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VO2 Max-Make gains in one of the most important elements to your fitness
By Coach Jerry Jacobs

Race season is now underway for most of us. 


This is an exciting time. If you have been coached by us for the entire season, you have now been through a progression that began in December with a lot of low intensity intervals, “sweet spot” and Z2 work. We then progressed into a primary focus on raising your threshold (FTP). You have been building for many weeks.


Now it is time to sharpen and to get you fast!


For racers focused on short and variable type races such as Crit’s this is obvious. These races require bursts of power and have short recovery periods. Most end in a sprint. Training the ability to accelerate, go very hard for short periods and sprint is required.


However, having a high top end (VO2 Max) is valuable even for racers focused on long events such as Stage Races, Gran Fondo’s and longer Road Races. The reasons may not be as obvious. Even these long races have periods of intensity. More importantly, having a high VO2 Max results in the ability to recover faster and burn fuel more efficiently. Racers that have a good top end are not going as deep into the “red zone” during hard parts of the race. They are not burning as much of their fast fuel (glycogen) or fatiguing muscles as much as others. They will get deeper into critical races with less fatigue.


Training this VO2 max requires short and intense work. This can be done either with classic VO2 Max workouts such as 6 x 3 minute hills with full recovery and/or hard, variable work such as Tabata Intervals (30/30’s or a variation). A mixture works best.


Another critical reason for this is to add variation and interest. After many weeks of a primary focus on building your FTP, there is not much more that we can do for this season. Most racers will have an FTP at or near peak. To go higher will require a full season that starts with a rest period and goes through the entire progression described above. 


If we continue to just pound this type of FTP work, most racers will become stale and plateau. Some would actually go backwards.


Alternatively, a focus on VO2 max will sharpen racers. Volume should plateau or come down somewhat to be able to absorb this type of stress. Combined with racing and enough rest, racers can sharpen and improve quickly. Unlike the many weeks required to improve FTP, just 3 to 6 weeks of focus can make a huge difference.


Racers should feel a burst of energy as volume comes down.They should show up for peak events primed and ready to perform to the best of their abilities.


We have put in a high volume of hard work at this point and now just need to ice the cake and enjoy the rewards.

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