How To Improve Your VO2 Max in 60 Days!  - The Running Channel Advertisement

How To Improve Your VO2 Max in 60 Days! 

BY: Mark Dredge
17 June 2024

VO2 Max is one of the best measures of cardiovascular fitness, and if you fully understand how it works as a measure of fitness, then it’s possible to improve your VO2 Max by 5-10% in 60-90 days. 

So here’s what you need to know about VO2 Max, and the best workouts you can do to increase your VO2 Max. 

WHAT IS VO2 MAX?

VO2 Max is the maximum (Max) volume (V) of oxygen (O2) that you can successfully intake (by breathing in air), transport (via red blood cells) and use (in the muscles).

It’s measured as a number which represents millilitres of oxygen per kilogram of body weight per minute. It’s an individual measurement and will vary for each person based on their gender, age and fitness. The average adult aged in their 30s will have a VO2 Max of 30-50, while elite athletes may measure 90+. 

If you’re unsure, then it’s pronounced: Vee oh two max.

WHY DOES VO2 MAX MATTER AND HOW DOES IT RELATE TO FITNESS?

The more oxygen you can utilise in your muscles, the easier exercise feels at harder intensities. Basically: higher VO2 Max means your fitness potential is higher.

While your VO2 Max shouldn’t be a number that you fixate on or solely try to train to improve, it can be a number which shows signs of improved fitness, so it’s a useful metric to track.

IS MY VO2 MAX ACCURATE ON MY RUNNING WATCH?

The best way to measure VO2 Max is in a lab, running on a treadmill, with an oxygen mask strapped to you (which looks like this). But not many runners can do that, and it’s not a fun process. Instead most of us rely on a measure given to us by our running watch. 

Our running watches have a smart analytic engine which takes data from your runs, including pace and heart rate, plus you age, weight and gender, and from that it can tell how hard you’ve worked, and can predict a VO2 Max. Your Garmin watch VO2 data is within around 5% variance from lab results.

HOW DO YOU IMPROVE YOUR VO2 MAX?

Now here’s the thing: You can’t make your VO2 Max jump up a few points in a week, and it will change gradually with the amount of exercise you do. But it is possible to do the work which allows you to see a 5-10% increase in VO2 Max in 60-90 days. 

You have to work on two different types of fitness to improve your VO2 Max: consistently building up your overall running (or cardio) volume, mostly at a slow, easy pace; and interval workouts where you’re exercising hard (around 90% of your maximum heart rate) for between three and eight minutes. 

Let’s start with the easy running because this is your base cardiovascular fitness. The more of this we do, the greater our general exercise capacity becomes. Being consistent is really important, and you can gradually increase your weekly mileage to a level that works for you. You can also do supplementary cardio like cycling or elliptical. Don’t try and shortcut this part: you’ll see much better long term results by patiently building this up.

Alongside the easy runs, when we run fast our body is challenged to become more efficient at taking in oxygen and getting it to our muscles. Longer high intensity intervals have specifically shown to be more effective at doing this – shorter efforts (under one minute) are more explosive and get your heart rate closer to 95%, while longer tempo runs (think marathon pace) is more endurance, at around 80% max heart rate. 

Aim for no more than 20% of your weekly mileage to be these faster intervals or you have a great risk of injury. But this means that the greater your overall mileage, the more faster running you should hopefully be able to tolerate.

BEST WORKOUTS TO IMPROVE VO2 MAX?

The best workouts for specifically improving your VO2 Max are hard interval efforts of three to eight minutes, and then recovering afterwards (for at least 90 seconds, and up to four minutes). 

In each interval, you should be running at a speed which you can just about sustain for the length of that interval, and reach 90-95% of your maximum heart rate. You can aim to build up to doing around 30 minutes of hard running within one workout.

After an easy warm-up run and some drills, try the following workouts in your training:

  • 5-10 x 3 minutes (90 seconds recovery)
  • 4-6 x 5 minutes (90 seconds recovery)
  • 5-10 x 1km (90 seconds recovery)
  • 3-6 x 1 mile (2 minute recovery)
  • 6-10 x 800m (90 seconds recovery)
  • 3-6 x 2-3 minute steady uphills (2 minute recovery)

SO HOW CAN YOU IMPROVE YOUR VO2 MAX IN 60 DAYS?

By being consistent with your slow, easy runs, you can build up your overall cardio fitness and this will naturally increase your VO2 Max. Then by running intervals, your body gets better at utilising oxygen.

If you do one or two interval sessions per week, and keep consistent with your mileage, then you should see your VO2 Max increase within 60 days.

WHY OVERALL TRAINING MATTERS TO VO2 MAX

You can increase your VO2 Max within a short period of time by doing these workouts, but if you maintain a consistent and balanced training programme, with mostly long, steady runs alongside some shorter VO2 Max efforts, then you can continue to gradually build your VO2 Max, and your general fitness, for a long time. 

Do you have any favourite VO2 Max workouts?

And if you want to see how Andy increased his VO2 Max by almost 10% in 60 days, then check out this video!

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