Aug 24, 2018

Using VO2 Max in SportTracks

Push your limits by tracking and training with VO2 max

If you're the type of person who uses data to improve your running, cycling, rowing, skiing, etc. — VO2 max is a number you should be paying attention to. Recent advances in technology have taken this tried-and-true endurance metric out of the lab and placed it gently into your regular workouts and analysis sessions, without forcing you to strap on a face mask.

The basics: What is VO2 max?

Not to be confused with lung capacity or lung volume, VO2 max is the measure of how efficiently your body takes in and delivers oxygen to your muscles. It's an assessment of your aerobic fitness. The higher your VO2 max is, the better equipped you are to excel in your sport.

Until recently, VO2 max was a metric that you could only get by visiting a sports performance lab and enduring an uncomfortable and difficult test. The test requires you to run on a treadmill (or ride a stationary bike, etc.) at high intensities while wearing a face mask and a heart rate strap. As an alternative, you could calculate various forms of heart rate data to determine a less accurate VO2 max measurement.

A person running on a treadmill wearing a face mask while taking a Vo2 max test indoors

Today we have watches and bike computers that can estimate your current VO2 max. While not as accurate as lab tests, they're widely considered to be accurate enough to be valuable. Lab tests only provide a snapshot of your level of fitness at the time they're taken. When your fitness improves or declines, the costly test results lose their accuracy. VO2 max estimators accompany you on every workout and race, and provide much more insight on your current state.

How to interpret the data

A VO2 max reading is a number from 0 to 100, which runs the gamut from corpse to superhero (an Olympic cross-country skier holds the record for the highest-ever recorded VO2 max with a reading of 96). The average VO2 max for non-athletic men is around 40, the average for women is around 30.

A good way to get started is to gather some data and later analyze it to determine your baseline. Like the name implies, VO2 max is about maximums. It's more fitting to look at intense efforts, rather than easy workouts. Some VO2 max estimators require a few minutes of activity to stabilize, so keep this in mind during analysis.

Once you have your baseline figured out, you can start training to improve it. A quick Google search turns up plenty of suggested workouts designed to improve your VO2 max. The goal of these workouts is nice and simple: Train to make your VO2 max number go up. Be warned: these workouts tend to be intense. Advancements in this area aren't the golden key to crushing PRs and achieving your goals, but it can certainly help and it's worthy of your time and attention.

The main fitness chart from the Workout Detail page of SportTracks training software showing Running Power, Heart Rate, and VO2 max

How can I track my VO2 max?

If you work out with a Garmin watch or bike computer that runs a VO2 max estimator, this data will automatically be imported into SportTracks with your workouts, and you can analyze it in your Workout Detail chart and on your Health page. If your Garmin device has access to Connect IQ, there are a multitude of free VO2 max apps available for you to download and use.

To display your VO2 max data on your Health page, first choose the panel you want to use and click its gear icon. In the window that opens select "VO2 max." Depending on what Connect IQ app you're using, you may have more than one choice (such as separate options for Running and Cycling). When you're done, just select the "Close" button. Your VO2 max chart will now be visible.

Thanks for checking out this post! If you have any questions about VO2 max, we would love to hear them in the Comments section below...

Article written by Sam Mallery, Director of Marketing, Zone Five Software Inc.



I see this in my Health page, but not in Workout details chart, even though I have Garmin Fenix 5+ and run with HRM. I guess I need dedicated ConnectIQ field for that?


I see the VO2max Value in the activities, but no values in the health page when selecting VO2max, even not if I select VO2max (running) or VO2max (biking).
What can I do?
I have a Fenix 5s.

Regards, Axel