VO₂max and vVO₂max, do they matter?

What’s your VO₂max? The questions that almost all runners hear at some point? The number that runners look and try to improve. But what does it really mean?

VO₂max is the maximum oxygen uptake capacity, it is described in ml/ kg/min. In practice, it means cardiovascular and circulatory systems ability to carry oxygen in the maximum physical exertion. The bigger the number the better ability the person has, right. The best results are distance athletes, such as the cross-country skiers and runners.

Okay, so I will be the fast runner when I work out and get high VO₂max results? Or at least I will be faster than those who have lower VO₂max than I have? NO! Things are not that black and white, of course, there are other things such as efficiency, genes, technique, etc. But let’s forget all those, and let’s consider vVO₂max. The number which many runners forget, in this VO₂max hype.

vVO₂max or velocity of VO₂max is minimum speed for VO₂max is reached. It’s a good predictor of running efficiency and aerobic capacity. Tmax or Tlim is the time that runner can maintain vvO2max, the time varies between the athlete. In the laboratory testing, the is often varies from 3 minutes to 6.5 minutes, while the field testing, it’s somewhere 8.7 minutes[1]. Studies show that in the elite athlete higher VO₂max predict the lower Tlim. [2]

So if there are two almost identical runners, whose VO₂max and other values are same, the person whose vVO₂max is better will probably win the race if we only looking the numbers not training and other things. But, is there a point focus VO₂max or vVO₂max results? Well, yes and no. If you like data and what to know more about your physical features. But don’t only focus the VO₂max, especially if you are the long-distance runner, as stated above when Tlim gets lower, VO₂max rises. vVO₂max predict 3000m race pace the best, and no one can run full marathon 100% VO₂max. Of course, those things help, you to get better and faster runner in the longer distance too, but get blinded and focus only those one or two things.


[1] LV. Billat, JP. Koralsztein, Significance of the velocity at VO2max and time to exhaustion at this velocity., Sports Med, volume 22, issue 2, pages 90-108, Aug 1996, PMID

[2] V. Billat, JC. Renoux, J. Pinoteau, B. Petit, JP. Koralsztein, Reproducibility of running time to exhaustion at VO2max in subelite runners., Med Sci Sports Exerc, volume 26, issue 2, pages 254-7, Feb 1994, PMID

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