Chances are if you've ever worked with a personal trainer, or read a fitness blog you've come across the term V02 Max. If you're an endurance athlete like a marathon runner or swimmer then you're more than familiar with the term and probably know your numbers by heart. For the rest of you who might not be familiar, here's some information about V02 Max and how it can help you maximize your time in the gym!
What is V02 Max?
By definition, it is a measurement used to determine the maximum amount of oxygen the body is using during exercise. In technical terms it is the maximum amount of oxygen (measured in millimeters) that the body uses in one minute per kilogram of body weight. In laymen's terms, it is a measurement of how efficient your body is at consuming and utilizing oxygen during exercise. People (even some personal trainers) confuse V02 max as simply how “fit” you are from an aerobic perspective and this is not an accurate.
Everyone know what it means when someone says “today I did cardio for an hour at the gym.” Cardio is a very generic and generalized term. Most people equate it with some sort of aerobic or “non weight lifting” exercise, and they are partly correct. “Cardio” however can be short cardiovascular or cardiorespiratory, however even these two terms are not interchangeable. Cardiovascular refers to the heart and blood vessels and cardiorespiratory reflectors to the heart and lungs or respiratory system.
How do you measure v02 Max?
If you have a basic understanding of what is V02 Max, you can start to learn a bit more about how to measure V02 Max.
A laboratory setting is the only true measure you could use. These are called Graded Exercise Tests or GXT and referred to as a direct test. We've all seen those images of athletes with an oxygen mask strapped to their face running on a treadmill or on a stationary exercise bike. Those images sometimes even pop up on TV for popular sports drinks commercials. For those of us that are not competitive athletes, there are some more more simple ways of determining V02 Max that do not require advanced equipment or a team of white coats. These are referred to as indirect tests, as they use predictors such as heart rate, age and gender to determine an estimated V02 Max. The most common of these is called The Bruce Submaximal Treadmill Test or just simply “the Bruce test.” It's name is derived from it's founder Dr. Robert A Bruce.
Using a treadmill, both the speed and the incline are increased every 3 minutes and heart rate information is plugged into an equation based on gender.
A quick way to estimate your V02 Max can be done with this equation: VO2max = [(0.0268 x D) – 11.3] x BW
Run as far as possible for 12 minutes and record that distance in meters (D in the equation above). BW is your body weight in kilograms.
Still asking what is V02 Max? Unless you visit a clinical setting, or your local gym has the equipment necessary to measure your exact V02 Max you're going to have to settle for an estimate. However, this is still very valuable information to begin to record your personal progression. The most important thing is to keep consistency. Use the same measure each time.