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marathon running, muscle cramps, electrolytes

Running a marathon: Vo2 Max And Breathing Techniques

Written by: Natasha Edwards



Time to read 4 min

Keywords: running, marathon, breathing, VO2

Are you breathing right when running a marathon? What is VO2 max and how do you achieve a better breathing economy? Whether you're a seasoned marathoner or a beginner, there are a few aspects science can help you with when it comes to maximising your performance during the marathon.

running, marathon, breathing, VO2

1. Breathing Techniques for Marathon Runners: A Closer Look

VO2 max , or maximal oxygen uptake, is a crucial factor in endurance running.

It measures the maximum amount of oxygen a person can utilise during intense exercise , typically expressed as millilitres of oxygen used per kilogram of body weight per minute (ml/kg/min).

This value is influenced by factors such as age, sex, and altitude.

For instance, VO2 max values tend to decrease by about 5%  for every 5,000 feet (1.52 km) gained in altitude.

You can estimate your VO2 max using fitness trackers or online calculators, which use algorithms based on personal data.

However, VO2 max is only one piece of the puzzle in endurance running.

Running economy, or the efficiency with which a runner uses oxygen at a given pace, often differentiates performance among runners with similar VO2 max values.

In the realm of marathon running, breathing techniques such as belly breathing  and r hythmic breathing  can significantly enhance performance by increasing oxygen intake.

Belly breathing, or diaphragmatic breathing, involves deep inhalations into the diaphragm  rather than shallow breaths from the chest, thus maximising the amount of oxygen  entering the body.

Rhythmic breathing , on the other hand, involves creating a rhythm between your breathing and your running gait, which can reduce the impact  of running on the body.

These techniques directly impact your VO2 max, a measure of the maximum amount of oxygen your body can utilise during exercise. They can also help you to avoid stitches as you run – a common issue which can impede your performance significantly.

A higher VO2 max indicates a greater aerobic fitness level , which can improve your marathon performance.

VO2 max is measured in millilitres of oxygen consumed in one minute, per kilogram of body weight (mL/kg/min), and can be tested in labs or at certain gyms and holistic health clinics.

However, it's important to remember that VO2 max varies based on factors like age, gender, fitness level, and altitude.

Studies suggest that aerobic high-intensity workouts can significantly improve VO2 max levels.

running, marathon, breathing, VO2

2. Submaximal Exercise Tests and VO2 Max

Submaximal exercise  tests are a reliable method to estimate VO2 max without the need for maximal exertion.

These tests involve performing an exercise , such as cycling or running, at a steady, moderate intensity for a set duration.

Heart rate and oxygen consumption are monitored throughout the test, and the data is used to estimate VO2 max.

This method is particularly beneficial for those who are new to exercise or have health conditions that may make maximal exertion unsafe.

As for what constitutes a good VO2 max, it varies by age and sex.

According to the NIH, an average VO2 max for a male aged 20-29 is around 37-41 mL/kg/min , while for a female of the same age, it's approximately 27-31 mL/kg/min.

These values decline with age, with a male aged 60-69 averaging around 25-28 mL/kg/min  and a female of the same age averaging 18-21 mL/kg/min.

Remember, these are averages and individual results can vary based on factors like fitness level and genetics. 

Men's Health

3. Boosting Your VO2 Max: Techniques and Tips for Marathon Runners

Increasing your VO2 max as a marathon runner can be achieved through various methods, each offering different benefits depending on your fitness level and goals.

Aerobic interval training , for instance, has been found to produce slightly better VO2 max improvements than continuous aerobic exercise, according to a 2022 review of studies .

This involves alternating between high-intensity and low-intensity exercise periods, which can be particularly effective for short-distance runners.

For marathon runners, incorporating VO2 max functional workouts  into your training routine can be highly beneficial.

These workouts typically involve running at your VO2 max pace for intervals, as well as switching to more functional exercises such as burpees, tiptoes, toes-to-bar , allowing your body to adapt to the intense exertion, and subsequently improving your aerobic capacity.

It's important to note that these workouts should be tailored to your fitness level and goals, and it's always advisable to consult with a professional before starting a new training regimen. 

running, marathon, breathing, VO2

4. Unlock your full potential

Ready to push your fitness limits and unlock your full athletic potential? Look no further than the  OptimallyMe Fitness Test & Health  .

This innovative program goes beyond traditional fitness assessments, delving deep into the cellular machinery that fuels your performance.

Each lunge, squat, and sprint you perform is powered by a complex web of biomarkers within your body.

The OptimallyMe Fitness Test  analyses these essential elements, providing a comprehensive picture of your health and fitness.

What does the test cover?

  • Cholesterol balance: Assess your heart health, a crucial factor for sustained performance.

  • Key vitamins: Uncover any deficiencies that could be impacting your energy levels.

  • Muscle function indicators: Dive into the metrics behind your muscular strength and recovery.

  • Endurance potential: Discover the science behind your stamina and how to optimise it.

Benefits of the  OptimallyMe Fitness Test & Health  :

  • Personalised roadmap to peak performance: Identify your strengths and weaknesses, receiving a data-driven plan for improvement.

  • Cellular-level insights: Gain a deeper understanding of your body's inner workings, like having a personal trainer on a cellular level.

  • Empowered fitness journey: Make informed decisions about your training and unlock the true power of your body.

Whether you're a seasoned athlete training for a triathlon, a dedicated marathoner, or simply pushing yourself at the gym, the  OptimallyMe Fitness Test & Health  provides a roadmap to peak performance. Take control of your fitness journey and empower yourself like never before 

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