Check Your VO2 Max in 12 Minutes

There’s a saying in cross country that State Champions are built in July and it’s true, much to the chagrin of coaches who battle summer jobs, family vacations and Netflix as they mumble on about summer mileage. For the most part, my team does an excellent job of getting summer runs in. We use a number of tools to encourage people to keep up with their running, including online running logs to which the whole team belongs, captain’s practices throughout the summer, training camp and time trials. Time trials are an excellent way for athletes to check in with themselves and for coaches to monitor progress throughout the summer. We don’t expect PR performances; after all, most athletes who are running are at peak mileage with no speed work. We do expect to see hard efforts and a good approximation of how things are going.

One of my favorite “reality checks” is one that you can do yourself. This is perfect for someone with a fall marathon on the calendar that doesn’t have an interim race scheduled or for someone coming off a base building cycle. It’s a simple test: warmup, then run as many laps as you can in 12 minutes and enter the results into the Cooper calculator. The calculator isn’t a perfect estimate of VO2 max, but it’s a good litmus test for training paces and progress. Used at regular intervals, it gives a great estimate of fitness improvements and possible race outcomes. Try adding this into your training plan once a month and see how much progress you make!

We’ve done three time trials this summer: one 3K time trial on the cross country course, one 5K race on our home course and one 12 minute test. Before the season starts, we’ll do a mile trial and one more 3K trial. All of the information from those efforts helps me to evaluate how well summer training went, design workouts for training camp and select early season teams.

What tools do you use to monitor your fitness? Have you ever had the full VO2 max test? How do you motivate yourself in a time trial setting?

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