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Why I did a VO2 Max Test

July 30, 2017

In training for my first marathon I went way over board. Coming off a strong training block I threw all of what I knew out the window. The marathon may have been much longer than anything I had ever trained for but the same principles of listening to your body and building mileage in a calculated manner still applied. I didn't however listen to reason. After all, training for such a long race would feel exhausting and after all those miles I was bound to end up with planter fasciitis and a swollen foot...right? Wrong! I came into Run Raleigh PT just about a month and a half out from the race hardly able to flex my toes because the top off my foot was so swollen and hindered by built up-scar tissue. The first thing Abby told me was that I was doing too much. The type of injury I had was common with overuse. Unfortunately that didn't stop me. It took dropping out of my 1st marathon to realize what over-training really was. Ever since that experience I have been more focused on staying healthy and training the right way. So this season I chose to kick it off with a VO2 max test and this is my plan going forward.

So far 2017 has been a grind. Each month has gotten better but still slacking behind where I would prefer to be. So Kari and I decided to approach this season a little more scientifically. Rather than stressing too much on whether or not this run was too fast or that one too slow, we decided to take a little of the thinking out by using my VO2 max test to come up with heart rate zones to train off of. The test procedure at RunRaleigh Pt is short and quick unlike some others which are longer and much more strenuous. From the test you learn the numerical measure of your bodies ability to consume oxygen. Through careful and controlled training this value can increase over the course of a season. The above photos are couple snapshots of my specific results in terms of my optimal heart rate zones.


In my previous training cycles, especially those in college, I thought I had to run everything hard. I didn't just run hard in workouts, I also felt that running 7 min pace or faster on all of my runs was the only way to get better. That is where I was wrong. Not only that, but pushing too far beyond your threshold on tempos or too far beyond your VO2 max on speed days can do more harm than good. Your body doesn't recover as well and doesn't take on the training adaptions as well because it becomes too broken down. Running your recovery run the next day too hard then worsens the problem. 


The VO2 max test spit out my max heart rate and then gave me heart rate zones to use during marathon workouts (aerobic training zone), tempo type efforts (lactate threshold zone), and speed workouts/VO2 max (anaerobic training zone). 80% of your training for the week should be done in the lowest zone where you are burning the most fat. Then the other 20% is spent in the aerobic or anaerobic zones. This allows the body to most efficiently make performance gains while minimizing the time needed for recovery. This process may be slower but much more effective in the long term because you are training your system to adapt in a a manor that is much more accepted by the body. The benefit you get from workouts has a limit. Sometimes pushing beyond where you should may end up hurting you more than it can help because your body doesn't adapt to manage those harder paces, it just spends its time trying to recover from them. For a visual depiction of this see the below graphic by Runners Connect. 

 Through my results from my VO2 max testing I was able to share my results with my coach in order to help her create a more specific plan; however, Run Raleigh PT has the ability to also create training plans from these results if you are in need. To get myself going I am shelling out the money for a heart rate monitor, more specifically some headphones with heart rate monitoring capabilities. From this I can run with the headphones on my important recovery days and key workouts. Of course you always have to give your body the benefit of the doubt and listen to it above all else. I don't plan to rely on the heart rate monitor but I plan to use it in a manner that can merely help guide me on a steady path. If you are prepping for a new season it is not too late to get in and get tested! Contact Abby to get in and get started! As for me I'll keep you updated on my progress along the way at www.run4acozz.com. 


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