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Breaking down VO2 max

Fly Feet VO2 Max

If you have spent some time with us at Fly Feet you have probably heard plenty that isn’t always easy to understand in the moment. Terms like VO2max and lactate clearance are often thrown at you, and even with a brief explanation following the workout, many are too tired to listen or frankly just don’t understand. If you fall into one of those categories, let me attempt to simplify VO2max and help y’all understand what it is and how it applies to your training.



VO2max is an oxygen uptake measurement. It is the maximum amount of oxygen that your body (muscle cells) can utilize during training. This is based on two things: how much oxygenated blood the heart can pump, and how efficiently muscles extract the oxygen from the blood. I often talk to clients who mistake the process of oxygen uptake for oxygen intake. Intake is the amount of oxygen we inhale into the lungs whereas uptake is the amount of oxygen actually transported into the cells. The greater percentage of the inhaled oxygen that ends up in the cell, the higher one’s VO2max.


Various training intensities correlate with certain percentages of an athletes’ VO2max, and we can use these percentages to dictate specific workload. As the intensity of your training increases, your oxygen consumption in turn increases. The MAX percentage of VO2 - VO2max, is the point where, despite your increased exercise intensity, your oxygen uptake has plateaued and can no longer keep up with the demand.


So… how does this all help you as an athlete? The more time you spend at your maximum level of oxygen uptake, the better your body adapts and learns to become more efficient with delivering inhaled oxygen to the muscle cells. In addition, since VO2max workouts are much faster than normal training, they force you to run more efficiently and with better form.  Training at VO2max also increases leg muscle strength and power, which improves economy (how much energy it takes to run at a certain speed).


Now the next time you are hating every second of a 4-minute effort on the tread, you will know it’s not just because the coaches enjoy watching you suffer! We have a reason! You are becoming a more efficient athlete, a faster runner, and a happier person because fast is fun!

All Hail the TreadyMighty,