The Cooper Test

Not unsurprisingly, the Cooper test was invented by Mr. Kenneth Cooper in 1968. Originally set out to test the US military, this unique running fitness assessment remains incredibly popular today as a means of calculating the fabled VO2max and ranking athletes on an age-based scale according to their performance (Endomondo even records your best Cooper of any run in its statistical data).

The beauty of this test is in its simplicity. Athletes simply run as fast as their little legs can carry them for exactly 12 minutes.

Ingredients:
1x Running Track (400m)

1x Stopwatch (may be substituted for a Garmin) (other GPS watches are available)

1x Whistle (optional in the GGAC coaches case)

Method:
1. Warm up for ten minutes
2. Line up at the start
3. 2. 1. GO!!
4. Run, run, ,run and run some more.
5. Who cares if your legs are going to fall off. Just keep running
6. Get lapped by faster runners, but try to hold on for this final 30 seconds or so
7. When the 12 minutes is up, STOP!
8. Try to work out where exactly you have finished on the track and count how many laps you did.
9. Put results into a snazzy calculator and bask in the glow of your results.

Despite the popularity of this test, and my knowledge of it existing, I have never purposefully undertaken an effort to push myself for 12 minutes to achieve a PB in the ‘Cooper’. Until Tuesday.

It’s written into my training plan that I should attempt the test with the club so I rocked up at the track on Tuesday night ready to give this mythical beast a good go. We headed off around the park led by Stirky who seemed to be trying to shake us off given the pace he was going and the loopy course around all the trees.

Back at the track and time to line up at the start line (which is incidentally also the 100m finish line) and prepare ourselves for starters orders. I had already remembered to turn off auto-lapping so I had an accurate time and distance measurement for the test.

On the B of the Bang we set off and I immediately settled into a pretty quick pace in the low 6’s and tried to hold this. Al was not too far in front and I just hoped to stay with him as best I could. Most of the 12 minutes is a bit of a blur really, but I remember being lapped by super fast Ben and then Adam with about 30seconds to go. At this point I desperately tried to keep up with him and he dragged me over the 200m mark by about 10 metres. I’d lost count of how many whole laps I’d done so it led to a process of elimination based on what other people had done.

In the end I managed to run 3010m in 12 minutes.

Mens results:

Age Excellent Above Average Average Below Average Poor
13-14 >2700m 2400-2700m 2200-2399m 2100-2199m <2100m
15-16 >2800m 2500-2800m 2300-2499m 2200-2299m <2200m
17-19 >3000m 2700-3000m 2500-2699m 2300-2499m <2300m
20-29 >2800m 2400-2800m 2200-2399m 1600-2199m <1600m
30-39 >2700m 2300-2700m 1900-2299m 1500-1999m <1500m
40-49 >2500m 2100-2500m 1700-2099m 1400-1699m <1400m
>50 >2400m 2000-2400m 1600-1999m 1300-1599m <1300m

As you can see from the above table, I am officially ‘Excellent’.

If I were to consider myself an athlete, however, according to the wikipedia entry I would be ‘Bad’. Good job I don’t consider myself to be an athlete :-)

Cooper test (Experienced athletes)

Gender Very good Good Average Bad Very bad
Male 3700+m 3400-3700m 3100-3399m 2800-3099m 2800-m

Not only does the test provide a ranking for my awesomeness but can also provide an estimation of my VO2max. According to the magical formula my estimated VO2max is 56.01ml/kg/min and is again rated on an age-graded scale. Once again I am at the top of the class, but this time I am classified as ‘Superior’. If I’m not careful my head won’t fit through the door soon! You can use the wikipedia entry to find out more about what VO2max means and it’s repercussions in training.

Safe to say, I was pretty pleased with my effort and I look forward to doing the test again in a couple of months time to see whether I am improving. When it’s you against the clock it is pretty easy to see if what you are doing is working. There is no hiding place.

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8 thoughts on “The Cooper Test

    1. If only I could find the time (be bothered) to find a flat parkrun at which to make that attempt. Oh and a training plan that allowed such a short run :-)

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