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vVO2 max tlimvVO2 max – The Best Predictors of Running Performance
By Rick Morris
Not so long ago VO2 max was considered the best indicator of running potential. VO2 max is a measure of the maximum amount of oxygen that your body can process to produce energy. For more information on VO2 max see VO2 max basics. Now we know that VO2 max is a rather unreliable predictor of running performance. Instead, its cousin’s vVO2 max and tlimvVO2 max have come to the forefront and the best indicators of how you are able to perform as a runner.
While the terms may look a bit daunting at first glance they are really quite simple. vVO2 max stands for velocity at VO2 max or in other words – how fast you are running when you first reach your VO2 max.vVO2 max is much more reliable because it includes a critical phase of your running that pure VO2 max does not – your running economy. A higher running economy means you are a more efficient runner. You are able to run with less effort and cover more ground with each stride. If two runners with identical VO2 max levels were competing, the runner with the most efficient stride would have a faster vVO2 max and would win the competition.
tlimvVO2 max (time limit at velocity at VO2 max) adds yet another piece to the VO2 max puzzle – the amount of time you can run at your vVO2 max pace. Again using our two athletes with identical VO2 max levels, let’s assume that both also have the same levels of running economy. Now the runner that is able to maintain that pace for the longest period of time will be victorious.
Estimating Your vVO2 max and tlimvVO2 max
The most accurate way to determine your vVO2 max and tlimvVO2 max is by laboratory testing. Since that is not a realistic option for most of us you can estimate your levels in one of two ways.
6 minute time trial – to perform this test go to your local running track and warm up thoroughly. Then run for 6 minutes at the fastest pace you can maintain for the entire test. Try to cover as much ground as possible in those 6 minutes. You can now determine your vVO2 max using the following formula:
distance covered in meters / 360 = meters covered per second
For example, if you covered 1600 meters in 6 minutes then your vVO2 max would be 1600/360 = 4.44 meters per second.
To convert your meters per second pace to a 400 meter pace divide 400 by meters/second. In this example the equation would be 400/4.44 = 90 seconds. Your pace would then be 90 seconds per 400 meters.
Since it is sometimes difficult to run at your best pace in a time trial, I would suggest doing this test three times over the course of a week. Your fastest pace in the three tests will be the most accurate pace.
Estimate using 5K race pace – Here is an even simpler method. The vVO2 max of most runners will be at or very close to their 3K race pace. Most runners do not compete in 3K races so you can estimate your pace using your most recent 5K pace. Simply subtract about 20 seconds per mile from your 5K race pace. If your current 5K pace is 6:00 per mile your estimated vVO2 max pace is around 5:40 per mile.
Improving your vVO2 max and tlimvVO2 max
Studies have shown that the best way to improve your vVO2 max is by running at your vVO2 max pace. There are a number of different workouts you can perform to achieve the desired training effect. The ultimate vVO2 max workout is one that was developed by Veronique Billat at the University of Lille. Billat found that training benefits are maximized by doing 5 x 3 minute repeats at your vVO2 max pace with 3 minutes of recovery between the repeats. The 5 x 3 minute training sessions, while great workouts, are also difficult. A good strategy would be to start with more conservative workouts and gradually build up to the 5 x 3 minute repeats. Here is a good progression that will start with shorter repeats and gradually build to the 5 x 3 minute efforts.
30 seconds on 30 seconds off – This is a good starting point for your vVO2 max training. Simply alternate between 30 seconds at vVO2 max pace and 30 seconds at an easy pace. Keep up this sequence until you have problems holding your vVO2 max pace.
12 x 1 minute repeats – Run for 1 minute at your vVO2 max pace and then slow to an easy pace for 2 minutes. Repeat this 12 times.
8 x 2 minute repeats – Run for 2 minutes at your vVO2 max pace and then slow to and easy pace for 2 minutes. Repeat this 8 times.
5 x 3 minute repeats – Now you are ready for the ultimate 5 x 3 workout. Run for 3 minutes at vVO2 max pace. Repeat this 5 times with 3 minutes of recovery between each repeat.
The above workouts will do a good job of improving your vVO2 max, but how about your tlimvVO2 max? The best indicator of your tlimvVO2 max is your lactate turnpoint speed. The most efficient way to improve your lactate turnpoint is by doing long repeats of 1 to 2 miles at about 15 to 20 seconds per mile slower than your 10K race pace and shorter repeats of 800 to 1200 meters at your 10K pace or faster. Those workouts combined with the above vVO2 max workouts will improve your tlimvVO2 max.
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