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Finding the Correct Training Paces Using Your Estimated VO2 Max

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Establishing effective training paces can be a very difficult process.  Every session while preparing for a race should have a specific purpose.  There are several methods to establish the desired level of intensity used during a training plan.   One great way to guide your personal training schedule’s intensities can be by using your estimated VO2 max pace.  With this information, you can more easily pinpoint your pace to better follow a particular program.

Finding your VO2 Max Pace


It can be costly and burdensome to have your VO2 max tested in a lab.  Also, with training, your VO2 max can change by as much as 15% making these test results fluctuate from one test period to the next.  A simpler way to figure your VO2 max pace is with a 10 minute time trial.  Your VO2 max pace is very close to the maximum effort you can sustain for a 10 minute period.  It’s important to remember, as your fitness improves you will need to retest your VO2 Max to continue to find the most accurate training paces.  It’s also important to note, that if are feeling a little off during your time trial or 5k that you should give it another try on a different day.

Calculating the Pace

There are several ways to find your estimated VO2 Max pace.  Here are a few:

  • Using your GPS watch run a 10 minute time trial to find your pace.  Try to pick a flat route on a non-windy day.
  • Go to your local track and run a ten minute time trial.  After 10 minutes note the distance traveled in meters.  Note that most new outdoor tracks are 400 meters.  Divide 600 (amount of seconds in 10 minutes) by the number of meters covered.  Then multiply that number by 1609 (amount of meters in a mile).   Now you have the total in seconds.  Divide that by 60 to get the pace per mile in minutes.                                                                                                                                         Example:  You covered 2800 meters in 10 minutes600 divided by 2800 = .21428571.  Next multiply .21428571 by 1609 = 344 seconds.  344 divided by 60 = 5.73 per mile. To get the seconds from the .73 multiply the decimal of .73 by 60 to get 44. So the pace is 5:44.
  • Convert your 5k time to a shorter distance that best correlates to 10 minutes using a prediction calculator.  You can use this tool in conjunction with a time trial if you have run a recent 5k race.  In this way you can measure if your 5k is consistent to your time trial.

Recovery and Easy Runs

While following a program there are runs that serve as recovery either from a race or a tough workout.  On those days you should run at a pace of around 65% of your estimated VO2 Max pace.  As a recovery run or a cool down, it is effective to train at this intensity.  Below 65% is an intensity that trains the body to use fats as fuel. This training intensity can be an important zone for those running for 3 or more hours in marathons and ultra marathons.

Long runs

Long runs ranging from 90 minutes to over 2 hours should be run between 60% – 74% of your estimated VO2 Max.  Some plans call for a progression run or some sort of workout within the long run.  These kind of workouts which call for faster intensities during a long run can be very beneficial.

Regular Training Runs


For those everyday runs from 40 to 90 minutes, you should consider running at a velocity of 75% – 84% of your VO2 max pace.  Of course, this is a wide range, but it should be.  On your everyday runs, you’ll have those days where running at 84% feels good, even though 84% is at the low range of a lactate threshold run.  In anticipation of a certain workout, you might back the run off to 75%.

Lactate Threshold

The term lactate threshold is a bit of a misnomer.  We use it to describe the most intense running intensity at which the body is still able to clear waste products produced from exercise.  This is an important workout called for within a lot of successful training plans.  LT runs are typically 20-40 minutes in length and are at 85% – 90% of your estimated VO2 max. pace.

Workouts at 10k Pace

There is a lot of evidence over the years that suggest that around 90% – 92% of VO2 max pace is a very successful zone for training.  You can run these workouts in somewhat longer intervals of 1000 – 1200 meters.

VO2 Max Workouts

Also run in intervals are workouts ranging in intensity between 97% (around 5k pace) and 102% of your estimated VO2 Max pace.  These sessions can be very effective towards the end of a training cycle.  They are typically interval workouts during the last few weeks leading up to a certain goal race.


Short interval workouts are designed to enhance a runner’s economy, buffer waste products, assist in neuromuscular coordination, etc.  As an example, a workout can call for 200-meter repeats at around an 800-meter race pace which converts to be around 120% of your VO2 max pace.


This method of creating training intensities appeals to the kind of runner that wants to individualize their training.  It can be used along with the training program you might be following.  It also is a good tool to gauge if you are running within the proper zones needed for improvement.  Runners are often too slow in their everyday training runs for their fitness level.  Quickening the pace can be very beneficial for these runners.  Conversely, although less common, there are those that train too quickly.  These runners “race” many of their regular runs and going into workouts and races too tired to be effective.

Checking your training paces with your estimated VO2 Max can be extremely useful to ensure that each session has a purpose.  You can be confident with this training tool that you are training at the proper intensities to maximize your performances at the races

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