When you sign up for the Paris Half Marathon, the organizers propose that you have your MAS (Maximum Aerobic Speed) evaluated. I had a friend who had done the test a couple years ago and so when I got the invitation, I immediately jumped at the opportunity.
It was organized by Urban Running (a training company in Paris) in partnership with the race organizers, and completely free.
But let’s take a step back first. I had to do a bit of research to know exactly what MAS was. It is a very frequent notion here in France (VMA = Vitesse Maximum Aerobic), but when I researched it in English V02 Max came up more frequently. So let’s start there. If I summarize what I learned (primary sources wikipedia & Runner’s world):
- V02 max is the maximum amount of oxygen consumed by the body during intense exercises
- It is the maximum amount of oxygen your body can deliver to your exercising muscles. If you increase the amount of oxygen, and you can run, bike, swim, or ski faster.
- By improving your V02 max your heart gets stronger and delivers more oxygen to your body / muscles and your muscles get better at using the oxygen.
The objective of the MAS (Maximum Aerobic Speed) test is to evaluate the speed at which oxygen is being used to a maximum (V02 max), which in turn tells you what time you can expect to do in certain races and tells you how you should train. It can evolve & improve over time with interval training.
- I had to sign up for a specific time slot because there was a huge demand. 50 people per hour.
- The test takes place on a track where the trainers of Urban Running first explained to us how the test works.
- They then lead us through a series of specific warm ups (short jog around the track, specific, short accelerations or movements – for example high knees, foot to butt) and a bit of stretching.
- Then came the test.
MAS test : The general idea is that there is a buzzer that goes off (“beep”) at regular intervals. At each beep you need to be aligned with cones which are along the track. The time between the beeps gets shorter and shorter, meaning you need to run faster to keep up.
- There are cones set up at 20 meter intervals around the track.
- You start standing next to a cone.
- The buzzer goes off and you start running at a very easy pace.
- The buzzer goes off at regular intervals and each time it sounds you need to be aligned with the next cone
- So you need to control your speed to be aligned with the cone
- You run for about 3 or 4 cones at a constant speed, then there is an announcement that the next level is coming.
- The buzzer goes off and you need to speed up to be sure you are aligned with the cones.
- When you can not keep up with the buzzer, (no longer aligned with the cones when the beep goes off), you know what level you are at and that gives you your speed. In short, the test starts off at 8 kmph then every 30 or 40 seconds (minute ?) or so it goes up by half a kilometer in speed.
- You are supposed to run until you have pushed yourself to the max
Make sense ? I have rewritten this several times trying to simplify. I hope it is clear.
The test itself lasts about 10 to 20 minutes depending on how fast you run !
- Afterwards the trainers took us through a series of muscular reinforcement exercises as a sample they do to train runners
- There was a short presentation to fully explain MAS and why it mattered
- There were experts there you could ask questions to : nutritionist, podiatrist, osteopaths, trainers
- They give you your results and it indicates how well you can expect to do for different race distances.
My MAS was 13 km/h which means I could expect to do the following times : 54:18 for a 10K, 2:01:44 for a semi and 4:19:40 for a marathon. No idea how this is calculated ! but it seems pretty logical based on my past results.
The test is completely free and even if there is some promotion for Urban running, it was extremely subtle. They would of course love to train you and showed what kind of interval training you could expect to increase your MAS. I find it normal that they pitched their business when they offer this service.
Definitely an interesting experience, very glad I did it.
Have you ever done a Maximum Aerobic Speed test ? Is using MAS a typical way to train in the US ?