Tracking, Without Numbers {VO2 Max}

As I attempt to make this “speed-work” thing a habit, I headed back to the track last night for a little group action. Honestly, if you’re up for at least one new running thing, find a track GROUP.

Obviously, with the all-caps shout, the ‘group’ part of this is key. Running in ovals ‘fast’ isn’t easy to do relying on self-motivation alone.Chasing people around an oval? Well that is more fun, and challenging.


Last night’s workout was different than most – I forgot the Garmin.



This shouldn’t be a big deal; some people call it ‘free’ running, I call it ‘something I should do more often!’. It really shouldn’t matter at a track, where you have the distance measured out for you…unless the track you run on is short.

Problem: I can never remember exactly how short it is (50 meters per lap? 61? I don’t know.). Solution: stop caring so much; run by effort.


Our workout was a “VO2 Max Ladder”, and looked like this:

Warm-up: Plyometrics.

3 min @ VO2 max
2 min active recovery
4 min @ VO2 max
2 min active recovery
4 min @ VO2 max
2 min active recovery

5 min @ VO2 max
3 min active recovery

4 min @ VO2 max
2 min active recovery
4 min @ VO2 max
2 min active recovery
3 min @ VO2 max
2 min active recovery

Cool-down: keep running slowly until Kate-with-the-watch says stop.

As mentioned above, the best motivator here is the group. When I’m running without numbers staring at me, the only thing to push me is deciding who to chase. I run with Kate all the time, but that girl has got some speed in her legs. I chased her for every lap; I have no idea what our pace was, but I know that last 3 minutes felt much longer than 180 seconds. Hard effort: check. Tracking, without the numbers: successful!


Track Lingo of the week – “VO2 Max” effort

VO2 Max =  the maximal amount of oxygen that a person can extract from the atmosphere and then send to the body’s tissues.
Source: Runner’s World}

You won’t actually know if you are running at VO2 “max”, unless you’re hooked up to a machine. Running at this effort basically means attempting to hit ~98% of your max HR during each interval – going ‘all out’.


How often do you run ‘freely’?
Rarely. Yet every time I leave the watch behind, I have no regrets. My legs still know how to keep going, they run either way.
What does your stopwatch, timer, or Garmin do for you?



Filed under motivation, running, running gear, Speed workouts, training

14 responses to “Tracking, Without Numbers {VO2 Max}

  1. I always run ‘free’ in terms of a garmin-less run and an ipod-less run. I like to be one with my thoughts when I run, I don’t like to be tied to numbers on the garmin and I run by effort instead. I know how far I want to go and aim for that (I rotate a few different routes depending on distance) and it makes me happier as a runner to run this way. I know not everyone is into that, but it works for me. I like to “just run.” 🙂

  2. I usually use the garmin because I’m aiming for a certain distance, but I probably should try shorter runs without it more often. Especially since the one time I forgot it during a race I ended up beating my goal since I had to rely on Ivan and he pushed me.

    • Heather C

      Distance is a huge factor for me, too. I only mapped out the last two LRs because G has been a little tempermental, and geeze what would happen if I didn’t get that *exact* mileage….?! I could probably leave it at home more often and rely on that whole mapmyrun thing.

  3. sometimes I wish I could run without the garmin, but still have the data when I’m done. I know I can change the face so I’m not seeing the info while I run, but I almost always “cheat” and look. 😛

  4. Every now and again I will run without a Garmin, but only if its a shorter distance and I know the distance. That’s the main reason I wear mine is to know the distance since I don’t pre-plan my routes usually.

    that sounds like a challenging speed session! Love pyramids like that.

  5. holy god. it’s probably a good thing you didn’t have your garmin on because it would be like – DANGER DANGER VERY HIGH HR DANGER DANGER.

    and that cat! bwahahahahahaha.

  6. I had my V02max tested during my fitness testing class in the spring… Oh my gosh killer! That sounds like an awesome workout! Isn’t it just so much more fun chasing people… Kinda like a game?

  7. i am addicted to my garmin….probably in a bad way

  8. I never go out for a run without my Garmin. I love it for the distance part of it!

  9. I rarely run without a watch, but I have to say that most of my speed workouts are done by feel even with a watch. It’s fun to be at that point where when coach says do this at 5k or tempo or whatever pace, your body can get there right away. That looks like a hard workout. I did an interval run this am w/ 1, 2, 3, 4, 4, 3, 2, 1 min hard sessions with 1 minute jog recovery in between. Those long segments are especially tough!

  10. Lauren

    My garmin let’s me know how slow I run… :/ Buuut I love it! I like knowing how far I am going and once I get back on track I’ll start practicing this fast pace thing you speak of. I miss doing track workouts! It always brought back memories of the lovely 800 for me. Maybe I’ll find a track group here!

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