A photo of Geoffrey Hayward

Pushing the Pace: 12 Seconds to Go

And the Ups and Downs of VO2 Max

Published December 21, 2023

Geoffrey Hayward seated next to the Velopark Torbay parkrun sign, capturing a selfie. He is clad in a black sports outfit and appears content. The backdrop features a cloudy sky with other participants and volunteers visible in a park environment.
Velopark Torbay parkrun.

Hi there! It’s Geoffrey again. Last week, I continued chipping away at setting a new 5K personal best. As you might know from reading my blog, I have been following a relatively regimented weekly workout routine, which includes sessions like 8-Second Hill Sprints and 1K Repeats while also trying to balance recovery. Five weeks into the journey, and according to Strava, on Saturday at the Velopark Torbay Parkrun, where I met up with the Jog On Crew, I ran within 12 seconds of hitting my 5k PB. Today, I’ll look back at week 5 of my training and discuss an unexpected twist in my VO2 Max results, which gave me food for thought.

So, over the last 5 weeks, I have been actively training my 5K pace and here’s how the week went.

On Monday, I skipped the 8-second hill sprint workout and excitedly (you might say impatiently) decided to do an all-out 5K effort. I ran a local 5K route, finishing it at 22:45 - my fastest time for the route. Encouragingly, this time matched my Cranbrook Parkrun PB I set in November. I say encouragingly because the Cranbrook Parkrun is flat, and this route is not. Hence, some encouraging progress.

On Tuesday, I continued the weekly seven by 1k intervals on the treadmill. I did a 7 by 1k @ 4:00 /km with a 70-second rest between. But reps 4 & 6 were 4:10 as a firebreak.

A screenshot displaying a running workout interface with sections labeled ‘Warm Up’, ‘Run’, ‘Recover’, and ‘Cool Down’. ‘Warm Up’ and ‘Cool Down’ are activated by a lap button press, ‘Run’ specifies ‘1k at target pace’, and ‘Recover’ is set for 1 minute 10 seconds with an estimated distance of 0.2 km. The workout is structured to be repeated 7 times.
My Seven by 1k treadmill set up.

If you are wondering how to do this workout on a treadmill, I set up my watch to count down the 70-second rest. While letting me press the lap button when the treadmill clocks up another kilometre. For example, I must remember that the next kilometre will be at, as an illustration, 7.68k if, after 70 seconds, I begin the next at 6.68k.

On Wednesday, I went for another 5K run. I took the same route as I did on Monday. I ran it at an average pace of 4:43 /km in 23:36. This time was a deviation from my usual routine, as this should have been an easy pace. Again, I was impatient last week.

On Thursday, I began the day with a 6 am tennis hitting session and felt full of beans. I played well (if it’s okay to say so myself). But by lunchtime, my energy levels were starting to drop.

Thursday lunchtime, I took a VO2 Max test that showed a dip! I wasn’t expecting to get a dip; it’s not in keeping with my progress on the tarmac. What could be the reason? I will come back to the dip later in this post.

On Friday, I tried out 6 x 400m and 6 x 200m intervals on a self-powered treadmill. This time, I let my watch guess where 400m and 200m fell.

Between each 400m, I recovered for 45 seconds, and between each 200m, I recovered for 30 seconds. I have decided to do this workout the other way around next time I try it. So next time, the 200m reps will be first. I may also extend the 400m recovery time to 55 seconds, as the 400m reps were more demanding than anticipated.

On Saturday, I joined the Job On Craw at the Velopark Torbay Parkrun. To my delight, I finished it in 22:16. Strava said I ran 5:07k and gave me an estimated 5k time of 21:59. If this is true, I am now just 12 seconds off of matching my time 5k PB. So, hitting my goal of setting a new 5K personal best looks immanent. Can I do it over the Christmas/New Year holiday?

A group photo of seven adults and two children, with most wearing bright orange ‘Jog On’ tops. They are standing on a wet pavement at the Velopark Torbay as part of a running crew. The individual not in orange is wearing a black top and is positioned on the left.
The Jog On Crew at Velopark Torbay Parkrun

After the parkrun, Harry and Steve Morgan invited me to join the Jog On Craw for coffee. Which made for a delightful after-party.

Sunday was a rest day.

The Unexpected Dip in VO2 Max:

Just last month, I was excited to share my bounce-back progress with my VO2 max and how a relatively low score in September had prompted me to make a considerable effort to get back to where I was in February this year.

My test result last Thursday indicated a dip, which I wasn’t expecting. After all, I am running faster than I was in October. October was when the bounce-back test was taken. But Thursday’s submaximal VO2 Max test at the Exeter Cardio Hub gave me a 48 ml O2/kg score. That’s quite a drop. My mid-October bounce-back score was 54 ml 02/kg.

Should I be concerned that my VO2 Max has dipped? Initially, I was puzzled, and to some extent, I still am. As I said, I am running 5K faster now than in October. Back then, a sub-23-minute 5k wasn’t doable. Now, I am confidently running sub-23-minute 5ks on demand. Clive at the Cardio Hub wondered “if [my] present running training is helping [me] run more efficiently at the expense of vo2max”.

So, unlike the September wake-up call, which was unsurprisingly lower due to a lack of effort over the summer, should the latest test be a cause for concern? Does it reflect an actual decline in my fitness level? Or was I having a bad day? Only the next test can confirm this, but considering I am running faster now and didn’t eat much before the test, I want to think the latter is true.

However, I don’t want to be naïve and dismiss this dip. So here are the takeaways I will act upon.

Firstly, preparing for the next test:

Building on my past experiences, for the next VO2 max test, I plan to:

  • Ensure a restful night’s sleep.
  • Fuel adequately and smartly a few hours before the test (just like I would for a race).
  • Avoid intensive activities right before (like playing tennis at 6 am the same day).

Secondly, adjust my training plan:

In the spirit of learning and adapting, here’s my strategy for the next 4-6 weeks (especially after the Christmas holiday):

  • Intensifying Training: Incorporating more varied high-intensity workouts. For example, I tried the 400m and 200m repeats on Friday - hopefully, I can add this workout to my training.
  • Prioritising Rest and Recovery: I’ll try to ensure ample sleep. For the last two weeks, I have struggled with getting enough sleep.
  • Smart Nutrition: I’ll focus on well-timed, balanced meals, especially on testing day.


As I reflect on the past week’s training and the unexpected dip in my VO2 Max, it’s clear that the journey towards setting a new 5K personal best is filled with nuances and surprises. I’ll continue my commitment to a balanced training regime, emphasising high-intensity workouts and crucial rest periods. Additionally, I focused on more thoughtful nutrition.

Stay tuned, but I will take a break from writing my blog over the holiday and return to it in the new year. In the meantime, why not follow me on Strava?

Enjoy your running.

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