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V02max training programmes

If you want to win, train at a high percentage of VO2max

The world’s leading work physiologists agree that about one-third of the total weekly mileage should be devoted to work between 80 and 100 per cent of V02max.

All this is very well, but supposing the athlete has never raced many of these distances (speeds), and has no access to a heart-rate monitor? One quite accurate assessment is to use the 4-second rule for men and the S-second one for females. This is how it works.

John is a 4mins/l5OOm runner, which is 64secs a lap. If we now add 4secs to this (68secs), that is his forecast for running 3K. If we add a further 4secs to the 3K prediction (72secs), that is his forecast for SK. The forecast for lOK would be 76secs/400m.

For women, we follow the same method using a 5sec differential. For instance, Mary is a 4:30/l5OOm runner, which is 72secs/400m. Thus her predicted times for 3K,5K and lOK are 77secs/400m (9:37.5), 82secs/400m (17:17.5) and 87secs/400m (36:15) respectively. In John’s case, his forecast is 8mins.30secs/3K, l5mins/SK, and 31mins.40secs/lOK. At world-class level, the 4-second and S-second rules are considerably less – for example, the speeds per 400m in the SK is 62secs, and in the lOK, 64.8secs/400m.

The athlete is now in a position to work out fairly accurately what speed he needs to run at to get into the high-boosting V02max zone.

Here’s John’s programme
Let’s assume that John is about to start winter training. On Sunday he goes for a long-slow run of two hours at around 70% V02max. Next day he wants to run for one hour at 80% V02max. He has never raced lOK but his estimated speed is 31mins.40secs or about 5mins.3secs per mile. 80% V02max is 16secs/mile slower (5:19/mile). So he runs, or attempts to run, for one hour at this speed, and if all goes well he will cover about 11 miles. He can always make adjustments if it proves a little too exhausting, but at least he knows the target to aim at.

The day after this, he wants a recuperative run, so he runs for 45 minutes and is able to talk to his training partner most of the way. Refreshed from the easy run the day before, he decides to train at his estimated IOK pace of 31mins.40secs (76/400m), and does 3 x 2 miles in 1Omins 6sec with 200m jog recovery or 90sec rest.

Next day is a slowish run for an hour but the day After this he goes for a big V02max booster, the estimated SK pace. Repetition miles look a little daunting, so he opts for 6 x 1K at the estimated speed of 72/400, which is 3mins/1K with 60secs rest. He has a day off and starts the same type of work again, but this time he swops the 95% V02max session (SK pace) for one at 100% V02max (3K pace) – so he tries 16 x 400 in 68secs with 45secs rest.

The overall week’s work would look like this: SUNDAY: 70%V02max, two-hour run (about 16-18 miles).

MONDAY: 80%V02max, one hour (about 11 miles).

TUESDAY: 70% V02max, 45mins (about 6-8 miles).

WEDNESDAY: 90% V02max (lOK speed), 3 x 2 miles in 1Omins.6secs, 90secs rest.

THURSDAY: 70% V02max, one hour (7-9 miles).

FRIDAY: 95% V02max (SK speed), 6 x 1K in 3mins with 60secs rest SATURDAY: Rest SUNDAY: Begins cycle again.

Why to start fast
Now, traditionalists of the old Lydiard school will look a little askance at winter work starting with so much comparatively fast work. The Lydiard concept of working up to 100 miles a week at 75% V02max certainly does improve the oxygen uptake by about 17 per cent to 75 miles per week, but after that there is little return.

Research has shown that in two groups of equal ability who started their winter build-up in different ways (one concentrated on steady running which progressively increased, the other incorporated the preceding high V02max sessions from the outset and maintained a set mileage pattern without progressions) that, while both groups advanced, the high V02max percentage group were vastly superior when tested. What’s more, their injury was no worse and no better than the other group.

The point which must be stressed over and over again to European and Western distance runners is that research shows that, on average, black runners in Africa are doing one-third of their total mileage each week in the 80-100% V02max zone, compared to only 10 per cent by European athletes.

Here’s an alternative programme
It’s been mentioned in an earlier PP how Astrand believes the oxygen uptake can best be improved. The advantage of his method is in its simplicity and variety. Here is a week-by-week table of his recommendations.

WEEK 1: Run five minutes at maximum effort. Note the distance run. Then run the same distance 20 per cent slower. For example, supposing 2K is covered in five minutes (you would have to be world- class to do this! but most male club runners can handle 1800m and most females 1600m). Twenty per cent slower to run the same distance would be 300secs + 60secs = 6mins, repeated many times with 30secs recovery. This is about 85% V02max.

WEEK 2: Run the same distance as achieved in Week 1, this time lS per cent slower, eg, distance run, 2K, run 2K in 5 mins.45secs with 45secs rest, repeated until the time cannot be recorded. This is about 90% V02max.

WEEK 3: Run the same distance as in Week 1, now 10 per cent slower (10 per cent faster than in Week 1), eg, distance run, 2K, run 2K in 5mins 30secs many times with 60secs rest. This is about 95% V02max.

WEEK 4: Same distance as Week 1 run 5 per cent slower, eg, distance, 2K, run 2K in 5mins 15secs with 75secs rest. This is about 100% V02max.

In the second following month, a maximum time of only four minutes can be run. For example, if 1600m is covered during this time, 20 per cent slower would be 240secs + 48secs (4mins.48secs), repeated four times with 90secs rest. This is about 95% V02max. Ten per cent slower would be 1600m in 4mins.24secs x 3 with two minutes rest. This is about 105% V02max. In the third month, a maximum run of three minutes can be done. For example, if 1200m is covered in three minutes, 20 per cent slower would be 180secs + 36secs (3mins.36secs). Repeated as many times as possible with 60secs rest. This is about 90% V02max. Ten per cent slower (3mins.18secs for 1200m) would be about 97% V02max.

Or try this
Another variation is to do a five-minute run one week, followed by a four-minute effort the next week and concluding with a three-minute outing in the third week, starting with 20 per cent slower efforts reducing to 10 per cent. Two such efforts per week will suffice. Although there have been criticisms about the validity of V02max readings as a means of forecasting performance, these are mainly directed at times achieved in longer distances. World-class performers up to lOK have had consistently high readings. Here are some scores: Roger Bannister, V02max 78, world mile record in 3:58; Seb Coe, V02max 82.6,1:41.73/800m, 12 world records; Steve Cram, V02max 82.1, world mile record in 3: 46.31; Said Aouita, V02max 82.1, world 1500m record in 3:29.45; Ingrid Kristiansen, V02max 70, world lOK record in 30:59.42.

Frank Horwill

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