What Is Your Maximal Aerobic Speed and How to Use It in Training
Determining your Maximal Aerobic Speed (MAS) and using it to better program your training can significantly improve the effectiveness of your endurance development and your running speed.
Every athlete wouldn’t mind getting faster over longer times and distances. Most sports require massive amounts of endurance, and the speed you can maintain gives you an edge over the competition in countless scenarios.
But what is Maximal Aerobic Speed, and how can you use it to improve your athletic development?
This article covers everything you need to know about what MAS (Maximal Aerobic Speed) is, how to measure it, and how you can use it to design effective training protocols.
What is MAS (Maximal Aerobic Speed)
MAS stands for Maximal Aerobic Speed. It is the measure of the minimum speed that you reach your maximum oxygen consumption rate during intense exercise.
Your body can produce energy by two different methods: Aerobic and anaerobic metabolism.
Aerobic metabolism is when your body creates energy using oxygen. Using oxygen for burning carbohydrates, fats, and amino acids is a more sustainable form of energy production. This is why it’s ideal for any exercise requiring endurance.
Anaerobic metabolism creates energy without the use of oxygen. When you cross your maximal oxygen consumption rate (V02 Max), your body shifts from aerobic to anaerobic energy production. Anaerobic metabolism is excellent at producing short bursts of energy. But when you reach your anaerobic threshold, it produces inorganic phosphate in the bloodstream, which may be what plays a crucial role in accelerating skeletal muscle fatigue.
Your MAS is the highest speed you can run while still staying aerobic and using oxygen for energy. Any higher speed will shift to anaerobic energy production and reduce sustainability.
How Is Maximal Aerobic Speed Different Than V02 Max?
Biological and technical jargon aside. Simply put, you can run for long distances, but you can’t sprint forever. The thing that determines what is running and what is sprinting for you is your VO2 max and anaerobic threshold.
V02 Max is your maximal aerobic capacity, the maximum amount of oxygen your body can use in your working muscles during exercise.
MAS is the slowest speed where you reach your V02 max and is sometimes referred to as vV02Max. (Velocity at V02 max)
V02 max is an excellent indicator of athletic performance, especially for endurance. Unfortunately, measuring it accurately typically means taking a trip to the lab for a V02 max score.
While you can use formulas to estimate your V02 max score, the tests used to measure your MAS are far more straightforward and can actually be a much more helpful tool in designing your training programs.
How to Measure Maximal Aerobic Speed
Simplest Method: Time Trial
A set distance time trial is one of the most straightforward ways to get an accurate estimation of your maximal aerobic speed.
For this test, you will pick a set distance between 1.4-2.2 km.
Base the distance you select within that range on the timeframe you will likely finish in. You will want a distance you will cover within 5-7 minutes. Anything below or above that timeframe can lead to inaccurate results.
Once you’ve selected the distance, begin the time trial and record the time it took you to run the distance at your highest perceived effort.
How to Calculate MAS From Time Trial:
Distance (Meters) / Time (Seconds) = MAS
If you selected a distance of 1.5km (1,500m) and ran it in 06:15 (371 seconds), your MAS calculation would be:
1,500m (Distance) / 370 (Time) = 4.05mps (MAS)
For this example, the MAS score for running a 1.5km distance in 06:15 would be 4.05 mps or 9.06mph. Now, we can cover how you can use this number in your training to improve your VO2 max right along with your MAS score.
Training Using MAS
When most athletes think of training to improve their endurance, the first metric that comes to mind is V02 max. While V02 max is an essential indicator for endurance performance, it isn’t very useful to determine the speed or distances you should be training at for high intensity work.
This is where the utility of your MAS score comes into play. Since your MAS is a rate, you can use it as the starting point for calculating your training speeds.
MAS Training Example:
Suppose you are doing interval training with a 1:1 work/rest ratio and are targeting an intensity of 120% of your maximum aerobic speed. In that case, you can calculate the distance you need to cover for the time you’ve given yourself for the working set using this formula:
MAS x Intensity x Working Set Time = Distance
Let’s use the results of the previous MAS calculation example and assume our interval workout is 20 seconds on 20 seconds rest.
4.05mps x 1.2 x 20s = 97.2m
Now all you have to do for your training sessions is set out your distance, set your stopwatch to beep every 20 seconds, and beat the clock each set. This ensures that you’re training at an optimal intensity to get the most out of your training sessions.
Tools to Help You Measure and Improve MAS for Sports
You can use a few different tools to maximize training using your MAS score and also to help you with your overall training performance.
Tracking Your Speed:
The first is the JAWKU Speed, which gives you powerful speed tracking technology combined with multi-thousand dollar race timing gates but only requires your phone and one straightforward wearable.
You can use the JAWKU Speed to simplify your interval training, verify how well you match your MAS on every set, and maximize the accuracy of your timing by removing the inconsistency of relying on someone with a stopwatch.
Monitoring Heart Rate:
The second tool we’ll cover is using a quality training watch with a good old-fashioned heart rate monitor.
Monitoring your heart rate during training gives you valuable insights into whether or not you’re leaving untapped potential on the table (or if you’re pushing too hard.) Perceived effort can fluctuate based on many factors. But a heart rate monitor will give you the accuracy you need to ensure you’re training at the right levels to maximize improvements to V02 max and, ultimately, your MAS score.
Not all heart rate monitors are created equal. Light-based monitors that come with most fitness trackers can be a headache when they don’t update rapidly enough to detect variability during intense training. That’s why going with a classic chest strap is still an excellent option for athletes.
The Garmin Forerunner with the HRM-Tri Heart Rate Monitor gives you reliable heart rate data and additional running mechanics information invaluable to your form and performance.
You always want to ensure you’re getting the most out of training. Improving your accuracy in monitoring your speed with the JAWKU speed or ensuring that you are giving the right amount of effort for each training session – leaves the guesswork out of making progress.
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