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Science & Sports 22 (2007) 43–49

http://france.elsevier.com/direct/SCISPO/

Original article

Average VO2max as a function of running performances
on different distances
VO2max moyen en fonction de la performance de course
sur différentes distances
A. Legaz-Arresea,*, D. Munguía-Izquierdoa, A. Nuviala Nuvialaa, O. Serveto-Galindob,
D. Moliner Urdialesa, J. Reverter Masíaa
a

Section of Physical Education and sports, University of Zaragoza, C/Domingo Miral S/N, 50009 Zaragoza, Spain
b
Instituto Aragonés de Servicios Sociales, Spain
Received 31 August 2005; accepted 2 January 2006
Available online 18 December 2006

Abstract
Objective. – To determine the VO2max differences as well as average VO2max values for runners of both genders competing in various race
distances at different performance level (International Amateur Athletic Federation (IAAF) scores).
Material and methods. – VO2max of 137 males and 53 females top-class Spain runners was measured wit a multistage treadmill test. An
exhaustive bibliographic analysis of the VO2max values in different events was also done.
Results. – From Spain and literature data, VO2max increases from 100 to 1500 m in runners with the same performance level (IAAF score).
For the 3000, 5000, 10,000 m and marathon groups, VO2max does not differ significantly. Furthermore and for the same event, small differences
in performance level are associated with small or no differences in VO2max.
Conclusions. – At the same level of performance (IAAF scores), VO2max levels are increasing from 100 to 3000 m showing a greater
importance of this parameter for training and selection purposes. On longer distances however, VO2max levels are the highest but similar indicating that VO2max is an important prerequisite but that VO2max importance is similar for all distance events from 3000 m to marathon. On the
other hand, within a distance event, VO2max may be a good discriminator within a group of athletes showing a wide range of performances but
not in a homogeneous group of elite athletes.
© 2006 Elsevier Masson SAS. All rights reserved.
Résumé
Objectifs. – Déterminer les valeurs moyennes et les différences de VO2max pour coureurs hommes et femmes de différents niveaux de
performances (pointage IAAF) du 100 m au 42,2 km.
Matériel et méthodes. – VO2max de 137 hommes et 53 femmes, élite des coureurs espagnols, fut mesuré lors d’un test progressif sur tapis
roulant. Une analyse approfondie des données de la littérature fut aussi conduite.
Résultats. – Des données espagnoles et de la littérature, on constate que VO2max augmente du 100 au 1500 m pour le même niveau de
performance IAAF. Pour le 3, 5, 10 et 42,2 km, VO2max ne diffère pas significativement. De plus, sur une même distance, de petites différences
dans le niveau de performance ne sont associées qu’avec de petites ou aucune différences de VO2max.

* Corresponding

author.
E-mail address: alegaz@unizar.es (A. Legaz-Arrese).

0765-1597/$ - see front matter © 2006 Elsevier Masson SAS. All rights reserved.
doi:10.1016/j.scispo.2006.01.008

44 A. Using a database of performances obtained at world level. A P value of < 0. All runners have been training for more than 10 years and achieved national or international levels of competition (39 male and 17 female-trained runners have taken part in Olympic Games). The mean velocity achieved during their best season performance had to be included among the best 50 ever in the Spanish ranking (2002). as dependent variables versus the type of event as independent variables. only the best one was retained based on IAAF scoring tables. Legaz-Arrese et al.20] and the contribution of the aerobic energy system in different events [15–17. From the 7th (for male) and 6th stage (for female) the velocity was increased by 1 km h−1 every minute with a simultaneous increase in the slope of 2% min−1 up to a maximum of 5% until the subject reached voluntary exhaustion. In that study however. enabling them to compare performances in different events for the same or different athletes. the velocity was increased by 2 km h−1 every 3-min stage. 10.D. The maximal oxygen uptake has been the variable to which major attention has been paid. Gender Mots clés : VO2max . To the best of our knowledge however./mean) were calculated. The CO2 exhaled was measured using an infrared ray analyzer and the O2 by means of a paramagnetic system (both from Jaeger). The statistical analysis was performed with the Statistical Package for Social Sciences (Version 12. A multivariate linear model was done. Results Both in male and female Spanish runners (Table 1). respectively. VO2max was chosen as the highest VO2 value in the series of 30s-by-30s VO2 values.05 was considered indicative of statistical significance. All rights reserved. VO2max augmente du 100 au 3000 m démontrant une importance graduellement accrue de ce paramètre à des fins d’entraînement et de sélection. 61. Introduction A variety of physiological variables has been studied in order to determine the characteristics of athletes competing in different running distances. VO2max est encore plus élevé même s’il ne discrimine pas des coureurs élites homogènes. All examinations were performed during the competitive season within 2 months of the runner’s best performance. only Mercier and Léger (1986) [40] attempted to study the differences in VO2max between runners with the same level of performance in different distance events. Therefore. Participants attended the National Center of Sports Medicine in Madrid. The coefficients of variance of performance (CV% = 100 × S. model L6). where the VO2max values were measured during the maximal multistage test on a treadmill (Jaeger Laufergotest. Performance level. VO2max was estimated by a maximal multistage running track test assuming same mechanical efficiency for all the subjects. In males however.3 ± 4. is only significant for class A runners 100 m runners (N = 9) and 400 m runners (N = 11) (57. During this period.0). Course à pied .64]. – Pour un même niveau de performance IAAF. The performances were obtained after consulting the official rankings published by the Statistics Department of the Real Federación Española de Atletismo. Keywords: VO2max. VO2max values increase from 100 to 3000 m and stay similar for the longer distances (3000 m to 42 km). © 2006 Elsevier Masson SAS. The VO2 values were measured using a Jaeger EOS-Sprint spiroergometer. The VE was measured using a pneumotachograph that was specially designed to keep linearity at high volumes. The runners were also classified into groups in accordance with their best performance capability [5. the IAAF Tables assign a definite score to each performance. Sur distance plus longue cependant. the relationship with running performance [13.19. 3000 and 3000 m steeplechase) and long distance-trained runners (5000. .7 ± 4. / Science & Sports 22 (2007) 43–49 Conclusion. Performance. the difference between 100 and 400 m. respectively). Specific bibliographical analysis was carried out selecting only those studies showing the VO2max values in athletes whose performance level was clearly pointed out. démontant quand même qu’il s’agit d’un prérequis important. 3. the averaged VO2max values.55. 1500.6 ml kg−1 min−1. middle distance-trained runners (800. Material and methods A group of 137 male and 53 female runners training to compete at top-level running events was selected on the basis of their performances. using VO2max. Subjects were chosen among sprint-trained runners (100 and 400 m). When many performances were reported for the same runner on different distances. Thereafter. The best performance of subjects involved in several events was established using Scoring Tables of the International Amateur Athletic Federation (IAAF) [57].56] have frequently been reported. Events. The initial velocity and slope were 8 km h−1 and 1%.7 vs. That was done on two set of data: our own and data from the literature. Genre 1. with adjustment according to Bonferroni probabilities. Data were expressed as mean ± S. 2.000 m and marathon) (Table 1). the athletes maintained their normal training program.D. Running performance. Thus the purpose of the present study was to determine the VO2max differences as well as average VO2max values for runners of both genders competing in various race distances at different performance levels using direct measurement of VO2max.

Thus in order to compare runners of the same levels on different distances. .18.26.31. 3000 m steeplechase [29].A.51.22.26].50. In fact.32. the performance (measured as IAAF score) of sprinttrained runners was significantly inferior to performance of middle. 1.29–31. 1500 m [4. we have also drawn scatterplots and regressions of IAAF scores and VO2max values reported in the literature (Fig.58].50.31]. in Spain. Nevertheless.56.44.58].and long distance-trained runners (P<0. 5000 m [26. / Science & Sports 22 (2007) 43–49 45 Table 1 Descriptive statistics in male and female Spanish runners Fig. Fig. 400 m [27. best performances are very good from 800 m to marathon but much lower in sprints events. Values of VO2max as a function of IAAF scores for different distance events in male runners with values reported in the literature. 2) for 100 m [22.001). 800 m [13. which is a problem when comparing VO2max of these runners (Fig. Values of VO2max as a function of IAAF scores for different distance events in male and female Spanish runners. 2.31.47.56. Legaz-Arrese et al.58]. 3000 m [7. 1).

59. 3.43. 4. 10. the lack of sufficient studies does not permit a detailed regression analysis of results.46 A. 2). 1) . performance improves proportionally to VO2max (Fig. we see the coefficients of determination between VO2max and IAAF male scores for each distance event using average VO2max and IAAF data from published studies as individual pairs of data as done in Fig.10.8. bibliographic analysis indicates that VO2max increases progressively from 100 to 3000 m events in runners with the same levels of performance (IAAF scores). the VO2max increase progressively Table 2 Average VO2max according to different performance levels for some running distances (from Fig. but the accuracy of the prediction is much lower in events shorter than 1500 m (Fig. Fig. the comparison of our results with those obtained in other studies runners is presented in Fig. 2 represent average values of different studies (different methodologies) and not individual data. 3. 2 (not illustrated).65].58]. Nevertheless. 3).59. From our Spanish data collected with the same methodology.25].50. With female runners. In Fig. 2.50. Spanish male values of Fig. 4). 1 superpose quite well with respective literature scatterplots and regressions of Fig. remembering that points in Fig. 5 Fig.42. Accuracy of the prediction of performance from VO2max values with bibliographic data. Due to the lack of data for 3000 m and 3000 m steeple.32]. / Science & Sports 22 (2007) 43–49 45.54.62] and marathon [3.58.48.000 m [20.23–26. 5000 m [52]. In female runners.60] and marathon [6.63].21.19. For each distance event.12.53.12. we can make some practical VO2max estimates for some levels of performance on different distance events (Table 2).41. Discussion This paper shows VO2max values of male and female runners of different performance levels (IAAF scores) in different specialities from sprint to long distance events to give other researchers and coaches a valid reference to compare their athletes and a better understanding of VO2max as a performance determinant. 3000 m [46. For example. no regressions are drawn on these distances. in runners with the same performance level. for 1500 m [18. 10.52.49.58. On each distance. As with our original data.000 m [7.61. 2 also shows that VO2max increases with the IAAF scores in almost all running specialities with somewhat high variability on each side of regressions lines however. a 5000 m runner with an average running economy should have VO2max between 79 and 82 ml kg−1 min−1 for performance ranging from 1070 to 1163 points (IAAF scores) or from 13 min 45 s and 13 min 18 s (Table 2). this association was not found with our original data (Fig. Legaz-Arrese et al. Results of the present study showed that.24.

In this way. therefore the neuromuscular functions and anaerobic metabolism are more important for the success in this distance than in more longer events. the maximal speed is set by the ratio between the subject’s maximal metabolic power and the energy cost of running. 5.42. Nevertheless a higher VO2max is necessary in these distances to obtain greater velocity in competition from the same %VO2max. Fig. (1985) [38].84–0. but it did not discriminate success in homogeneous groups. 3000 m [46].A. there are also large differences in VO2max values. In these events the contribution of the anaerobic metabolism is insignificant (< 10% in 3000 m) [15] and the velocity of competition is less than the velocity at VO2max. This is conform to results found by others researchers: a significant relationship between VO2max and running performance has been found in heterogeneous groups of athletes competing in different distances. 4. we have established the average values of VO2max to reach different elite level of performance in different distances.12].000 m [8.56]. the race velocity on this distance is greater that the velocity at VO2max.56]. Accuracy of the prediction of performance from VO2max values with our original data. Legaz-Arrese et al. in agreement with Léger et al. Aerobic metabolism contributes the greatest part of energy for 1500-m running (77–86%) [15. while the success in 100-m running is dependent exclusively of alactic and lactic anaerobic metabolism [17]. there is no significant VO2max differences (ml kg−1 min−1). / Science & Sports 22 (2007) 43–49 Fig. running economy or even anaerobic capacity on the shorter distances as discussed below.49] and marathon [1. In general we can assume that among athlete’s groups with relatively small performance differences (for example our original data). from 100 to 3000 m events.11. 5000 m [29–31]. Many studies on this topic in the last 20 years showed that others variables have been found to be of importance for the performance level.39] that VO2max plateaus year after years of training in elite endurance athletes even though their performance continue to increase slightly due to other factors such as aerobic endurance. On the basis of the data contributed by another authors. 1500 m [32.63]. These findings can be consequent of contribution of aerobic energy system for these distances: Of the energy for 400-m running. On the other hand. it cannot be argued that VO2max is unimportant. This study showed a similar VO2max for runners competing in the 3000 m to the marathon events when the performance 47 level is equivalent. 56] and the maximal oxygen uptake is reached at the end of the exercise [56]. a successful runner may be capable of running at a relatively rapid velocity while obtaining much of the necessary energy form the aerobic system. Others studies have highlighted the importance of another variable as. and that the VO2max can be a poor predictor of performance capability in homogenous groups of runners: Since the early eighties.63]. 10. other runners can obtained the same performance sustaining major contributions from the anaerobic system while having lower VO2max.28.41. (1986) [14] have shown that in running. di Prampero et al. However. In this study was showed that a different VO2max value is necessary to success in different events and all endurance elite runners exhibited high VO2max values. The results of the longitudinal study by Legaz et al. The current data suggest that a high VO2max helped each subject gain membership in this elite performance cluster. We also know from case studies [9. Mercier and Léger (1986) [40] established higher associations (r = 0. 40–50% is aerobic [16. But when we compare groups with significant performance differences (for example bibliographic data). Nevertheless the success in 800 m running depends on an integrative contribution from aerobic and anaerobic systems [56].98) between the maximal multistage running track [37] and running performance in distances of 600 m to marathon than those obtained for the VO2max. (2005) [33] showed that the VO2max remained unchanged after 3years period of intense athletic conditioning and that the changes in running performance were not associated with the changes in VO2max. the kinetics of blood lactate accumulation during sub- . Values of VO2max as function of IAAF scores for different distance events in female runners using data from the literature and this study. nevertheless. Thus.31. The energy for 800-m running is available in over 60–70% for the aerobic metabolism [16. VO2max was found not to be a good predictor of performance in more homogeneous groups of runners in events including 800 m [13. they argued that the maximal multistage running track is a measure that encompasses the VO2max and the mechanical efficiency. relying on a high VO2max and conversely.

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