Strength and Conditioning Programs for Wildland Firefighters

VO2 Max – Measuring Your Body’s Endurance Capacity

What’s VO2 Max?

Your VO2 Max is a measure of how efficiently your body consumes oxygen. The better shape you’re in, the more efficiently your body processes oxygen. This makes intuitive sense to anyone who has ever noticed how running a fixed distance like a mile requires less effort and produces less exhaustion as they advance their fitness level. The VO2 Max is an important measure because it provides insight into your overall aerobic fitness level. An absolutely critical component to fighting fire at an optimal level.

One of the nice advantages of establishing your baseline 1.5 mile run  (and then continuing to re-test it) is that your results can also be used to estimate your VO2 Max. Ideally, your VO2 is measured in a laboratory, but for our purposes, it can be estimated.

Curious I decided to plug in my stats from when I performed my last baseline run test which I completed in 11 minutes and 10 seconds.

I used’s VO2 calculator:

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Great, 47 ml/kg/min. If you’re like me, you had no reference to place that number. Fortunately, ShapeSense provides an age-adjusted chart.

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As a 34 year old male. my VO2 max was in pretty good shape – right on the edge between “Good” and “Excellent”.

Another Method for Calculating VO2 max is the Cooper Test. Interestingly enough, I first came across the Cooper test while in high school. Our Varsity Soccer Coach at the time was famous for putting his team through a notorious run at the beginning of the year where everyone had to go all out for 12 minutes and see how much ground they covered around a quarter-mile track. Everyone hated it, and I never gave much thought to the name, until I came across it while researching VO2 Max testing. So if you’re looking to get another data point, you can play around with this test as well.

Here’s the wikipedia entry on it:

Cooper test

Kenneth H. Cooper conducted a study for the United States Air Force in the late 1960s. One of the results of this was the Cooper test in which the distance covered running in 12 minutes is measured. Based on the measured distance, an estimate of VO2 max [in mL/(kg·min)] is:[5]

{\displaystyle \mathrm {VO_{2}\;max} \approx {d_{12}-504.9 \over 44.73}}\mathrm {VO_{2}\;max} \approx {d_{12}-504.9 \over 44.73}

where d12 is distance (in metres) covered in 12 minutes

An alternative equation is:

{\displaystyle \mathrm {VO_{2}\;max} \approx {(35.97*dmiles_{12})-11.29}}\mathrm {VO_{2}\;max} \approx {(35.97*dmiles_{12})-11.29}

where d12 is distance (in miles) covered in 12 minutes,