If you have been running long enough, you may have heard the term and weren't really sure what the heck it was. If you've been lucky enough to have your Vo2 Max measured, you likely have a firm grasp on the concept. 

    OK, let's go nerd for a minute. Vo2 Max is the volume of oxygen your body utilizes in a given time. By measuring this stat, you can design a training plan to help maximize the benefit you hope to achieve from the plan you are on. Most casual runners are not familiar with Vo2 Max, but more and more with information being so readily available on the web; you can read up on the scientific explanation. Almost every website I googled must have copy/pasted from the same information. Which got me to thinking; is Vo2 Max as understood as it appears to be? I am not so sure. 

    So let me break it down for you without going too techy. As your Vo2 Max rises in your training, your body processes oxygen through your muscles more efficiently. This helps you to run at a higher level more comfortably than someone with a lower Vo2 Max. Some of the faster runners, you know the guys winning the major marathons, are sporting pretty high Vo2 Max levels. 

   For a prime example of what a high Vo2 Max could mean to your PR, you don't need to look at the Kenyan runners who clearly have it figured out; but to high altitude ultra marathoner Matt Carpenter who ran for Southern Mississippi in the mid 1980s before moving to Colorado and becoming "the guy" who's won Pike's Peak 16 times in race, 6 ascents and 10 marathons. Matt's Vo2 Max was measured at 90.2 after living in Vail, Colorado for 6 years. Before moving to the mountains, his Vo2 Max was a meager 57. Don't get me wrong, 57 isn't bad, and Matt was quite a runner before going to the mountains, but this example clearly shows the benefit of a high Vo2 Max. 

    Now before you think you need to run to the mountains to build a healthy Vo2 Max into your training, there are many ways to raise your level. Hill Reps, Speed Work, and then there are the more serious and extreme oxygen deprivation techniques that might seem crazy, but for some people, they work.  But be careful not to lose site of the big picture. 

   Keep your training in perspective and consult a trainer or seasoned running coach with experience when it comes to Vo2 Max level increase. It never hurts to ask the super fast guys too. They always seem to have it figured out.