Thursday, December 23, 2010

V02 Max Workout

For my first two marathons, I followed the Hal Higdon beginner plan- which is excellent and I highly recommend it for beginners- but as my running progressed I found I needed more variety, more speedwork and longer distances to make improvements in my race times.

Now, when I construct my marathon training schedules I use a combination of my own knowledge of running and my assessment of my personal strengths and weaknesses from the previous training cycle and sprinkle in fun work-outs I've clipped from magazines and books. For this training cycle (Maui Oceanfront Marathon, 1/23/11!!) I also incorporated workouts from the training schedules outlined in Pfitzinger's Advanced Marathoning book. I see now that when I first bought the book, I was in no position to use it- I just wasn't in good enough shape to benefit from the variety of work-outs employed. My running speeds were "out-of-breath" and "really-out-of-breath" and that doesn't work so well for medium and long distance speedwork! (Note- I think all runners- beginners included- benefit from speed work and intervals- but at short distances only.)

But now, my running economy has greatly improved, I'm more comfortable with discomfort and I've become a faster runner with a variety of speed options from "I feel so great I might as well be walking" to "easy" to "medium-hard" to "challenging" to "oh-my-god-I-can't-breathe" to "I may pass out or throw up but I know it will make me stronger!". I think I'm ready to fully utilize Pfizinger's plans.

One type of work-out he advocates is the V02 max workout. V02 max is variably defined but basically refers to how effiecient one is at utilizing the oxygen that enters your lungs. It's a combination of how well your lungs diffuse oxygen into your blood combined with how efficiently your heart pumps blood combined w/ how efficiently your muslces utilize/uptake the oxygen in your blood. A higher V02 max is better. A high V02 max indicates that you need less oxygen for the same amount of work as someone with a low V02 max--> your body is more efficient.

V02 max workouts are intended to improve your V02 max. They should be run at a pace slightly faster (10-30s/mile) than your 5K pace, which correlates with 95-100% of your VO2 max. This, by nature of being faster than your 5K pace, should be a pace you can't hold for very long. Essentially you do intervals of some sort at this pace. For example, earlier this week, I did 10 miles with 5 x 1000m (just over 1/2 mile) @ 5k pace. So I did a warm up for 3 miles, then did 0.63 miles at 5K pace, went back to warm up pace for the other 0.39 of the mile, repeated the intervals 4 more times, then did a 2 mile cool down. It actually felt too easy and after doing some reading into VO2 max workouts, I see now that I should have been going FASTER than 5 K pace (plus my current 5K pace is from the Santa's Hustle 5K that was super snowy and slip-slidy so I probably should do another one in better conditions to get my 'true' 5 K pace).

If done fast enough, it seems to me Yasso 800s would count as a VO2 max work out as long as you went fast enough both during the sprint and the recovery times.

The longer time you spend at your VO2 max pace the more you will improve your future VO2 max. Pfitzinger recommends intervals in the 2-6 minute range, or 800m-1000m for marathoners. The total volume of intervals he recommends for a full workout is 5K-10K. For recovery, run at a more comfortable pace for ~1/2-2/3 the amount of time you spent running fast.

So, I greatly enjoyed my first VO2 max workout, and I look forward to turning it up a notch next time!

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