How To Coach The 12 Minute Cooper Run Test

Today’s blog will explore How To Coach The 12 Minute Cooper Run Test and calculate a VO2 Max score for a client.

The 12 Minute Cooper Run Test is a Cardiovascular fitness test, with a quick and efficient protocol to understand the fitness level of your client, aka their VO2 Max score. This test involves running at elevated intensities for 12 minutes, so it is perfect for intermediate or advanced clients that like running.

Before we explore the test protocol, we must first understand what VO2 Max is, and why it’s an important measurement…

What Is VO2 Max?

When you breathe, you inhale oxygen into your blood. Your heart pumps the blood into your muscles. That oxygen fuels chemical reactions that give your muscles energy.

You breathe more quickly and deeply while exercising because your muscles need more energy to work harder. VO2 max measures how much oxygen (usually in milliliters) you breathe in while exercising as hard as you can. The more oxygen you inhale, the more energy your body can use. Higher VO2 max usually means better physical fitness.

VO2 max is the volume of oxygen you can take in, transport utilize, and expel. (maybe expand) Upon completion of a cardio fit test, you can easily work out a client’s estimated V02 max score and compare them to normative data based on age and gender.

Why Is VO2 Max Important?

Your client’s VO2 max shows how well their heart and veins push blood to the muscles and the rest of the body. Knowing your client’s VO2 max can help you measure fitness and heart health improvements over time. It can also be a vital method of showing that your client has achieved their goal to “become fitter”. VO2 max is especially helpful for athletes like runners, swimmers, cross-country skiers, and rowers to guide their training.

This data can also be used to highlight incremental improvements in CV fitness between client review points.

What Should Your VO2 Max Be?

There’s no single number that everyone should reach. VO2 max varies from person to person. Professional athletes usually have higher VO2 max values and goals than the general population.

How Do You Measure VO2 Max? ‌

Athletes will often complete a “maximal VO” Max test”, which takes them to the maximal intensity that they can achieve via running or cycling. However this is not appropriate for most clients, so instead we can use a “sub-maximal cardiovascular fitness test” to find out the client’s VO2 Max score.

There are lots of sub-maximal cardiovascular fitness tests:

  • Rockport Walk
  • Machine Fit Test
  • Queens College Step Test
  • 12-minute Cooper Run Test

Today we’ll focus on the 12-minute Cooper Run Treadmill or running track

Objective a 12 minute Cooper Run Test

To monitor the development of a person’s estimated VO2 Max.

The test requires a person to run as far as possible in 12-minutes. Equipment: 400m track or Treadmill & a Stopwatch

The Advantages of a 12 minute Cooper Run Test

  • Easy to explain
  • Easy to implement
  • Only takes 12-minutes
  • Easy to calculate
  • Standardised test
  • Repeatable test
  • Moderate-vigorous intensity
  • Low cost

Disadvantages of a 12 minute Cooper Run Test

  • Heart rate elevation is considerable,
  • not appropriate for unfit individuals.
  • Not appropriate for those who don’t run or like running.

Test Protocol:

Complete a thorough 10-minute warm-up Introduce the test and link it to the client’s goals. Get the treadmill up to speed, record the starting distance and provide a clear start command. Ideally, keep a consistent pace throughout with one speed change at 6-minutes.

Try to avoid an interval approach. Speed should gradually increase depending on perceived exertion. Record the total distance covered in 12-minutes. You may wish to record distance, heart rate, RPE at each minute for reference.


(Distance covered in metres – 504.9) = X? X? / 44.73 = Estimated VO2 Max Example: 1800 – 504.9 = 1295.1 1295.1 / 44.73 = 28.95 Estiatmed VO2 Max

NOTE: Just because we just did some maths does NOT mean you won’t get it or understand it… Results: Based on our example of 28.95 Estiatmed VO2 Max, let’s assume this is a 55 year old lady…

Placing her as good for age. See the table below

Calculation and Results:

You can use the same Cooper run test protocol and results without calculating VO2 Max.

Instead, the score is compared to a normative table of results based on distance traveled. (see the table below)

This is a helpful tool for setting goals of incremental performance increases. Again, if we take our 55-year-old lady who traveled 1800m.

This places her again, in the good category for her age.

It’s crucial you apply the correct fitness test to the client, their current training ability, and goals.

Why is Fitness Testing important?

Often client testing is brushed past and rushed whilst learning to become a FITPRO. Which tbh saddens us… it’s a vital part of your learning journey and more so the client’s journey to guarantee a training result.

This leaves you feeling underconfident and less likely to implement safe and effective client testing. Testing isn’t about how far you can run, how fit you are, or how much you weigh.

Testing is about getting a clear and factual picture of the client’s current status.

Then and only then can you plan a block of training and individual sessions. Plus give honest and sound mindset, training, and nutrition advice for a client to achieve their goals.

There are many Fitness Tests

There are many tests that will show progressions in cardiovascular fitness, strength, flexibility, motor skills, body composition, blood pressure, and other key measurements. Our FIT-Progressions online programme breaks down each of these in detail with clear protocol to follow for each one.

Plus you learn how to periodise your planning of these systems to allow for logical progressive overload so your client can get their goal every time.

>>>> Join us for FIT-Progressions here

Become a knowledgeable and confident FITPRO, with a clear strategy to get results with your clients every time.

There’s no more self-doubt. There’s no more guessing what to plan or how to get client results. FIT-Progressions has 8 modules and 18 video tutorials that guide you through every stage of your Level 3 Personal Trainer case study, and how to work with clients effectively.

This is for you if you’re…

  • struggling to complete your coursework for PT, Yoga, or Pilates
  • a newly qualified FITPRO that feels stuck or overwhelmed
  • unsure where to start when planning a client session
  • worrying about applying your course knowledge with a real client
  • doubting you could get results and lack structure to client packages
  • anxious and confused about how to get found and get busy

Click the link to find out more and join us:

Dedicated to More

Hayley “12 Minute Cooper Run Test” Bergman

Parallel Coaching

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