Kick-start your V02 max with short intervals

Your VO2 max, or the maximum amount of oxygen your body can use during dynamic exercise, is considered an important measure of aerobic fitness. Higher VO2 max values indicate a greater capacity to deliver oxygen to working muscles, which is crucial for keeping your body moving at challenging paces. While it’s certainly not the be-all and end-all of athletic ability, improving your VO2 max can help you get faster, and will also increase endurance–runners with higher VO2 max values can sustain higher exercise intensity for longer periods.

Short interval sessions are an effective way for runners of any level to target VO2 max and boost speed. Add one of these workouts per week to your regular running routine, substituting it for a day when you already do a more challenging run or speedwork.


Quick interval repeats

The recovery time in these intervals will probably feel slightly too short–that’s what you’re aiming for. The short active recoveries between intervals are designed to keep oxygen consumption high throughout the entire session. Warm up with 10 minutes of easy running, and try one of the following, adjusting the number of intervals according to your ability:

30 x 30 seconds hard with a 15-second break between each one

20 x 40 seconds hard with a 20-second break

15 x 60 seconds hard with a 30-second break

evening runner
Photo: Unsplash/Henry Gillen

1-2-3 Intervals

Warm up with an easy run for five to 10 minutes.

Run hard for one minute (about 85-90 per cent of your maximum effort) and recover with an easy pace for one minute.

Run hard for two minutes followed by two minutes of active recovery.

Run hard for three minutes followed by three minutes of active recovery.

Repeat this sequence (1-2-3) two or three times, adjusting for ability and experience, and cool down with an easy five to 10-minute run.

Make sure to follow a harder workout with an easy run or a recovery day.