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My V02 Max Test: What it is, why it matters and how it’s tested!

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I had my V02 Max tested and lived to tell the tale! Here’s how it went and what I learned.

First, I’ve LOVED the response to my post yesterday about quitting Crossfit. It’s so helpful to hear others’ perspectives. If you missed that, check that post out here. Today, I’m talking about something I did recently to help better inform my marathon training — a V02 Max test!

What is a V02 Max Test

VO2 max, or maximal oxygen consumption, is the max amount of oxygen that an individual can utilize during intense exercise. And it’s one of the best indicators of cardiovascular fitness and aerobic endurance. The more oxygen you can use when exercising at high levels, the more energy a person can produce.

Basically, how much oxygen can you use when you’re working out really hard? The more, the better. Make sense?

Why does V02 Max matter?

V02 Max helps me know just how hard I can push myself and how long I can push in each training zone before I tip into the next. Sometimes it’s hard to know just how hard to push in any given workout, and the test results provides guidance on what my body is physically capable of (even if mentally I sometimes doubt my abilities or lack motivation!). They gave me a chart showing my heart rate in each zone (recovery, threshold, etc.) which helps me know when to push or back off — if I remember to reference it and check my heart rate! 😉 I also learned that I have GREAT endurance, but my anaerobic threshold could be improved so I can run faster, for longer periods of time. And to me, that means new PRs!

How is V02 Max tested – the clinical answer

I asked the team who administered the test to send me their description of it!

  • By putting on a face mask on the subject, we can directly measure the volume and gas concentrations of inspired and expired air. This measure is often used in research and is considered the most accurate.
  • The test involves either exercising on a treadmill or a bike at an intensity that increases every few minutes until exhaustion. It’s designed to achieve a maximal effort.
  • We also obtain the individual’s maximal heart rate from this test, which, along with resting heart rate, can be used to develop a more precise target heart rate range.
  • Thus, the subject leaves the lab with an excellent idea of his/her current fitness level and also how to use this information to improve fitness.

V02 max

what is V02 max

How is V02 max tested – my answer 🙂

  • I put on a heart rate monitor and a face mask so they could measure my heart rate (duh) and how much oxygen I used during the test.
  • Then, they set the treadmill to a speed that would be a normal pace for a normal, average run, like if I was just going out for 45-60 minutes. For me, that was about  a 7:50-8:00 minute/mile.
  • After running for a few minutes, they started increasing the incline on the treadmill. And then they kept increasing the incline every minute. I think this lasted about 7 minutes? Things escalated quickly. ha!
  • Once I felt like couldn’t keep up, I hopped on the side rails and they stoped the treadmill.

What I wish I’d known before the test

Honestly, I was a little nervous for it, especially since we had Tommy’s holiday party the night before. I didn’t dare touch alcohol and left early to get rest – ha! But it wasn’t nearly as bad as I expected.

They kept telling me during the test that I had more in me and I thought it was just encouragement. But based on the live data they were observing, I really did have more in me to go longer. I wish I’d know that to push through! Another snag was that I hit my hand on the treadmill handles (short-people problems) and started bleeding, which sort of rattled me! As soon as I hopped off, I realized I really did have more in me.

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So all that said, they don’t think I even hit my true max. But, it’s still a pretty accurate read! If anything, my max is perhaps 1 point higher and my max heart rate likely goes over 200. I showed my results to my bestie Christian (who wrote this popular blog post, The Case for Carbs), who is a sports dietician (almost Ph.D.)and CSCS (Certified Strength & Conditioning Specialist) and he also agreed that my results seemed a little low.

how is v02 max tested

So what is my max?

My V02 Max: 75.1

And apparently that is REALLY high. Anything over 45 for my age is considered very high. The highest V02 max ever recorded is in the 90s…and I think Lance Armstrong’s was in the 80s when doping. The highest for females is 77. Alas, a high V02 max doesn’t necessarily correlate to speed or else I’d be winning the Olympics or something. 😉

V02 max results

So now what?

Honestly, I’m still reading and learning more about V02 Max and how to apply it. If you know more about the topic, I’d love for you to share nuggets of wisdom! And, I want to get it tested once I’m further into my marathon training to see how things change. My training last year had lots of tempo and endurance training runs, but my coach this year includes workouts with lots of pace variance. That should improve my threshold, which the test showed had room for improvement.

V02 max

Cost of a V02 Max Test:

  • VO2 Max Test: $150
  • Sub Max Test: $150
  • Metabolic and Body Fat Composition: $75

The cost will vary by location so obviously check with your local place if you’re not in the Triad. But that’s the ballpark cost  – and I honestly thought it’d cost more! Call 336-716-WAKE or schedule online at

Note: I received my V02 Max test free of charge as part of a partnership with Wake Forest Baptist but this is my honest opinion of my experience. Thanks to Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center for supporting my blog and training goals!

Looking for more running content? You may like these posts.

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    3 responses to “My V02 Max Test: What it is, why it matters and how it’s tested!”

    1. Hello!

      I use the same Garmin watch that you do (thanks for the recommendation btw!!), which has a V02 Max feature. Obviously a test with professionals and oxygen masks will give you a more accurate V02 Max than the watch, but was the estimate your watch gave you close to your results you described in this post? I’m just wondering how good of an estimate my watch can give before seeking out any further options.


      • I’d love to know the same thing. My Garmin seems to seriously over-estimate my abilities via the race predictor and wondering if VO2 Max is also inflated. Awesome post- loved seeing exactly how they do this!

    2. Jack Daniels coaches by VO2 max and prescribes workouts based on it and for certain distances. His books are awesome if you need a good resource when you’re not already working with a coach ?

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