab test, it’s close enough to help you train smarter. It’s also a measure that the *Discovery Vitality team deem important enough and accurate enough to be used in the Vitality program.

What is VO2Max?

VO2Max is the most oxygen your body can use when you’re running your hardest. It’s a sign of how fit you are and how long you can keep up a tough pace.

Why Do We Care About Oxygen?

Oxygen helps your body make energy when you’re running. The more oxygen you can use, the faster and longer you can run.

Why is VO2Max Important?

VO2Max helps you understand your running limits. The higher your VO2Max, the faster and longer you can run. It’s like having a bigger engine in your car.

How Do We Measure It?

While lab tests offer the most accurate VO2Max measurements, many running watches provide estimates that are good enough for training purposes. Brands like Apple, Garmin and Samsung to name a few.

Why Watches Work for Training

The primary goal is to compare your own workouts and trends against each other, not necessarily to compare your VO2Max to others. When you do make such comparisons, it’s important to remember that your numbers might be slightly off. However, for the purpose of tracking your own improvements and tailoring your training, these small discrepancies are generally not a concern.

Ensure Optimal Accuracy: Update Your Vital Stats

For the most accurate VO2Max readings, it’s crucial to input your vital statistics into your running watch. Specifically, make sure your weight and age are up-to-date. These factors significantly influence the accuracy of the VO2Max estimate.

Keeping Your VO2Max Optimal

Running a periodic 5k time trial on a consistent surface like a road or track is a reliable way to ensure your watch’s VO2Max estimate remains accurate (it must be a hard effort). This is useful for all runners, regardless of the terrain they usually train on.

A Note for Trail Runners

If you’re a trail runner, be aware that VO2Max measurements on trails can differ from those on roads or tracks. Some watches account for this, while others allow you to turn off the VO2Max feature.

How Do We Use It in Training?

Your VO2Max can guide your training. A low number might mean you need more easy, long runs. A high number that’s not improving could mean you need more intense workouts.

How to Know If It’s Improving?

Keep an eye on your VO2Max number on your running watch. If it’s going up, your fitness is likely improving. If it’s staying the same or going down, it might be time to tweak your training.

How to Improve It?

  1. Build a Strong Base: Before you go all out in training, make sure you have a good foundation of regular, easy runs.
  2. Mix It Up: Add in some high-intensity intervals and tempo runs to push your VO2Max higher.
  3. Check Your Progress: Use your running watch to keep track of your VO2Max over time.

Other Factors for Runners to Consider

VO2Max isn’t everything. How efficiently you run matters too. Being efficient in your running can make you fast and successful without necessarily having the highest VO2Max.

Running performance is influenced by a variety of factors, each deserving its own focus. In addition to VO2Max and Running Economy, other key metrics include:

  • vVO2Max: The minimum speed at which VO2Max occurs.
  • pVO2Max: The power output at VO2Max.
  • Lactate Threshold: The exercise intensity at which lactate starts to accumulate in the blood.

We’ll be diving into each of these topics in upcoming articles to give you a comprehensive understanding of what makes a successful runner.

VO2Max is a useful number that can help you become a better runner. By understanding it and using it in your training, you’re on your way to running faster and longer. It’s also going to earn you up to 10 000 Discovery Vitality points. So get after it!

Any of our expert coaches can help you improve your VO2Max and get the most from your running watch.

PS : If you want to connect with a real Vitality expert who can help you optimise your Vitality account then contact Debbie van der Linde – Financial Adviser

*Discovery Vitality is one of the largest health insurers in South Africa with subsidiaries all over the world.

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