What is VO2 Max Anyway?

If you’re a runner, you’ve heard the term VO2 Max being thrown around. If you’re like me…you aren’t 100% what it even means. Something about oxygen and how it makes you faster…or something…

What exactly is VO2 max and how can I improve it?

So what is VO2 Max? I decided to do some research and find out.

According to Breaking Muscle:

The short explanation is that VO2 represents the body’s ability to use oxygen. It is measured in units of oxygen used per kilogram of bodyweight per minute (ml O2 per kg per min).

That is still somewhat confusing to me, so let’s find another explanation. RunnersConnect explains it like this:

VO2 max is the maximum amount of oxygen your body can utilize during exercise. It’s a combination of how much oxygen-rich blood your heart can pump, and the muscles efficiency in extracting and utilizing the oxygen.


Your VO2 max occurs when your oxygen consumption redlines—this usually happens at a bit faster than your 5k race pace.  At this point, your heart rate is also maxed out, and you’re working pretty hard.

So you can understand how a better VO2 max (point at which your basically maxed out) can lead to better running times. It allows you to use oxygen more efficiently, which leads to faster running feeling “easier.”

We know that elite runners have a crazy high VO2 max, and much of this can be genetic. But, us “normal people” as I like to say, can improve VO2 max simply by running more and/or doing specific workouts. 

Breaking Muscle says that you are able to improve your VO2 max by up to 15% with training! I’m in. Although you need to be in a lab to know your exact score, they did provide a table with a general idea of what yours might be. Let’s just say I’m towards the bottom of the chart.

What is VO2 max?Photo source

So how do you improve your VO2 max? Like I said above, run more. Build your base and once you’re ready, you can add in VO2 max specific workouts. Breaking Muscle suggests losing weight as well. That is one of my goals between now and when I start really getting into marathon training. I know I have at least an extra 10 lbs. on me that I need to shed. Side note: why is it so easy to gain 10 lbs. and so hard to lose???

Anyway, back to the workouts. Workouts are basically interval training, where you are running at or faster than 5K pace. It will be a struggle, but that’s the point. Over the winter, I was challenging myself by doing 400 meter repeats at faster than my 5K pace (and faster than I’ve ever done them), but it really is motivating to improve week by week and feel it getting somewhat easier.

Here’s an example of a workout taken from that same Breaking Muscle page I liked to above: 

  • Warm up – 10 minutes easy
  • 3:1 x 3
  • Recover for 5-10 minutes easy running or riding
  • 3:1 x 3
  • Cool down for 10 minutes

The 3:1 x 3 means that you’re running hard for 3 minutes, taking a 1 minute break, then running for 3 minutes hard again, for a total of 3 times before taking that 5-10 minute break. Once you’re ready to progress, start increasing the time you’re running hard. I’m tired even thinking of this workout.

I tried looking up other workouts and they are all basically the same. Run for a couple minutes at your VO2 max (or a bit faster than 5K pace), recover for anywhere from 4-10 minutes depending on your level. 

Apparently,VO2 max isn’t really that important for marathon runners, but it is key if you’re looking to improve your 5K time. I really want to work on getting faster between now and mid-June, so looks like I’ll have to throw these workouts into the mix. You can do anything for just 3 minutes right? ;)

If you have no clue when to schedule certain workouts, like Vo2 max, tempos, etc., I highly recommend working with a running coach. If you’re looking for one, definitely check out Coach Marc of TrainWithMarc

I actually have a 5K race this evening (if it’s not still raining) and know I will not be happy with my time…but it’s a starting point. Plus, it’s on a cross country course which will make it even more challenging, but I like it because it takes me back to those high school XC days!

Have you ever gone to a lab to get tested for VO2 max, or anything running related? I’d love to…and I’d like a professional gait analysis too!

What is your favorite running workout? I like anything on the track and hate tempo runs :)


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3 Ways to Get Faster

I’m back in Paraguay after 4 days in Rio De Janeiro/Copacabana! It was amazing and so beautiful. I definitely want to go back one day. Olympics 2016?? ;)

Today features another guest post by my running coach, Marc. He knows his stuff when it comes to getting faster and fitter. So check out how to get faster!


Hi everyone! It’s Coach Marc and I’m taking over Patty’s blog while she’s on vacation.  I’m writing about Ways to Get Faster.

The first and most obvious way is to run more miles.  This should be done with careful consideration to your running history and your ability to add miles.  The more miles you run, and the more often you run them will lead to massive improvements in your racing.
The second way to get faster is to incorporate strength training into your weekly routine.  It won’t take much – 20-30 minutes 2 times a week is plenty – to add serious punch to your running.  Find any number of strength training routines to add and you’ll be sure to prevent possible injuries, get lean, and stay strong.  One example of a strength training routine you can do is linked here.

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The third, but possibly most important way to get faster is by hiring a coach.  A running specific coach can help you create a plan, keep you focused and honest in your training, and help you navigate the ups and downs of training for a race.  Whether you need a cheerleader or a sounding board, a coach has your best interest in mind.  Try a google search to find a coach that fits your style.  Don’t be afraid that your PR’s “aren’t good enough”.  Even the best of the best in the world have coaches to help them!


For more workout ideas and running tips, make sure to follow Marc on Facebook, and on Twitter or visit his website.

Do you incorporate strength training into your running routine? How many days per week?


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Speed & Agility Drill

This quick workout/drill was inspired by a video I saw on STACK’s “13 Fitness Challenges That Will Destroy You.” It’s the “Triangle Drill” video, and you’ll need a partner to help you out.

Speed and Agility Partner Drill

Photo Source: compfight CC

My brother and I were working out yesterday and I said to him we need to try this drill, especially because he is a soccer player and wants to improve. He has a game this weekend so I thought this was the perfect time to test his speed and agility and for him to see how he can get faster.

The video in the STACK article is done in an athletic facility with turf…not all of us have access to that. So here’s what we did:

We went into a training room in our gym, and set up 3 medicine balls in a triangle. You might think a room would be too small (we initially did too), but you will definitely be thankful it’s not bigger once you start! I talk about how we did the actual drill a bit further down in this post.

The instructions in the video stated:

The Triangle Drill Challenge is a variation of a drill we use to develop speed and reaction time. But the challenge component causes further fatigue and improves decision-making during high-pressure situations during a game.

How To: Perform the drill as demonstrated in the video below. Choose a work-to-rest ratio that simulates your sport. If you’re a football player, work for about 10 seconds and rest for about 30 seconds.

So we set up the 3 medicine balls, and I told him which ones were numbered 1,2 and 3. He had to do the work for 60 seconds, and then take a 60 second break while I went. I stood there and said random numbers while also taking a tally of how many times he touched each medicine ball.


In the video, the athlete simply (well, it’s not so simple) quickly shuffles/sprints to each cone. This is how we changed it up a bit:

Sprint/shuffle to each medicine ball, then keeping a flat back (proper form for anything), squat down and quickly tap the ball, squat back up then get back to the center and wait for your partner to yell the next number.

Start with doing 30 seconds of work, and work your way up to a minute. I was so beat by the end of a minute! You will work your legs, core, and your heart rate will be through the roof. We repeated it 3x. Yes, it’s only a total of 3 minutes but it’s hard! Do it for as long as you feel like.


So, “Why should I do a speed & agility drill?” you may ask. If you play a sport, it will obviously help with your speed and agility (duh), and quickness of mental decisions. But even if you don’t play a sport, it will help you build explosiveness and quickness, which is important all around.

As a runner, I realized the hardest part for me was side shuffles and back pedaling. No clue how I didn’t trip over my own feet. This is a great exercise for runners because we are constantly moving in one plane. This forces us to exercise in other planes, which will help build core stability.

Did you play sports in high school or college? I played club lacrosse in college and remember doing similar drills – running backwards is so hard!

Let me know if you try it out!


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Track Workouts 101

Just got back in from shoveling 10 or more inches of snow…and am exhausted. I usually write 2 posts a day but this morning was hectic.

Right now I can’t even imagine running outside (too snowy, too icy, too cold), but it’s never too early to start thinking about track workouts!


If you’re training for any sort of spring race, track workouts can help you increase your speed, strength and stamina. You can easily do these on the roads or treadmills too, but I do feel more hardcore doing them on a track ;)


If you’ve never run on the track before, here are some basics:

  • People usually run counter-clockwise. I’d say it’s okay to run clockwise but only in the outermost lanes. If you will be doing lots of laps, switch directions every few laps if there aren’t that many people.
  • If there are faster people, run in the 2nd or 3rd lane. If you’re one of those faster people, just yell out “On your left” as you run up behind people so they will move out of your way.
  • I’m sure everyone knows this, but each curve and each straightaway is 100 meters. A whole lap is 400 meters. 4 laps around the track is a mile.


If you’ve never done a track workout, there’s no need to make it complicated. The great thing about the track is that it is a measured distance, so you know exactly how far you have gone. Always start with a good warm-up. I usually jog for half a mile to a mile before starting, and cool-down with half a mile to a mile.

Here’s a good workout to start with-one that I have had my dad do when he occasionally runs with us:

  • Run 100 meters (the straightaway) at a brisk pace (not necessarily a sprint, but faster than a run…should be comfortably hard).
  • Jog/walk 100 meters (curve).
  • Repeat for however long you want to run.

Or another variation of that:

  • Run 200 meters (straightaway + curve) at a brisk pace.
  • Jog/walk 100 meters
  • Repeat for however long you want to run.

Once you feel comfortable here are a few workouts you can try out, depending on your goals. Shorter distances at faster speeds will be better for 5k training, and longer distances will be better for half or full marathon training.

The Simple Workout

  • Run 400 meters (1 lap) at 5K effort.
  • Rest for however long it took you to run 1 lap. Active rest though-walk or jog.
  • Repeat 5-10 times depending on your abilities. Start with 5 and work your way up to 10.

Little Bit Longer Now

  • Run 600 meters (1.5 laps) at 5K effort.
  • Rest for however long it took you to run 1.5 laps.
  • Repeat 3-6 times depending on your abilities.


  • Run 100 meters FAST (but not all out sprint-we want to preserve form here).
  • Rest 1 minute
  • Run 200 meters fast.
  • Rest 2 minutes
  • Run 400 meters at 5K effort.
  • Rest 3-4 minutes
  • Work your way back down

Work On That Stamina

  • Run 800 meters at 10K effort, or at a comfortable hard pace. You should be able to finish the 800 meters, and have enough in the tank to repeat it. Definitely not going all out here.
  • Rest 3-4 minutes
  • Repeat 2-3 times.

Takin’ It Back To Gym Class

  • Go to the track. Warm up with an easy mile or half mile.
  • Run 1 mile as fast as you can.
  • Cool-down. Note your time, try this next month and see if you improved.

I love track workouts and can’t wait to get back to it once it gets warmer out.

If you can’t make it to the track now, you can easily do these on the treadmill too. Just make sure not to choose a pace that is too fast for you, because that can lead to overstriding and injuries.

Which of these do you want to try?

Do you have a favorite running workout? Track? Tempo run? Fartleks?


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Half-Marathon Training?

Okay so I mentioned in my post about possible races that I want to run the Asbury Park Half…well, try to! It’s at the end of April, so I think it’s totally feasible. I should probably start running more though…

I have done a handful of treadmill runs since November, but last weekend was the first time I ran outside. 2 miles was a struggle! So pathetic :-P

But I’m ready to get back in shape and chase a half marathon PR for this year.

I Google-ed “how to BQ” or something like that, out of curiosity. I would love to have a Boston Qualifier someday, though I know it’s a long ways off. But that doesn’t mean I can’t start working towards it now.

Can you tell I love someecards?

One of the things I found was that in order to get a faster, average pace, training for a faster 5K can help. I wish I could find the link again, but now I can’t seem to find it.

Last year was basically all marathon training, and while there were speed workouts, I doubt I would have had a 5K PR. I would like to try this methodology out this year, and see if it helps me get a 5K PR and a half marathon PR!

The training plan includes a long run, hill run and tempo run each week, along with easy runs. I would like to continue lifting regularly, so I will probably cut a run-day out for a lifting day. Since I’m not training for a marathon or anything this year, I think I have more leeway to experiment with different things.

Here are the first 2 weeks of this training plan I found by Mario Fraioli:

5k training plan

Currently, I’m just working on re-building my base because I highly doubt I can run for 60 minutes right now. I have done the hill workout though because I love doing hill workouts on the treadmill, and it makes it way less boring.

I’d like to run easy for 2-3 weeks before starting the plan. We’ll see where it takes me! I like trying out new things and seeing how they work. I was very scared to try out Hansons Marathon Method but I loved it and definitely plan on using it again the next time I’m marathon training.

Also-side note-do you guys use Daily Mile to track your mileage? Or a good ol’ fashioned notebook? If you use a notebook, how do you break you run down? I was using an excel sheet but don’t know how to reformat it for a new year, so I will have to start using something else.

What are you training for in the near future?

Do you want to BQ? Is it going to happen sooner or later for you? Hopefully I can get there one day!


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