What is your limit? VO2max test with Origin Vo2

When you train and race do you know what your specific heart rate zone is for your easy paced runs?

Do you know what your specific heart rate zone is for your tempo pace runs?

Or what your specific heart rate zone is for your maximum anaerobic pace?

If you don’t know the answer to these questions then it’s highly likely that your not training at your optimal heart rate intensity.

Before I get into the review. Below are some test highlights.

I met Kevin Reynolds (Origin Vo2) who conducted the following two metabolic tests, VO2 Max test & measuring my resting metabolic rate, with the aim to help me better understand the answers to the questions above.

But before I elaborate on the answers and the tests themselves, something that stuck in my head that Kevin asked me was:

“Marcus when was the last time you ran flat out?”

There was a long pause, and I looked up and thought hard about it… Even when I recently ran a 18:57 5k and other PB races this year, whilst they were tough, I didn’t run them close to or at my maximum tempo pace.

By the test treadmill Kevin has a list, that reminded me of the best lap times on the car show Top Gear.

To be on the list he said I needed to achieve a VO2 Max rating of 50 or above, and that was my target. Below is a guide of the VO2 Max ratings per age.

Fast forward to the end of the test I made the list.


At the top of the list was a pro boxer with VO2 Max rating in the 70s. Kevin said to me “You’ve got a higher lung capacity than him but you have a lower VO2 Max rating.”

And one of the following questions was…

“Marcus when was the last time you ran flat out?”

And it wasn’t until I drove home from the test that it dawned on me.

A key benefit of the test, was that it wasn’t just about the test, but the mindset needed to do it. Kevin rightly pointed out and challenged me to be more intentional with my interval workouts, by working within the correct heart rate zones.

He challenged me to work to be my best, which would mean tapping into what my physical lung capabilities could do. The fact is that I’d need to get more comfortable with being very uncomfortable for my interval sessions.

Whilst I achieved 58.3 VO2Max rating which is still above the elite rating for my age. He highlighted that for a competitive male runner, the aim should be in the 60’s. Kevin is good at reading people and knowing how to motivate them.

For me that kind of challenging questioning does push me forward. I see that I have a base but I just need to work hard to see it actualise, and it’s good to have a place that I can grow into.

But as a word of caution, he does work to tailor the motivation for each person.

In the pain cave.

So for me my homework is to push my anaerobic threshold in my interval training. Then to retake the test before the 2018 New York City Marathon and see where I’m at.

And it’s over!


How does Kevin undertake the VO2 Max test?

To take the measurement you need to breathe into an oxygen consumption analyser (mask and machine etc) whilst on a treadmill or bike.

What is a VO2 Max test?

It’s the maximum amount of oxygen your body can utilise during exercise.

Your tested till you reach the plateau of your oxygen consumption. Gradually you head into anaerobic energy production, where you’re no longer producing the oxygen the body needs. Concurrently your heart rate starts to max out. Then your body is not using oxygen to produce the energy that it needs, fatigue will ensue and you will stop, as you’ll need oxygen to continue.

At this point once oxygen consumption has reached this point a VO2 max is calculated.

What does the VO2 Max rating actually mean?

The higher the number the more efficient the body is at using and transferring the oxygen in the body during exercise.

So if I have a high VO2 Max rating it means that I have the golden ticket right?

A word of caution a higher VO2 Max isn’t a sole guarantee of success. Whilst it’s a good measurement, it can’t measure everything such as your level of pain tolerance, running economy, nutrition, fatigue, age etc.

The word “max” is a clue in the title, however it’s easy to run it, but mentally hold back, so as a word of caution you need to be fully committed when running it, and it may take a few tries to see what your actual rating is. You will tire eventually either way, trying hard or holding back.

When the mask comes off! And breathe!

So why take a VO2 Max test?

It can help take the guesswork out of training, by helping you understand your current aerobic capacity, which can be used to determine your optimum heart rate training zones whilst training.

For example one way to train is to spend 80% of time is in the aerobic zone, and the remaining 20% will be in the threshold and the anaerobic zones. The test will indicate what your heart rate should be for each zone mentioned.

Is it worth doing a VO2 Max test?

Some will say just follow the easy equation of 220 minus your age to work out your maximum heart rate, however in my case it was out by approx. 5 beats and for others it can be up to 20.

So yes, whilst it’s worth doing a test to get a more accurate reading remember it’s just a highlight to what your potential could be. It’s a snapshot in time. It’s not a constant.

In addition to the VO2 Max test you can do a lactate threshold test, like the VO2 Max test it can be on a treadmill or a bike, where blood samples are taken from a finger at regular intervals to measure a number of items, including the lactate concentration in the blood etc.

There is a lot of debate as to the validity of either test, or whether the lab test is better than the gym test, and if the numbers represent anything more than bragging rights.

However whatever your view on the above is, the tests encourage athletes to undertake consistent interval training close to their VO2 Max at least once a week.

By undertaking higher intensity exercise for longer periods of time, in theory this helps improve your aerobic capacity.

This can be summed up by Bruce Lee:

“If you always put limit on everything you do, physical or anything else. It will spread into your work and into your life. There are no limits. There are only plateaus, and you must not stay there, you must go beyond them.”

How often should you take the VO2 Max test?

Your VO2 max and resting metabolic rate (RMR) can change, so it’s not a one time hit. As you train or not, your training zones and caloric needs will change.

For the RMR test if you’re struggling to maintain your weight then a retest may be helpful.

Whereas for the VO2 max test it depends on the person and their specific training goals. For me it would be a good indication of how my NYC Marathon is going so I will retake it in approx 8 weeks and let you know if my VO2 Max rate has changed.

What to do before a VO2 Max test?

Have no food 4 hours before, but just take only water, because you may bring it up… And refrain from any exercise the day before. Ahem and DON’T run the day before or on the day of test like me! Go in there fresh like you’re about to run a race.

How long does the VO2 Max test take?

A VO2 Max test can take anything from 7 minutes up-to 20 minutes for very fit individuals.

What is a Metabolic test?

It measures the rate at which your body burns calories during different activities.

This testing measures two different things: my VO2 max (as previously discussed) and my resting metabolic rate.

By sitting comfortably and measuring my breathing the test calculates how many calories my body burns at rest, which helps me understand how many calories I need to eat every day to lose, maintain, or gain weight.

How does Kevin undertake the RMR Metabolic test?

To take the measurement you need to breathe into an oxygen consumption analyser, through your mouth only (helped by a nose clip) whilst sitting relaxed.

How long does the RMR Metabolic test take?

It takes between 10 to 20 minutes, basically the quicker you relax the quicker the test. Just don’t fall asleep!

How much do the tests costs?

Normally it retails at £120 for the VO2 Max test and £75 for a RMR met test. But the introduction price for both at Origin VO2 is £100.

It’s reasonably priced, and sits in the middle in comparison to other VO2 tests costing between £80-£150 (exc. RMR test).

Do you get a report from Kevin?

Yes you receive a paper report for both tests, and he spends time explaining the results and going through any questions that you may have.

How do I book an appointment?

  • Kevin Reynolds (Origin Vo2) 07703060000
  • Location: Origin Health And Fitness, A1 Sutton Business Park, Rainham, Essex, RM13 8DE

Social media links

Pictured with Kevin.

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