Running and Breathing: A Lesson in Oxygen Intake and VO2 Max

New runners will see the dramatic increases as they work to improve their VO2Max. Once you reach a certain level, the athlete will plateau and it will be harder to make increases, but continued VO2Max training will help more experienced runners maintain their VO2Max level for longer periods of time. This will help them become even more efficient runners and help keep fatigue at bay for longer. Genetics does play a role with VO2Max. So, if you can't seem to get past a certain level no matter what you try, you can blame mom and dad. Also, as you age, your VO2max will naturally begin to decrease a little each year.

So, how do you find your VO2Max? If you're a runner you can do the following run test. Do a 5- 10-minute warm-up walk or easy jog. Then run 1.5 miles at or near what you consider max exertion. On a 1-10 perceived exertion scale you should be running at about a 9. Record your time. Then plug your body weight in kilograms, your run time in minutes and your gender number (1=male, 0=female) into the equation below. The result will be your VO2Max. (Note: Before doing the test, or beginning any new exercise, first consult with your doctor.)

VO2Max Equation

88.02 -- .1656 (body weight in kg) -- 2.76 (1.5 mile time in minutes) + 3.716 (gender)

The charts below show the Average to Excellent VO2Max ranges for men and women.

MEN

 

18-25 yrs old

26-35 yrs old

36-45 yrs old

46-55 yrs old

56-65 yrs old

66+ yrs old

Excellent

>60

>56

>51

>45

>41

>37

Good

52-60

49-56

43-51

39-45

36-41

33-37

Above Avg

47-51

43-48

39-42

35-38

32-35

29-32

Average

42-46

40-42

35-38

32-35

30-31

26-28

WOMEN

 

18-25 yrs old

26-35 yrs old

36-45 yrs old

46-55 yrs old

56-65 yrs old

66+ yrs old

Excellent

>56

>52

>45

>40

>37

>32

Good

47-56

45-52

38-45

34-40

32-37

28-32

Above Avg

42-46

39-44

34-37

31-33

28-31

25-27

Average

38-41

35-38

31-33

27-30

25-27

22-24

A long slow run is typically run at about 70 percent of your VO2Max. Tempo runs maybe closer to 80 to 85 percent of your VO2Max and intervals may reach the 85 to 90 percent level. Some treadmills have made it easy to gage this by using METs (metabolic equivalent scale). Once you know your VO2Max score, just divide that number by 3.5 and that will give you your VO2Max in METs. So if your VO2Max score is 40 then the METs equivalent would be around 11. On a treadmill that has METs, you would know that your max effort would be at the 11 METs setting. Your regular runs would be 70% of that so the METs setting would be 7.7. If you were doing intervals the setting may be closer to 9 or 9.5. Not all treadmills have a METs scale, but if yours does, it can be a useful tool when training.

If you're just beginning to run, but you're not quite up to running 1.5 miles, there are a couple of different types of VO2Max tests that can be done such as the 1-mile Rockport Walk Test, and a 3-minute step test. Check with a personal trainer, a local gym or YMCA to see if they provide fitness testing that includes a VO2Max test. Having a complete fitness assessment done by a personal trainer before beginning a running program will be very helping in providing baseline data on your current fitness level. A fitness assessment should include data on vitals (blood pressure/resting heart rate), body composition measures, muscular strength, muscular endurance, muscular flexibility and blance, as well as your VO2Max level.

So, if you're new to running, hang in there, it will get easier. Just stick with it. And if you're a seasoned runner, try mixing up your workouts with some speedwork or hillwork to up or help maintain that VO2Max.

Active logoPut your VO2 Max to the test at a race.

Certified running and fitness coach Thad McLaurin hosts and writes the popular RunnerDude's Blog and is the owner of RunnerDude's Fitness in Greensboro, North Carolina. He has a BA in Education from UNC-Chapel Hill, and his credentials include personal trainer certifications from NPTI and ACSM, as well as running coach certifications from RRCA and USA-Track & Field. Thad's greatest reward is helping others live healthy, active lifestyles. From general fitness to marathon training, Thad can help you reach your fitness and running goals.

Discuss This Article

Follow your passions

Connect with ACTIVE.COM