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Endurance Coaching Information - Synopsis by John Wands

Essentials for fitness and performance.

The first essentials for fitness and performance are the most obvious ones, and often the most commonly ignored by athletes, coaches and sports people in their search for optimum fitness and performance. They are the need to breathe, sleep, drink and eat. Although a person will die within moments without breathing, they can go for days without water and sleep, and survive for weeks without food. This timescale highlights the relative importance of these factors with regards to fitness and performance.


Breathing is the process of taking oxygen and transporting it throughout the body. Every action and reaction of the body, every muscle, cell and tissue is dependent upon oxygen. Logic therefore suggests that the more oxygen we take in, the more efficient our oxygen transport system is, and the better we will perform both physically and mentally. However, everyone, according to his or her physical condition, is able to use only a limited amount of oxygen each minute. This limit on the amount of oxygen your muscles can use no matter how hard you breathe is known as your maximum oxygen consumption, or in physiological shorthand, your VO2 max. It is a measure of how much oxygen you can consume per minute, divided by your weight, to compensate for the fact that other things being equal, a large person can use more oxygen than a small one.

VO2 max varies considerably among athletes and the general population. A normal active 25 year-old male can utilise roughly 44 - 47 millilitres of oxygen per kilogram of body weight per minute. Top male endurance athletes commonly consume over 70/k.min. Women, on average, score lower than men. The fact that one top runner’s VO2 max dropped from 72.4/k.min to 47.6/k.min three years after he stopped running implies that it responds quite impressively to training, or to the lack of it. What is important, certainly as far as runners are concerned, is that you get the VO2 max as high as possible, because the faster you can run before dipping into oxygen debt, the longer you will perform at racing speed.

A simple way to measure your VO2 max is by using the Balke Test. This involves running round a track for 15 minutes, covering as much ground as possible. If you cover 5000m in 15 minutes, that is a predicted VO2 max of 67/k.min. Each 400m improvement adds 5/k.min to your figure. Re-tests should take place every 12 weeks, as it takes time for regular training to make a decisive affect on the body.

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