Possible to do too little VO2 Max / MAP work?

Hi coaches (@trevor, @ryan, @steveneal),

I’m wondering if it’s possible to do too little VO2 Max / MAP work? Once the pandemic hit I really focused on volume over everything else. This has been pretty successful in pushing LT1 upwards, but threshold hasn’t really moved. I was looking at one and five minute peak heart rates last night and noticed these numbers have decreased pretty significantly since before the pandemic.

  • 1 min max in September of 2019 was 192
  • 1 min max in 2021 was 184
  • 5 sec max in September of 2019 was 198
  • 5 sec max in 2021 was 186

I looked at WKO’s modeling of time at VO2 Max and here’s what I found. In the last two years I have had:

  • Nine rides with 10+ min at VO2 Max as modeled by WKO
  • One ride with 15+ min at VO2 Max as modeled by WKO

So, only around 5 workouts a year, and some of these may have been hilly rides rather than structured workouts. Regardless, there were no blocks of VO2 max work. Instead, these rides were randomly completed throughout the time period.


I think it’s definitely possible to do that. I’ve seen many athletes come into the lab with tons and tons of mileage primarily below LT1. They have great abilities to go all day long as that low to moderate effort, but do struggle when it’s time to go hard. That old SAID principle - the “S” (Specific) is the key there. With top-end work, it’s like anything else. If you neglect it, it will decline. And unfortunately those top-end parameters seem to decline easier than aerobic adaptations when we back away from them.

But again it’s about what you need - maybe for your performance goals or events you don’t need much up there? When I train ultrarunners, that’s always the discussion. We try to keep some of that MAP (or MAS for runners) work in there, but depending on the runner it could be relatively low in the big picture because they just won’t need to work at that kind of effort. Or you could consider times of the year when you need/want those 1min and 5sec powers. It luckily doesn’t take a lot of time to sharpen yourself, so I think you can have that focus without undercutting your aerobic/LT1 gains. And from a wellness perspective I do still feel strongly that the higher intensity is a necessary component as we age and should not be neglected. It doesn’t have to be done to excess, but there are benefits to keeping some of that higher intensity present as we age.


Great comments by all.


I will just add a little story.

I explain this type of intensity like a path through a field.

If there is a fairly well-traveled path through a field, the grass won’t grow very long, like the grass beside the path.

If less and less people take this path, the grass will grow and grow. After a while the grass may get so long that when people start to take it again the walking is tough going, until the path gets broken back in.

Try and figure out how much intensity you need to do to keep all of your engine running well, maybe not perfect, but well.

The only exceptions I have seen are people with solid genetic abilities at these intensities, as well as those athletes who can really suffer. They seem to be able to fake it better with less training at higher intensities.


Wow! Two great responses. Thank you @ryan and @steveneal! I will think on both of your words.

You are not the only one. My VO2 work was lacking in 2021 with my main events cancelled. Now I’m just starting to get back on it, having work on re establishing my base. Having an big event I’m aiming at is really important to my motivation to put the hard work in.