As an endurance athlete, no matter what duration of event you are training for - maximising your Aerobic Capacity (VO2max) will always be beneficial to your performance. Your VO2max can be thought of as the 'size of your aerobic engine', and is the primary determiner of both your Anaerobic and Aerobic Thresholds. Provided all else remains equal, increasing your VO2max will always result in improved endurance performance.


Fortunately, all training has the ability to increase your Aerobic Capacity. Anything that stimulates your cardiovascular system (i.e. makes you breathe faster, makes your heart beat faster, makes you transport more oxygenated blood to the working muscles) will provide a stimulus to positively impact your VO2max. From walking to sprinting, all intensities have the potential to increase the size of your aerobic engine. The higher the intensity, the greater the stimulus - but also the least amount of training volume that can be tolerated. The lower the intensity, the smaller the stimulus - but it allows for the greatest volume of training to be tolerated.


With this in mind, if you are only looking to maximise your VO2max, with no consideration to optimising your VLamax (discussed below), then a very polarised approach to training is typically most effective. This means conducting the vast majority of your total training volume in THP Levels 1 & 2 - below your Aerobic Threshold (AeT). The vast majority of your remaining training volume, can then be dedicated to targeting high intensities, THP Levels 5 to 8 - above your Anaerobic Threshold (AnT).      


The primary mechanisms by which increases in VO2max can occur, are outlined below:  


  •  Increased Lung Capacity (meaning more oxygen can be taken in with each breath)

  • Increased Plasma Volume (meaning more blood to hold more red blood cells)

  •  Increased Red Blood Cell Count (greater numbers of oxygen carriers in the blood)

  • Increased Heart Stroke Volume (more oxygenated blood can then be pumped with each beat)

  • Increased Capillary Density (greater chains of transport to move more oxygenated blood to the working muscles)

  • Increased Muscle Mitochondrial Content (greater number of energy producing ‘powerhouses’ in your muscle cells)

  • Increased Muscle Mitochondrial Function (more energy can be produced by each of these powerhouses)