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Improving your VO2 Max will help everything in life feel easier

Updated: Jul 17, 2023

Think of it like the efficiency of your own internal engine: A high VO2 max is like a car with a bigger engine. A car with a smaller engine has to work harder to go as fast as the big engine and will likely place lower in a race.



Take a look at how my treadmill V02 Max & Lactate Threshold test looked here:



I took a trip to the sports performance lab at Bath university for a V02 Max test with blood lactate threshold testing. As a runner, I was pushed to my limits on a treadmill however this type of test can be carried out on eg bike, row erg etc to best suit your interests.


What is VO2 Max?

A person's VO2 Max is also known as maximal Oxygen uptake. It’s a measurement of the maximum amount of oxygen a person can utilise during intense exercise which is measured in millilitres of oxygen used in a minute per KG of bodyweight (ml/min/Kg).


What is blood lactate?

Lactate is a by-product of metabolism which is found to increase in the blood during exercise and a substance produced when a person performs intense physical activity. We use it as an indication of fitness, as after a certain threshold is hit, exercise duration becomes finite.


Lactate is an organic acid formed in the muscles due to the breakdown of glucose without enough oxygen. Lactate is then released into the bloodstream and transported to other parts of the body where it can be used as an energy source.


Why measure these?

This information is then used to provide the athlete with specific training guidelines that will accurately prescribe the ideal paces / exercise intensities and heart rates in order to get maximum benefit from their sessions.


How did it feel?

Challenging, mentally and physically. I felt pretty fatigued in the week leading up to the test (usual for the late luteal phase of my menstrual cycle) and had a slight cold a few weeks before. So while feeling somewhat below fantastic, I wasn’t sure how much I’d be able to push feeling fit! Despite this, I didn’t fell ‘bad’ by any means, only nervous!! And surprised myself with how far I could push to physical exhaustion. I loved the opportunity to be pushed to my limits!


What did the test look like In brief:


  • Body stats taken, height, weight (BMI calculated) general health questions

  • Heart rate monitor chest strap applied

  • Blood lactate measured via finger prick blood test

  • Resting heart rate measured

  • Warm up on treadmill

  • Pee break!

  • Mask applied onto face: attached to a gas analysed machine which measures the volume of Oxygen inhaled and amount of C02 exhaled.

  • Test begins

  • Jog for 3mins

  • Jump off the treadmill belt for approx 45s. Point at chart to indicate ‘rate of perceived exertion’. Finger is pricked again and blood lactate is measured

  • Back on the treadmill with speed increase of 1kmph for another 3 mins

  • Repeat the above two steps until maximal effort is exerted and unable to run anymore or when oxygen consumption plateaus.


Why do we reach a maximum and unable to continue?


During the test, the participant goes from aerobic metabolism (with oxygen) to anaerobic metabolism (without oxygen). With oxygen, we can continue running as oxygen is critical to fuelling our muscles in order to perform. Without oxygen we can’t and are no longer using oxygen to fuel the breakdown of carbohydrates, amino acids, fats etc as there is no oxygen to do so.



What is being measured throughout this progressively graded maximal exercise test (also known as a ramp test)?


  • Maximum oxygen uptake (VO2 Max)

  • Blood lactate

  • Heart rate profile

  • VO2 profile from easy to maximal

  • Lactate and heart rate profile

  • Rate of perceived exertion (RPE)

  • Running Economy

  • Running Velocity at VO2 Max

  • Indication of substrate usage



This information is then used to provide the athlete with specific training guidelines that will accurately prescribe the ideal paces / exercise intensities and heart rates in order to get maximum benefit from their sessions.


The graph shows Oxygen consumption (blue) and Carbon Dioxide (C02) output (red)



At lower intensities (eg first peaks/levels shown in graph) our oxygen consumption is greater than C02 (the waste product being produced). Here we are working aerobically (with oxygen)


As intensity increases, These two measurements will come closer together until they are equal.


CO2 output then surpasses Oxygen. Here we are working anaerobically (without Oxygen) and hence unable to continue for much longer….and the test comes to an end.....and relax!



Training Zones:


Below is my personal report and from here I can begin structuring my training to incorporate an approximate 80/20 mix of zone 2 and zone 4 & 5 to best improve my running fitness. I aim to revisit this test in a years time.


For more information on appropriate fitness testing relevant to your interests, get in touch and we'll formulate a plan.



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Unknown member
Jul 17, 2023

Hi Thea I found the info on your VO2 test really fascinating. You look great on the treadmill despite the mask. Great test to do. Hope it has improved your running. Any tips for getting rid of the lactic acid? I find that a problem doing my short 5K runs and my timings are not improving. I need to do some zone running too! See you later at the gym. Gillx

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