WHAT’S my max?

The physiologist came through the door with news: “Your VO2 Max is 49”, he said, looking down at a clipboard.

I studied his face for clues, something that would get me through the next few minutes, at which point I could go to the toilet and look up “VO2 Max” on my iPhone.

It’s the type of conversation I’ve been having my whole adult life. I hate professional people with their specialist knowledge. Car mechanics, plumbers, Apple Store gurus; they all mock me with their technical talk as I try to pretend that I know what they’re on about.

I have my number, but what does it mean? I need some sort of scale: an app that tells me where 49 sits between Mo Farah at one end and someone who can barely walk to the local shops at the other.

Recognising my dilemma, the man from the Nuffield Health Fitness & Wellbeing Centre sits me down and talks me through it, in plain English.

This is all part of my preparation for the big one, the Standard Chartered Great City Race 2012 which takes place on 12 July.

VO2 max is a way of measuring a person’s physical fitness, based on their body’s ability to use oxygen during exercise. It is measured by monitoring my resting heart rate and taking other factors into consideration, such as height and weight.

The fitter you are, the higher your VO2 Max values, which in turn allows you to exercise more intensely. Another benefit of a higher VO2 max is a lower risk of heart disease.

It turns out 49 is not a bad number, considering my fondness for digestive biscuits and Sloppy Guiseppe. The man in the white coat tells me that by training to my maximum potential, I could finish the 5K run in just 20 minutes.

But there’s a hitch. I’m told I have a “weak core”: the group of deep muscles between the ribs and pelvis that gives stability to the spine. My sedentary lifestyle and poor posture mean these muscles have become weakened, making me lose coordination. My training programme must now focus on core strength exercises, designed to target these muscles and help them to activate at the right time.

Rest assured, the team at Nuffield Health will be there on race day, so any runner who wants to have their VO2 max test just has to go to their tent and introduce themselves.

Next week, it’s gait analysis using the anti-gravity treadmill. That’s not a sentence I ever expected to write.

● Whether you and your colleagues are running or not on the 12 July, check out or for more fitness and running tips.