VO2 Max Increase after multi-year plateau

I wanted to share some success I’ve seen using TR plan builder and adaptive training in improving my fitness from a rather long (4-5 year) plateau, and pose a question.

-Since starting a TR plan (mid-volume/rolling road race), I’ve seen my VO2 Max (according to Garmin) increase appx 10% from 72 to 80. My weight has been the same so has not been a factor and I haven’t changed any other inputs.

-Over the last few seasons of training, I’ve only been able to get to 75 once. I did a lab test last week which had my VO2 Max at 78 so I feel confident Garmin’s data is close enough to be useful as a reference point.

-My FTP has gone from 350 to 364 which is also higher than last few seasons where I was always peaking somewhere in the low 350s.

-The point of this is my positive surprise in the training plan’s effectiveness in such a short time frame. Anybody else had similar results from a VO2 Max standpoint? The biggest difference in my training from prior seasons to last two months is the increased endurance/Zone 2 and Sweet Spot efforts that TR plans have. This would seem to match the articles suggesting you need to go slower (more zone 2, and SS) to create additional VO2 Max improvements.

-I’ve had four kids in the last 5.5 years so in recent seasons, my training sessions have typically been VO2Max sessions whenever I had time and energy as I always figured it was the best bang for my buck in maintaining fitness with a 60-minute time limit. It seems I was not appreciating the value of SS and threshold work.

My Question: Are there other non-training aspects at play with VO2 Max (other than weight) or is this increase most likely nearly all due to training changes?

On a personal note, I think the last few months has been the first time I’ve had relatively uninterrupted training (somebody in the family hasn’t been sick) so my sleep and stress has been slightly better so recovery probably helps a lot as well.



I think you might be getting ahead of yourself. Although Garmin’s approach to estimating VO2max (licensed from Firstbeat Analytics) is reasonably accurate, it is based in part on your submaximal heart rate. Thus, all else being equal it will go up as your submaximal heart rate comes down. Although the latter is often indicative of increased cardiovascular fitness, it can also be due to other factors (e.g., fatigue).

Now getting from 350 to 364 W is something you can bank on - congratulations.

I’m not sure how accurate those smartwatch VO2max figures are.

I have a similar FTP to you (355W), and my iWatch insists I am in a tight range between 38 and 42 VO2. That’s been there for the last couple of years :grinning: Now, granted weight plays a role and I am 82-85kg depending on the day, but still a wide shot from your VO2 estimate around 80.

My watch tells me my VO2 is below average for my age (37 :sweat_smile:), so I guess I just need to drop myself at every race I attend since there is no hope :joy::rofl:

Fwiw, Garmin estimates my VO2max to be at around 70-71 ml/kg/min. I got properly tested in a lab recently and got to 71. So Garmin’s estimation seems to be pretty accurate in my case.

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My watch tells me my VO2 is below average for my age

I’m glad to hear I’m not the only one. My Apple watch has consistently has my VO2 max pegged around 39 despite 10+ hours of training a week and a 4 - 4.5 w/kg FTP. I had my VO2 max lab tested about 10 years ago and it was in the high 60s at fairly low fitness, so I feel pretty confident in saying the watch estimate is, for some of us at least, inaccurate.


From researching the topic on here and reading into the Firstbeat Analytics, it seems the pacing estimates can be wildly off but the VO2 Max estimate is actually fairly accurate in aggregate. But its a normal distribution of accuracy with many being close and some quite off so probably requires a lab test if you want to be sure. But the trends are useful in gauging progress. Just need to ensure your inputs are accurate (weight, max HR, power, current heart rate). I’ve been tracking for four years now with Garmin so I have a decent grasp on what is typical which is why I was surprised to see quite a bit of progress this spring/summer.

@The_Cog - thanks for the thoughts. I do think my fatigue came down quite a bit as I was finally getting some decent sleep (we moved back into my newly renovated house and kids were back into a better rhythm). Of course, two of my kids caught strep last week and I’m sick this week so probably going back down :frowning:

I don’t run, and my Apple Watch estimates vo2max based on walking. Lately it puts my walks at 38 vo2max, while on the bike my WKO/Intervals.icu/Garmin estimates are around 46 at 2.9W/kg and 275W ftp.


That’s likely my issue, too. The VO2 max estimates all seem to be coming from passively-recorded walks around the neighborhood with my wife.