By Dr. Kevin Pacheco
VO2 Max training can be intimidating. The programs found online often assume you are a jogger and involve some type of sprinting. However, you do not have to run as fast as you can to increase your cardiovascular capacity.
There is a simple way to start this type of training safely that allows you the flexibility to match your current ability and preferences (such as avoiding high impact activity or adding some outdoor mountain scenery). The key is that you are performing intervals with a plan for your progression.
Example: 30:30 Walking Routine:
Step 1: Warm up for 10 minutes by walking at a comfortable pace.
Step 2: Start with 30 seconds speed walking followed by 30 seconds back at the comfortable pace.
Step 3: Alternate between the two speeds for 12-15 sets.
Choosing Your Activity
If you can run comfortably then you may in fact want to alternate jogging and sprinting out of convenience but you could also find yourself some stairs or a hill to increase the intensity. To avoid the impact on your knees you can take a seat on a bike, rower, or an Airdyne.
It is better to build up the amount of time spent at the challenging pace at first than to immediately try and progress to faster speeds. If you start to become comfortable alternating 30 seconds then the next step is to try 60:60. You can then progress to 90 seconds or have a set distance of running a quarter mile before you increase your pace.
The more advanced programs start to increase the ratio of the challenging pace to the comfortable one. For example, you might progress to moving 800m at a fast pace followed by a slower pace for 400m (2:1) before eventually making your way to 1200m at the faster pace with the same "break" (3:1).
Regardless of the activity you choose and where you are starting interval training is admittedly harder than keeping a comfortable steady pace but you will see greater improvements in your cardiovascular capacity if you are willing to put yourself through the challenge.