RUNNING Series – PART 2 (Human Physiology and Environmental Factors)

RUNNING Series – PART 2 (Human Physiology and Environmental Factors)

What is VO2max.?

VO2max(ml/kg/min) is the maximum volume of oxygen your body can process during incremental exercises. It is an indicator of your cardiovascular system including lung, heart, circulatory system and muscle capacity. It measures how efficient your body utilises oxygen to convert energy sources into exercise output i.e. performance.

How can I monitor my fitness using VO2max?

Professional athletes have testing in a sports medicine facility-this being the gold standard of investigation. Cardiac patients have a Stress Test performed in the hospital under the guidance of a  cardiologist. You can monitor your own fitness using simple-to-use commercial available tracking devices from Fitbit, Firstbeat to something more complicated like running watches with GPS receivers or Footpod which involves calibration. Simple VO2max on-line calculators are also available based on extensive research.

How fit am I compared with people of my age group?

Australian College of Sport & Fitness (2013): VO2max value by age by gender


Age 20 – 29 30 – 39 40 – 49 50 – 59 60 – 69 70 – 79
Poor <36 <34 <32 <25 <26 <24
Fair 36-39 34-36 32-34 25-28 25-28 24-26
Good 40-43 37-40 35-38 29-30 29-31 27-29
Excellent 44-49 41-45 39-44 31-34 32-35 30-25
Superior >49 >45 >44 >34 >35 >35


Age 20 – 29 30 – 39 40 – 49 50 – 59 60 – 69 70 – 79
Poor <42 <41 <38 <35 <31 <28
Fair 42-45 41-43 38-41 35-37 31-34 28-30
Good 46-50 44-47 42-45 38-42 35-38 31-35
Excellent 51-55 48-53 46-52 43-49 39-45 36-45
Superior >55 >53 >52 >49 >45 >41

Before you start training with your VO2max, it is best to consult your sports physician regarding any underlying medical conditions.

OK. I am interested in training for a race. What should I consider apart from GETTING FIT?

Apart from our cardiovascular fitness, marathon performance is largely dependant on external factors such as terrain, wind (speed and direction) and outside temperature that we may not be able to control. To optimise performance, there are basic running techniques we apply to preserve our energy. For experienced runners, they would know the terrain well ahead of a race or conduct good research on a new running course. During the run, they would position themselves well in the group to ‘cut the best corner’ (shorten the distance of the run). On a windy day, consider the direction of the wind and how it changes (head-on or cross wind) during the course of run, position themselves in a “sheltered position” in order to preserve energy.

“Have you even wondered why birds fly in V- formation?”


Body Temperature

Our body core temperature heats up during running. The ability of our body disperses heat that we produce during running depending on our rate of perspiration and the outside temperature and humidity. Cardiovascular system performs most efficiently at the right outside temperature. Statistics have shown that runners perform best at around 5-6°C. Anything that is above 22-25°C would be a bit too hot to run for a good result. Therefore body temperature control is important to performance. We will discuss in more details in the later post (PART 4)  running gears and aerodynamics.

The most recent and the world’s largest marathon study (2019) involves 3 million runners, 784 marathons in 39 countries: Scandinavian (e.g. Norway, Denmark) and northeast European (e.g. Estonia, Ukraine) nations produce the best men and women marathon runners.

Coming Up:

RUNNING Series – PART 3 (Running Biomechanics and Training)

RUNNING Series – PART 4 (Diet and Gears)

RUNNING Series – PART 5 (Common Running Injury-What can we do about it?)

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