The topic of VO2 Max intimidates may cyclists & triathletes, but understanding it’s importance can be pretty straightforward. Here’s a simplified explanation that should give you an idea of why the topic should be of interest for you.
Short version: Oxygen Fuels the Work your Muscles Perform – VO2 Max is the maximum oxygen your body can currently utilize
Longer version: Oxygen is used by the muscles to do work. The amount of oxygen used at any given point can be calculated by the difference between the amount of oxygen contained in an exhaled breath as compared to the air you are breathing. When coupled with the size of the breath you are taking, the volume of oxygen used in that instant can be calcluated. This is your VO2 (oxygen uptake) for that moment.
As you work harder, the muscles do more work and consume more oxygen. Your breathing also gets deeper (each breath is a bigger volume of air). Properly calibrated equipment – (usually university quality, and not the $5000 variety) does all the math for you to provide a printout of VO2 as compared to your heartrate, treadmill pace, ergometer wattage, etc.
At some point your muscles will not be able to use any more oxygen despite working as hard as you possibly can. or conversely, in an untrained person, you won’t be able to keep working hard enough to reach your maximum oxygen consumption.
This maximum level of exertion at which your oxygen consumption tops out represents your power or pace at VO2 max. The more oxygen your body can use to burn your stored fuel sources, the faster you potentially go. A high VO2 Max indicates great potential for performing at higher speeds in nearly all endurance sports (cycling, running & swimming). However proper trianing is still required to meet this potential…topics for other blog posts.