Your VO2 Max and How to Improve It


 When you engage in aerobic exercise such as running, your body primarily uses type 1 muscle fibers. These muscles rely on aerobic metabolism (oxygen as fuel). The better your body can take in, deliver and metabolize the oxygen, the better your endurance will be.

The best indicator for aerobic fitness is VO2 Max.

What is VO2 Max:

VO2 Max is the maximum volume of oxygen your muscles (type 1/ aerobic) can consume in a minute.

How to Calculate VO2 Max:

VO2 = (milliliters of air inhaled per minute)(percentage of oxygen in the air inhaled) / (milliliters of air exhaled per minute)(percentage of oxygen in the air exhaled)

VO2 max = 15.3 x (MHR/RHR)

MHR = Maximum heart rate (beats/minute) calculated using age = 208 – (0.7 x age)

RHR = Resting heart rate (beats/minute) = number of heart beats in 20 seconds x 3 (calculate just after waking up, before getting out of bed)

Math not your thing? Click here.

What Your VO2 Max Means for Your Aerobic Fitness:


How to Improve Your VO2 Max:

High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) is considered the best method for improving your VO2 Max.

During HIIT you alternate between high exertion and low exertion. During the high intensity portion you get very close to your VO2 max and sustain that level of exertion. Distance running is considered moderate intensity.

Benefits of HIIT:

  • Increased aerobic fitness, measured through VO2 max.
  • Increased anaerobic fitness
  • Decreased fasting insulin and increased insulin sensitivity
  • Reduced abdominal and subcutaneous fat

For best results, do HIIT workouts 2-3 times per week. This can be a great way to improve your running performance without going on as many patience-testing long runs.

Sample HIIT Workout:

Sample HIIT Workout - Ace Fitness

 How to Determine Which Speeds to Use:

The speeds used will be dependent on your current fitness level.

  • Do the high intensity portion at the fastest you can sustain for 1 minute (Think long sprints).
  • Do the low intensity portions at whatever you need to recover in 2 minutes to repeat the high intensity portion (Probably slightly slower than your typical jogging pace).

Learn More:

How VO2 Max Works

How to Improve VO2 Max

Fit Facts: High-Intensity Interval Training

High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT): Best Cardio to Burn Fat

Do you even squat, bro?: The Importance of Strength Training Your Whole Body

There is a bit of a trend among gym rats of people who neglect their lower body in strength training. While both men and women do this, it is more visible with men because they grow muscle more easily. While the memes are extreme examples, I think there are a lot of people who will do cardio along with upper body strength exercises.  Along with lower body, the back is also neglected often.


Strength training is very important for injury prevention. The knees and back are common areas to wear down later in life, so strengthening them would be a good idea. The legs are the largest muscles and the ones we use the most often. In addition to injury prevention, training your whole body is also important for balance, agility and not having the build of a chicken.

Cardio is not enough for the lower body because it primarily uses a different type of muscle (Type I/ aerobic) than resistance training (Type II/ anaerobic).

Recommended Exercises


Deadlift Front

Deadlift Back




  • Go for a weight you can just barely do 1 or 2 sets of 10 reps.
  • Make sure you wait 2-3 days before working the same muscle groups (so they can rebuild).
  • Get enough protein (at least 0.6 g/ lb of body weight)


Do you even lift, bro?: An Introduction to Strength Training

The 20 Photos Prove That Skipping Leg Day is Never Okay

GymRa (source of gifs)


Tips for Making Yourself Exercise for When You Just Don’t Feel Like It

Despite exercising regularly and being in good shape, I am still incredibly lazy. You know how a lot of fit people talk about missing exercise when they don’t do it? I’m not one of them. It is very unusual for me to be in the mood to exercise. I usually end up leaving for the gym after thinking about it for around 2 hrs. Once I get going I have no problem, my issue is getting off the damn couch. If taking rest days is not a problem for you, it is important to go to the gym even if you don’t feel like it. So for those of you that don’t understand the concept of “just do it”, here are a few tips.

*Keep in mind it is important to take rest days for your body to repair itself. Your body needs rest to repair muscles after strength training or to heal while sick/injured. These tips are for when you are just being lazy.

1. Listen to energizing music. This will help you get pumped up… so you will actually get off the couch.

2. Turn off your TV and computer… and that bad but addictive game on your iPhone. These devices can suck you in and make everything else in the universe cease to exist.

3. Tell yourself you can do your slacker workout. You may not need to do this once you actually get there, but it may help trick yourself into going. You can also use similar tricks by promising yourself Starbucks or other small rewards. Your brain thinks differently while on the couch than after going to the gym.

4. Eat a small amount of dark chocolate or have a coffee. Both stimulate reward chemicals which will help give you energy to get moving.

5. Sign up and pay for classes that occur on a regular basis. If you have already paid for a class ahead of time, then you will have a sense of obligation to go. The same works with using a trainer. This can also help in developing better technique or trying out different exercises.

6. Go for a walk. If you aren’t going to do a more vigorous workout, at least do some light activity like going for a walk in the park. This will at least get you moving and get your blood flowing.

The Types of People You See at the Gym

The Hot Chick: Hot chicks can typically be spotted on the elliptical or getting toned with 3-5 lb. weights (they don’t want to get bulky). You occasionally also find them in yoga or the trendy workout class of the moment. Most of their fitness advice came from Cosmopolitan magazine or whatever the latest celebrity craze is. They usually wear expensive gym outfits from places like Lulu Lemon and usually have bright shoes from Nike that they have in multiple tones so they always match their outfit. They always have their makeup and hair done. They usually workout in pairs. They also are the type of person that is texting while exercising. While most other women like to give them a hard time, it is really just our reproductive competitiveness that is driving this (Darwin would be proud).

The Yo-Yo Dieter: The yo-yo dieter is most frequently spotted the first 3 weeks of January. They often reappear shortly before summer or before any special occasions. Their presence also spikes at the first Monday of each month. Yo-yo dieters are typically 10-20 lbs. overweight, but that varies. They usually prefer jog/walking on the treadmill or going on the elliptical. They are also seen on-and-off at the less hardcore fitness classes. They are usually really determined when they start, but they struggle with maintenance. Yo-yo dieters are also commonly seen stopping at Starbucks to reward themselves for their hard work.

The Lost and Confused New Kid: The new kid is usually either obese or scrawny. They often quickly move from machine to machine not really knowing what to do with themselves. They may try to mimic more experiences members, but that may end in embarrassment when they can’t quite lift the same as more fit members. They have a habit of checking their phone often or going to the water fountain between every set. Most new kids either quit and never speak of it again or get a trainer.

The Know-it-All: The know-it-all is the obnoxious combination of an intellectual and health freak. For most people reading a few articles here and there is enough, but the know-it-all reads scientific studies and university/ graduate level textbooks in their free time. Their interest in fitness is probably more theoretical than it is practical. The know-it-all may be seen closely examining the muscles used for each machine or how to properly do the exercise. They often come equipped with geeky fitness technology, which of course they thoroughly researched. They may be spotted occasionally spacing out like a not-s0-absent-minded professor, because they spend most of their time in their head. They are probably a great person to ask questions to, but there’s a good chance you can squat more than they can.

The Micromanager: The micromanager does not overlook any detail. They log every calorie, count every rep and never miss a workout. They always look put together. They always follow their rules and plans. Micromanagers form a habit and stick to it. The often can be spotted at the gym at the earlier hours, because they actually got up when they said they would. They often use the same exact machine each time and fix the disorganized weight rack that the rest of us screw up.

The Powerlifting Feminist: The powerlifting feminist actively defies almost all gender roles. She often seems a bit resentful and can intimidate other members. Although, the friendlier ones tend to hang out with guys and other women who aren’t stereotypically girly. She is usually bulkier than other women and has a more athletic figure. She is one of the few women who can actually do unassisted pull-ups and often lifts heavier than the guys.She may also be seen on cardio machines, but she is typically more focused on strength training. Powerlifting feminists are the type of women with the grit to survive Cross fit. They completely change the way we think about what it means to lift like a lady.

The Overcompensating Meathead: Overcompensating meatheads are typically on the shorter end, usually under 5’7. They spend a lot of time lifting weights and eating protein. They typically can be spotted wearing t-shirts with the sleeves cut off and drinking protein shakes while working out. Some of them may try questionable practices by experimenting with supplements. The overcompensating meathead may be spotted trying to talk to the hot chicks. They also tend to workout a bit inefficiently due to spending time flexing in the mirror for all to see. They usually work extra hard on glory muscles such as biceps so they can make their guns more epic.

The Athletic Guy: The athletic guy is often seen making all exercises look easy. He usually is great eye candy and can be distracting to the opposite gender. The athletic guy is usually accomplishing impressive feats such as looking attractive while running. He often doesn’t need to try as hard as other guys and doesn’t bother much with proper technique because it comes so naturally to him. Athletic guys tend to go later at night, but they aren’t as dedicated as other gym rats.

The Old Person: The old person is somehow at least 3 times your age yet still is in better shape than you. They give you hope for the future but they also embarrass you because you should probably be in better shape than them. Old people tend to workout in the morning or in the late afternoon. They may occasionally make comments about all the ridiculous technology like the TVs that you can’t get away from. They also like to talk to other old people about how bad our music is these days.

The Overachiever: Are they even human? The overachiever usually goes to the gym when it first opens or right before closing. They can often be seen simultaneously working while on cardio equipment. They make their workouts as efficient as possible because they are borderline addicted to being busy. You may also catch them drinking their morning coffee or breakfast smoothie while working out. They need to cram in as much as possible. The overachiever has a habit of either having a heart attack or a midlife crisis at some point because they don’t know how to relax.

The Yogi: The yogi is always calm and usually radiant. The yogi is often a bit airy looking and is usually very sensitive. They are almost always vegetarian and often vegan. They like to drink green things and they probably grow their own organic kale. The yogi probably has namaste advertised somewhere like on their yoga mat or car (usually a Prius). They can often be seen trying to help the overachiever because they can sense their intense energy.



Body Fat Percentage (BF%)

While Body Mass Index (BMI) is the traditional method for assessing health through weight, it can be unreliable because it doesn’t take into account body type or composition. A less used but more reliable method is Body Fat Percentage (BF%). It measures what percent of your body is composed of fat. It does not take into account other factors such as muscle mass, bone density and lifestyle choices. As we age our BF% increases as muscle mass decreases.

Essential Fat: This is the minimum percentage required for basic functioning and survival. We need a certain amount of fat for our bodies to function. We need it for insulation as well as protection of internal organs. For women this is thought to be around 10-13% and men it is around 2-5%.  This is often what bodybuilders will aim for on competition day. This range is very risky, unsustainable and not recommended for a healthy lifestyle.

Athletes: Women between 14-20% and men between 6-13% will fall into this category. This level is really only healthy if you have a higher amount of muscle mass (such as competitive athletes). This range is especially questionable for women, since some women will stop menstruating at these levels.

Fitness: This is considered the ideal range for fitness. Women fall into this category from 21-24% and men from 14-17%. This does not mean everyone in this category is actually fit or that people above this are not. This is generally the optimal range, but other factors need to be taken into account.

Acceptable: A BF of 25-31% for women and 18-24% for men is considered acceptable. This is what most people in the United States would consider a normal healthy weight. Many people who eat a healthy diet and exercise regularly will fall into this category.

Obese: A BF of 32%+ in women and 25%+ in men is considered obese. People in this range are at increased risk for chronic diseases.  Most American adults would fall into this category.

*Keep in mind this is different than obese according to BMI. The obesity rate according to these standards would be higher than BMI standards.


How to Determine Your Body Fat Percentage

  • Skin Fold Caliper: These cost around $5 and are a reliable way for measurement if done properly. You pinch your skin and pull the fat away from the muscle. Learning how to do this properly may take some practice, but is very useful if you learn how to do it right. You can calculate your skin fold measurements here.
  • Tape Measure: You can take measurements of yourself then input them into an online calculator. This isn’t the most reliable method, but it is quick and easy. One of the major factors that could come into play is your body shape (also measuring inaccurately/ not quite in the right place).
  • Bioelectric Impedance Analysis (BIA): This measures the electrical current in your body combined with your height and weight. It makes an estimation of your BF% based on this. This is not the most accurate method because hydration can impact the result, but you can do it at home and it may feel less awkward than using a skin fold caliper. If you use this method, make sure you measure at a consistent time to keep the hydration levels similar (first thing in the morning is a good bet).
  • Hydrostatic Weighing: This has a high degree of accuracy for measuring BF%. It also requires going out of your way to pay $100+ to get dunked in a tank of water. For most people, this isn’t a very practical option.
  • DEXA Scan: This is considered the best measurement. It includes other factors in addition to BF%. However, it costs about $250 so it is only worth it if getting a precise reading is important to you.
  • The Mirror Method:  If you are able to look at yourself objectively, you will probably be able to make a decent estimation of your BF% in the mirror. If you only care about being in a healthy range and liking the way you look, then this is probably a good option for you. This is especially the case if like me, you have a tendency to obsess when numbers get involved. You can do this by comparing yourself to various visual guides and the characteristics described of each range (links below). That said, looking at ourselves objectively isn’t always easy. I recommend combining this with at least one of the other methods.

There is a good chance that the gym you belong to offers body fat measurements. This may be a cost effective way to be assessed by an expert (or at least someone who knows what they are doing). Some gyms may offer this with an overall fitness assessment.

Setting Goals

Body fat percentage is especially useful in tracking progress when you are at or around a healthy weight. You can track this along with progress in performance. Body fat percentage may be more difficult to accurately measure without a professional if you are significantly overweight, since there are less noticeable changes in definition.

When it comes down to it, the ideal BF% (once you are in a healthy range) is more a matter of personal preference. While you can be relatively healthy while overweight, the BMI and BF% guidelines were set as they are for a reason. Most women will probably want to aim between 20-25% and men between 15-20%.

Strength training plays an important role in finding a good balance. This is especially the case if you are losing weight, since you want to make sure what is lost is actually fat. Muscle is also denser and burns more calories than fat, so increasing muscle mass will give your metabolism a nice boost. Not to mention, it makes you look toned and being physically strong feels kind of bad ass.

Learn More:

Body Fat Pictures and Percentages (highly recommend)

Ideal Body Fat Percentage Chart: How Lean Should You Be

5 Ways to Measure Body Fat Percentage

Body Fat Pictures of Men & Women (highly recommend)

Body Fat Images for Comparison

Everything You Need to Know About Body Fat Percentage

National Body Fat Percentage Average

Weight Maintenance: Expectations vs Reality

What you think weight maintenance will be like:


  • …and I lived skinny ever after. The End.

What weight maintenance is actually like:


  • Weight maintenance is going to be a piece of cake. Ooh cake sounds good. Fuck it. Why not? I get to eat more now that I’m not losing weight.


  • How the hell did I just gain 7 lbs.? Why is my body out to get me?


  • Time to behave again.




  • Just lost 5 lbs.! #winning



  • Oops. Just gained 5 lbs.
  • Am I getting fat again?
  • Never mind. Weight is back down. False alarm.