vV02: Most effective session you’ve never done?

Running, July 11, 2016

vV02 training was thought up in the early 90s. It is one of very few scientifically proven ways to quickly and effectively improve running performance. Yet no one seems to do it. So let Racesnake revolutionise your run training by opening your eyes to vV02 sets.

So this week we got the running club completing vV02 sessions, based on the research of Billat et al. These sessions are proven (over and over) to increase running performance of distances from 5-21km, are time efficient and suited to multi ability training groups. Yet these types of session are very rarely written about in popular multisport press and I have never encountered a coach who uses them (I am sure they do exist). So I thought I would use this article to explain the method and practicalities of possibly the most effective run session you will ever complete.

First some definitions. vV02 stands for velocity V02 max and describes the slowest possible pace at which you can run whilst still achieving V02 max. V02 max is the most oxygen your body can utilise at a given time and more importantly is widely recognised as a very important variable for improving endurance performance. The more time you can spend training at this intensity the better you will perform.  In addition, running at high velocity improves your run economy, (energy required to sustain a given pace) not only at that high velocity but at all velocities below that. And as you shall see vV02 training is relatively high velocity.

So how do you establish your vV02? Well it is relatively simple if also imply painful. Go to a running track, warm up thoroughly and run for as far as you can in 6 minutes. At the end of the 6 minutes record the distance you ran as accurately as possible. This is your vV02. So if you ran 2km in 6mins (very well done!) then your vV02 is 1km/3min, 300m/60s or 150m/30s.  It is important to translate your pace into distance per 30s, minute and 3 minute as these are the intervals you will use in your training sessions.

So based on the above example what would a vV02 session look like? Well the sessions used in the research work as follows. Run 30s at vV02 pace followed by 30s at 50% vV02 pace until either you can no longer sustain the required pace or you reach 30 minutes. So a session based on the 6min/2km time would be:

 160m@ vV02 / 80@50% vV02 until failure or 30mins

The same format is followed for 1minute:

330M@ vV02/ 165M@50% vV02 until failure or 30mins

And again for 3minute intervals:

1km @ vV02 / 500m @50% vV02 until failure or 30mins

Now as you can see you never stop running in these sessions and that is what makes them so useful. Most session either have a high enough intensity to reach V02 max but then have rest interval that allows too much recovery, so the Vo2 max is only reached for very small proportions of the working repetition. Or they have a short rest interval but are run at a pace which is too slow for V02 max to be attained until very late in the session if at all. Whereas, vV02 training blends both a high velocity pace with an active recovery which is just long enough to allow this critical pace to be sustained. 

The researchers who conducted this study found that training this way can mean an athlete can spend up to 12-18 minutes at V02 max. This is significantly more than most people achieve in a tempo run or traditional interval sessions. It is important to note however that much of this time at V02 max occurred during the recovery running, so it is important that this aspect of the session is treated as rigorously as the work intervals. Do not be tempted to have a static recovery!

There is not much more to say. Work them into your spring or competition build up phase in blocks of 4-6 weeks starting with 30/30 then 60/60 and finally 3min/3min. They are great fr running groups as the short distances mean there will be only small gaps between the fastest and slowest, everyone has their own personal target and all runners keep their work to rest ratio the same they simply adjust their distance. Whilst they are best done on the track they can be adapted to road loops as long as the distance is known and accurate and once the basic principal is understood there is no reason that the intervals can’t be varied to allow for different distance road loops, i.e: 2min/2mins etc. The fact that this session seems to be ignored or little known about is all the more reason to start gaining from them whilst your competition is still in the dark. Enjoy!

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