Have you ever wondered about the size of your own engine? You know the engine (heart, lungs and circulatory system) that drives your body?? VO2 max stands for the maximum rate that your body can consume oxygen whilst exercising. The larger the amount of oxygen that you can present and utilise at the working muscle, the fitter you are. It is like comparing a 4 cylinder engine with a V8. The latter engine has way more power and consumes way more fuel because it has a bigger capacity to deliver output. Now combine a big engine with a light body and you have the best of both worlds, case in point formula 1 race cars, which have huge engine power and a very light weight yet super strong chassis.
Now let’s put some numbers and real life examples to you. Lance Armstrong, light body, huge engine and therefore an amazing VO2 max. He has one of the biggest VO2 max scores in the world. He has been tested at around 88ml of oxygen per kilogram of body weight per minute. The average person has about one third of that ability. Obviously there is a certain amount of natural endowment with this particular element of fitness. Lance was standing near the top of the queue when this ability was being handed out. The thing that he also brought to the table was an incredible amount of determination and a tolerance level to withstand some serious discomfort.
So what about us mere mortals? It has been said that your absolute VO2 max can be improved by up to 50% with training. So you can increase the size of your engine significantly, which means you will be able to do so much more with your life where fitness is a limiting factor.
So how do you improve it? No surprises here I guess. You must adhere to some basic principles of training. First you must being doing exercises that use large muscle groups in a repetitive way for an extended period of time. Second you must progressively build how much you do because the body keeps adapting and improving.Another variable you could manipulate is the intensity. You must work at a heart rate intensity of 60-90% of your maximum heart rate, use 220-your age as a rough guide to your maximum heart rate. Lastly, you must also consider rest and recovery because it is critical to the adaptation process.
If any of you are training for the upcoming Bridge to Brisbane you will know about training programs designed to improve your running endurance performance. You will be increasing your VO2 max and in other words your engine capacity. This will be one improvement that won’t cost you money like getting a bigger car will, on the contrary it could buy you time and improve the scope of your existence. Not a bad result for a bit of effort.
Ask us about the many types of VO2 max tests and how to find out what yours is.
Below is a table of the scores for age and gender. The circled areas are where you want to aim to be!