Do You Know Your Lactate Threshold?

Jan 3, 2013   //   by Neil Scholes   //   Triathlon And Endurance Coaching  //  2 Comments

The aim of the my first article on Lactate Threshold Training was designed to explain what it actually is. In this second look I am aiming to describe how to determine Lactate Threshold (LT) and in the final piece I will look at how to improve it.

Measuring Lactate Threshold

Lactate Threshold GraphThe best way to determine your LT is to be tested in an accredited exercise physiology lab.

During this test you run or cycle for several minutes at increasing speeds. The lactate concentration in your blood is measured by pricking your finger and analysing the drop of blood. A typical LT test might consist of 6 increasingly fast stages of 5 minutes each, with perhaps 30s between stages to obtain the sample.

The graphing of your blood lactate concentration at various running speeds allows the physiologist to determine your pace and heart rate that coincide with your lactate threshold. I have found this method to be the most accurate and is the one I would recommend. It doesn’t have to cost the earth; check out your local university sports science department or even volunteer for a student’s research project.

Estimating Lactate Threshold

If the above method is not available to you then a lower-tech method is to use your race times. If you are an experienced runner for example then your LT Pace will be approximately your Race Pace for a 15k to half marathon race. The rationale behind this is that it is your lactate threshold that determines the pace you can maintain for races of these distances. For shorter races you can exceed your LT and for longer races for example a marathon you will run under your lactate threshold. If the majority of your running experiences are with shorter distances then your LT pace will be roughly 10 to 15s per mile slower than your 10k race pace.

You can also estimate the appropriate pace to stimulate improvements in your lactate threshold based on heart rate. LT Pace generally occurs at approximately 80-90% of heart rate reserve, which is about 85 – 92% of maximal heart rate. As the relationship between lactate threshold and heart rate varies depending on genetics and fitness level, your 15k to half marathon race pace is probably a more accurate estimate. You can then determine the heart rate that coincides with that pace.

Even though LT training is the most important type of training for distance runners looking to enhance performances, many runners don’t understand how to improve their lactate threshold.

In the third and final article of this series, I consider the three basic types of LT running workout, their objectives, and examples of each type of workout.

About The Author

Neil is one of the most knowledgeable endurance coaches you'll ever be likely to meet, both in terms of qualifications and valuable experience. He's well into his second decade in the sport of triathlon and third decade as a competitive runner.

In recent years Neil has worked with Runners, from those looking to complete their first 5k through to Elites racing the Olympic Marathon, and Triathletes, from those looking to finish their first ever sprint event, through Age Group medallists at World Championships, Ironman Age Group winners to the Elite Squad at University of Bath.

As an accomplished Ironman triathlete, Neil races for Royal Navy Triathlon and has represented Great Britain at Age Group Level across various distances.

2013 has seen him run a sub 3hr at the Rotterdam Marathon, then complete his second 56 mile Comrades Ultra Marathon in South Africa in June; he is now making his return to racing Ironman Triathlon.

Neil is available for Triathlon & Running Coaching.



  • [...] commonly used term and explain what it actually means.  The second article aimed to describe the various ways in which Lactate Threshold (LT) can be determined. In this third and final piece, I consider the three basic types of LT workout, their objective, [...]


    Guys, see attached article. You are confusing LT with MLSS
    LT is first material uptick, and can be held for longer that you suggest.
    MLSS is what you are referring too in your article.

    Personally, I think lactate is not a good method by which to measure intensity.
    Afterall, lactate is a useful substance & not the bad boy everyone makes it out to be!
    It’s much easier for people to use a combination of pace (% of race pace) & HR as a check of intensity & to train by.Most people have gps watches these days. Do a race, set your zones.

    Love the site & articles keep up the good work.

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