We have spoken a little here about the concept VO2max. However, we would like to talk a little more in detail about how to train your VO2max i.e. your aerobic power, by introducing two basic fitness concepts: Vmax (also known as vVO2max), and Tmax.

Having a good VO2max is important, however it does not confer success in and of itself. This is evidenced best among elite marathon runners who often have identical VO2max values, but very different marathon times e.g. Alberto Salazar ran the marathon in 2:08:13 versus Calvin Woodward who ran the marathon in 2:19:50. Their respective VO2max values were 76.0 and 74.2.

The speed that one can maintain VO2max at, referred to by Joyner et al. (2008) as performance velocity, and by McNaughton et al. (1998) as Vmax is probably the most important indicator of endurance performance and therefore this is the component which needs training. Therefore, a VO2max test should also test for Vmax. The good news is that this can be done quite easily. Here’s how:

1. Perform The 12min Cooper Test and note your distance in km (refer to our preceding article, How to Test your VO2max)

2. Insert your distance in km into the following equation: = 10.1 – (2.09 * distance in km) + 1.03 * (distance in km * distance in km)

So how long can an athlete usually maintain their VO2max for? Billat et al. (1994, 1996) suggest that it can be held for 2.5 – 10min, and in our experience a period of 5-8min is most suitable for training. This is what we call Tmax. Both Vmax and Tmax should be used when designing endurance training programmes. Vmax can give you the velocity at which you need to run at, and Tmax gives you the time you should maintain the interval for. It is highly recommended to perform your interval training at a minimum of 60-75% Tmax. For example, if your Tmax time is 10min, you should perform your intervals at Vmax for 06:00.00 – 07:30.00 minutes. Use The FITT principles for cardio-respiratory training to design your programme, but a 4 week programme as recommended by McNaughton et al. (1998) might look like this:


– 3 sessions per week

Week 1    6 intervals at 75% Tmax (interval training); 30min at 60% Vmax (LSD recovery); 6 intervals at 65% Tmax

Week 2    6 intervals at 60% Tmax; 30min at 60% Vmax (LSD recovery); 6 intervals at 65% Tmax

Week 3    6 intervals at 70% Tmax; 30min at 60% Vmax (LSD recovery); 6 intervals at 60% Tmax

Week 4    6 intervals at 75% Tmax; 30min at 60% Vmax (LSD recovery); 6 intervals at 65% Tmax

This protocol has been tested on highly trained male runners, and increased their 3000m performance as well as their VO2max and Vmax. Go give it a try.