Knowing how to increase VO2 max with fartlek training may be one of the most lucrative gems of knowledge that you can obtain as a runner. This is due to the unequivocal importance of how oxygen consumption correlates to an individual’s aerobic fitness level, and fartlek training can help to increase just that!
Essentially, the higher a runner’s VO2 max is, the better conditioned they’ll be. As a runner trains to increase VO2 max, they’ll also experience a plethora of other noteworthy cardiovascular benefits like improved cholesterol ratios and increased mitochondrial size..
Such benefits include an increase in the size of the heart itself and an increase in the size of the left ventricle. This increased size in the left ventricle will allow it to fill up with more blood, which will increase stroke volume and cardiac output.
Also, you can expect your lactate threshold to increase as well. This will allow you to train longer without feeling intense fatigue. Now that you know some benefits that you can expect once you learn how to increase your VO2 max with fartlek training, let’s now talk about how it’s done!
Tips on how to increase VO2 max with fartlek training
Learning how to increase your VO2 max isn’t as complicated as you may think. To do so you’ll want to actively exercise the concept of progressive overload. This will allow you to continue to see improvements in your VO2 and to resist experiencing plateaus. A very efficient method to go about using the progressive overload principle is with fartlek training.
Progressive overload is simply the act of pushing your body past normal intensities to force your heart and lungs to work harder. This is one of the best ways on how to increase VO2 max.
As you push your body well past what’s comfortable to you, you’ll then be able to increase your lactate threshold, stroke volume, cardiac output, the size of your heart, the number and size of mitochondria in your muscle tissue, your muscle’s glycogen stores, and your body’s ability to consume and utilize oxygen (VO2), among many other things.
Your body will increase all of these things due to adaptations that will take place as a result of consistent and effective progressive overloading.
As far as how you should implement fartlek training, try performing the majority of your intervals at around 70-80% of your current VO2 max. This is a good range for you to not only experience efficient progressive overload, but to also allow yourself to not get burned out.
If all you’re doing is sprinting or training at a VO2 max at around 90-100+% then you won’t allow yourself to increase your VO2 max to it’s zenith as you’d be contributing most of your adaptations to anaerobic pathways like the creatine phosphate system and anaerobic glycolysis instead of the aerobic pathways.
Try out a fartlek run that encompasses 5 minutes of 80% VO2 max, 2 minutes of 40% VO2 max, 5 minutes of 80% VO2 max, 2 minutes of 40% VO2 max, and so on. Try repeating this for 4-6 intervals.
Why knowing how to increase VO2 max is so important
When you increase your VO2 max, you enhance the fluidity of your body’s metabolic pathways. These metabolic pathways are essential for providing your body with ATP, the ultimate source of energy!
ATP is what allows your skeletal muscle’s to contract, among other things. The main metabolic pathways that are involved in the production of ATP are glycolysis/glycogenolysis, the Krebs cycle, the electron transport chain, and beta oxidation (fat metabolism).
You can find most of these metabolic pathways in the mitochondria of your muscle tissue. Thus, why an increased quantity and size of mitochondria is so important for success as an endurance athlete!
The more mitochondria you have, the more metabolic pathways you have. The more metabolic pathways you have, the more ATP (energy) your body will be able to generate. The more energy your body will be able to generate, the better your performance will be.
What about anaerobic training?
Even though aerobic training seems like the most obvious course of action when figuring out how to increase VO2 max, you needn’t completely forget about anaerobic training altogether.
Anaerobic running, or sprinting is also very useful for you as an endurance athlete because when you first start a run, you can expect to use your creatine phosphate system and the glycogenolysis pathway, among others. So, this would aid your performance in the very beginning of your run.
Besides anaerobic running, there’s also anaerobic resistance (weight) training which can benefit your performance as well. One of the most notable of these is that as you exercise with weights, you actually increase the thickness of the left ventricle.
This is very important as it relates to endurance performance and even VO2 due to the fact that a thicker left ventricle means a more forceful depolarization (contraction) phase. This means a greater stroke volume and cardiac output.
What does this have to do with your VO2 max? Well, your body’s tissues can only consume the oxygen from the blood flowing through it. So, more blood to the tissues means more oxygen diffusion can take place between the blood and the working tissues.
Final thoughts on how to increase VO2 max with fartlek training
Knowing how to increase VO2 max with fartlek training can take your performance to new heights. Your body’s ability to consume and utilize oxygen to working tissues is critical for creating ATP and many other important functions.
Utilizing fartlek intervals will allow you to run for longer periods of time without fatiguing too early. Interval training in general is a very effective way to enhance your overall aerobic fitness levels.
Spending most of your time around 70-80% of your current VO2 max is best. Also, to give yourself proper progressions, try increasing the duration of your training sessions if possible. This, in conjunction with training at a relatively high VO2 max will allot you with a plethora of benefits and should have you on the path to improving your VO2 max in no time.
On your journey to doing so, some of the physiological benefits that you can expect to obtain are an increase in the size and amount of mitochondria in your muscle tissue, increased lactate threshold, increased heart size, better metabolic pathway fluidity, and much more!