“Cardiorespiratory fitness, as measured by maximal oxygen uptake (VO2max), is related to functional capacity and human performance and has been shown to be a strong and independent predictor of all-cause and disease-specific mortality.” Survival of the fittest: VO2max, a key predictor of longevity?
Further, physiologists agree that declining VO2 max as you age is the chief cause of declining performance.
What is VO2 max?
VO2 max, also called aerobic capacity, is the maximum amount of oxygen your working muscles can utilize. Physiologically the decline in VO2 max is primarily due to the decline in your body’s ability to deliver oxygen to your working muscles. How much oxygen your body can deliver is the result of stroke volume (how much oxygen your heart delivers per beat), specifically the size and contractility of the left ventricle. The left ventricle is a muscle; and like any muscle that is not worked hard, the power of the left ventricle declines. This loss is greater in men than women. Decline in maximum heart rate may also affect VO2 max; however, studies of this yield inconclusive results.
How to gauge your VO2 max
VO2 max is measured as milliliters of oxygen per kilogram of body weight per minute. Various cycling computers and on-line articles claim to measure your VO2 max. If you really care what your VO2 max is, the gold standard is a laboratory test when you ride progressively harder while the lab measures how much oxygen you are consuming and how much carbon dioxide you are exhaling. You continue the test to exhaustion – ouch! A lab test will cost several hundred dollars.
Unless you race the absolute value of your VO2 max doesn’t matter much. What’s relevant for us is how to improve.
How to improve your VO2 max
According to the Cleveland Clinic “You can improve your VO2 max with two types of exercise:
- High-intensity training (HIIT), which requires doing a few minutes of intense aerobic exercise, reducing intensity for a few minutes and then increasing again.
- Low-intensity training like running, biking, hiking or rowing.
“You could also increase your VO2 max by losing body fat.”
Higher level of fitness persists as one ages.
Dr. Jack Daniels, a professor of kinesiology at A.T. Still University in Mesa, Arizona, tested 26 athletes at the 1968 track and field trials for the Olympics. Their VO2 max (aerobic capacities) were all in the 98th percentile for men of their age. Several medaled at the Olympics. In 1993 the athletes were tested at which point most had cut back significantly on their exercise. In 2013 the athletes were tested again. Their 2013 VO2 max numbers still placed them in the top 10 percent or so of older American men. The septuagenarians never stopped exercising altogether, except during periods of illness or injury. New York Times Age Like a Former Athlete
Endurance / base training
- 8 Tips for Endurance Training this Winter
- Is It Necessary to Build an Aerobic Base?
- How Many Base Miles before Intensity?
- 12 Mistakes Endurance Riders Make
- Anti-Aging – Benefits of Training with Intensity
- Why Increasing Intensity Is Good for All Roadies
- 6 Kinds of Intensity Training: Which One Is Best for You?
- Intensity Training for Maximum Benefit
My 39-page eBook Cycling Past 50, 60 and Beyond: Peak Fitness contains four specific programs to improve your fitness in one or more of the following ways:
- Improved endurance
- More power
- Faster speed
- Higher aerobic capacity (VO2 max)
The specific week-by-week workouts are designed to make any rider a better, fitter cyclist. Before beginning any of the programs, I describe how to establish your current baseline fitness. I then divide each of the four programs into two 4-week blocks. By following one of the programs for just four weeks, you’ll see measurable progress in your baseline fitness. And by following the program for eight weeks, you’ll progress even further.
Cycling Past 50, 60 and Beyond three article bundle includes:
- Cycling Past 50, 60 and Beyond: Peak Fitness – 41 pages
- Cycling Past 50, 60 and Beyond: Training with Intensity – 27-pages
- Cycling Past 50, 60 and Beyond: Fit for Life – 40 pages
The bundle is $13.50 – 10% off list price for each eArticle.
My eArticle Intensity Training: Using Perceived Exertion, a Heart Rate Monitor or Power to Maximize Training Effectiveness describes the human power train: how your fuel is stored and burned, how power is then generated and how to improve your pedaling economy (analogous to improving miles per gallon.) The eArticle explains intensity training made simple including the pros and cons of various ways to gauge intensities. It includes a dozen different types of intensity workouts and over 50 sample workouts depending on your goals. The 41-page eArticle Intensity Training: Using Perceived Exertion, a Heart Rate Monitor or Power to Maximize Training Effectiveness is $4.99.
Coach John Hughes earned coaching certifications from USA Cycling and the National Strength and Conditioning Association. John’s cycling career includes course records in the Boston-Montreal-Boston 1200-km randonnée and the Furnace Creek 508, a Race Across AMerica (RAAM) qualifier. He has ridden solo RAAM twice and is a 5-time finisher of the 1200-km Paris-Brest-Paris. He has written over 40 eBooks and eArticles on cycling training and nutrition, available in RBR’s eBookstore at Coach John Hughes. Click to read John’s full bio.