VO2max. An athlete’s engine capacity
Today, VO2max – maximal oxygen uptake – measures an athlete’s potential, but in the past, a tape measure and stopwatch were used. Even the most precise data obtained using those tools is laughable in the face of current scientific tests.
In the second half of the 20th century, sports science began a process of stringent laboratory testing that radically changed training methods. The best example of this revolution in cycling was Francesco Moser‘s 1984 Hour Record.
25 – apex for oxygen consumption
These days, new assessment parameters have superseded the tape measure and watch.
Most top amateur athletes, especially distance cyclists, can achieve average best values of 70/75 ml/kg/min. However, even a value of 60 ml/kg/min suggests a good aptitude for endurance sports. Among professional athletes, the highest VO2max values are achieved around 25 years old, before slowly dropping off as the body ages. Still, there are plenty of cases of finding excellent values, above 60 ml/kg/min, in athletes over the age of 50.
Where to do the test
You really should know your VO2max to assess your sporting performance, especially because a paltry 23% of the energy produced by oxygen combustion in the muscles is actually turned into watts at the pedals. Put in motor-racing terms, higher VO2max values means greater horsepower, which is pretty useful in climbing the racing standings.
December to February is ideal
When is the best time to do the test? The best time is December to February, in the off season, so you can plan your training properly, based on your real “horsepower”. As a coach working in this field, I really believe this is a fundamental step for my athletes to get their training approach right and to really understand where they are as an athlete.