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"How to Boost Your Cycling VO2Max and Improve Endurance"

Updated: Mar 28

Training Vo2Max

In this blog post, we delve into the realm of VO2Max training tailored for cyclists. We'll explore what VO2Max power zone training entails, its significance in cycling performance, and effective methods to enhance your VO2Max.

There was a prevailing belief that VO2Max was predetermined by genetics, rendering attempts to train it futile. However, we've since learned otherwise. VO2Max is trainable, though there is a ceiling to its improvement.

It's important to note that VO2Max training, particularly at Maximal Aerobic Power (MAP), is incredibly intense. These sessions, often pushing cyclists to their limits, and can make you “go deep”.

Another critical aspect of VO2Max training is the acknowledgment that improvements can also stem from endurance rides, not just high-intensity intervals. While traditional VO2Max zone intervals are vital, incorporating easier endurance rides aids in building the aerobic engine holistically.

So, what exactly is VO2Max training?

VO2Max represents the maximum volume of oxygen the body can utilize to produce energy during exercise, crucial for endurance sports like cycling. A higher VO2Max enhances the efficiency of oxygen utilization, translating to improved cycling performance.

Typically, VO2Max is measured in Relative VO2Max (mL/kg/min) or Absolute VO2Max (L/min). Achieving optimal VO2Max levels through training is paramount for competitive cyclists, though it's not the sole determinant of success.

The average sedentary male has a VO2 max of 35 to 40ml/kg/min. For females, this is lower at 27 to 30ml/kg/min.

In contrast, elite male and female cyclists have much higher VO2Max measures of around 80 to 90ml/kg/min and 60 to 70ml/kg/min respectively.

For reference, 2020 and 2021 Tour de France winner Tadej Pogačar looks to hit the high 80s while 2023 Tour de France Femmes champion Demi Vollering is likely to nudge 70ml/kg/min.

How do you go about calculating your VO2Max?

Accurately calculating your VO2Max involves a professional laboratory set-up with a respiratory mask. Elite athletes will have access to professional testing, but this isn’t typically the case for your average cyclist.

If you want to get an estimate for your current VO2Max, you can use this simple formula using your age and resting heart rate:

VO2Max = 15.3 x (MHR/RHR)

To give an example, here’s how to calculate your VO2Max if your resting heart rate is 58bpm and you’re 25 years old:

  1. calculate your maximum heart rate by multiplying your age (25) by 0.7 and subtracting it from 208—this equals 190.5 bpm

  2. divide your maximum heart rate by your resting heart rate (190.5 bpm / 58 bpm), and multiply this by 15.3

  3. your VO2Max, in this case, is approx. 50 ml/kg/min

Alternatively, you could invest in a Fitness device that will estimate your VO2Max for you.

They’re not as accurate as professional testing, but they’ll help you see if your cycling VO2Max is moving in the right direction.

VO2Max workouts and how to maximize their effectiveness.

Improving your cycling VO2Max involves incorporating specific workouts into your training regimen that target cardiovascular fitness and aerobic capacity. Here are some effective cycling workouts to enhance your VO2Max:

  • Warm-up: Perform a warm-up of 10-15 minutes 

  • 5min: 5×5 minutes at 90sec 115-125% of FTP, 3.5min at 105-110% of FTP

  • Recovery in between efforts: Try a 1:1 work-rest-ratio, so 5min easy

  • Cool Down: Ride easy for 10/15 minutes

Preparation is key. Carb loading before intense sessions helps sustain maximal aerobic power.

Motivation plays a crucial role. Approach sessions with hunger and focus, treating them as opportunities for improvement rather than daunting challenges.

Technique matters. Experiment with sitting vs. standing during intervals, adjusting cadence to optimize power output.

Pacing is essential. Avoid going all out in the first interval to ensure sustained effort throughout the session. Macro and micro pacing strategies are vital for achieving desired training adaptations.

VO2Max workouts offer numerous benefits, including improved oxygen utilization and enhanced cardiovascular efficiency. Balancing high-intensity intervals with endurance rides is key to maximizing VO2Max potential.

Increasing VO2Max involves a combination of volume and intensity. Gradually increase interval duration and intensity while minimizing rest periods between intervals.

Expect initial difficulties with VO2Max workouts. Push through challenging sessions, as consistent effort yields long-term improvements.

In conclusion, VO2Max training is a cornerstone of cycling performance enhancement. By understanding its principles and implementing effective training strategies, cyclists can unlock their full potential and excel in competitive cycling.

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