VO2 max is a measure of your maximum aerobic capacity. As your aerobic fitness increases, your VO2 max increases. This is an important aspect of running performance and for endurance athletes, as it will help determine the athlete’s level of fitness.
VO2 max specifically refers to the maximum amount of oxygen that an individual can take in and use during intense or maximal exercise. It is measured as “milliliters of oxygen used in one minute per kilogram of body weight” (ml/kg/min).
Establishing a baseline VO2 max is critical for any endurance training program. Once you determine an athlete’s VO2 max, you can then design a program using various endurance training methods, and test their progress with subsequent max tests. Beginner runners can improve their VO2 max simply by logging more miles however, more experienced runners will need to do harder workouts in order to boost their VO2 max. It is possible to increase VO2 max by regularly performing exercises that challenge the cardiovascular system. This is done by increasing endurance training volume and intensity over time. Full-body rhythmic movements which include running, cycling, swimming and rowing are all effective ways to do this. It’s also important to be sure and provide variety to the types of endurance training being done so as to continue challenging the body.
The Bruce Treadmill Test is common test done to estimate VO2 max using a formula and an athlete’s ability to exercise on a treadmill as the workload is increased. The Bruce Protocol is a maximal exercise test where the athlete works to complete exhaustion as the treadmill speed and incline is increased every three minutes. The length of time on the treadmill is the test score and can be used to estimate the VO2 max value. During the test, heart rate, blood pressure, and ratings of perceived exertion are often also collected.
The Bruce treadmill test is a maximal exercise tolerance test, it is not something to be done without a physician’s clearance and expert supervision. In an untrained individual or an athlete with an underlying heart condition, exercising to a maximal effort can lead to injury or potential heart events. While performing the treadmill stress test, clinicians will monitor the patient’s vital signs continuously and stop the test at any sign of trouble. For an athlete, an experienced technician should monitor heart rate and rhythm throughout the testing. Be sure that your testing facilitator has the appropriate clinical expertise and has conducted such tests many times before you step on the treadmill for your own testing. Since this is a maximal exercise test, it should not be performed without a physician’s approval and without reasonable safety accommodations and supervision.
By Gina Stallone