Three Lactate Threshold Boosting Running Workouts
The aim of my first first article in this series on Lactate Threshold Training was to define this 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, and examples of how to conduct each of them.
Although Lactate Threshold (LT) training is the most important type of training for distance runners, many runners don’t understand how to improve their lactate threshold. The best way to do so is simple – train at, or slightly above your lactate threshold. Although this may seem like a form of speedwork, it’s more accurate to view it as a determinant of ones endurance, the ability to maintain a pace for a prolonged distance.
LT workouts are of 3 basic types, all of which you run at the pace that coincides with your lactate threshold. The objective of these workouts is to run hard enough that lactate is just starting to accumulate in your blood. If you train at a lower intensity, there won’t be as great a stimulus to improve LT pace.
If you train faster you’ll accumulate lactate rapidly, which won’t train your muscles to work hard without accumulating lactate. Training most effectively doesn’t mean training as hard as possible.
The 3 main types of Lactate Threshold running workouts are:
- Tempo Runs
- Lactate Threshold Intervals
- Lactate Threshold Hills
In all cases, LT workouts should feel comfortably hard. This means that you should feel as if you’re working at a high level, but at a level you can sustain: if you were to increase the pace by 10 seconds or more per mile then you would have to slow within the next few minutes. If you are stiff and sore the next day you have run too hard.
This is the Classic Workout to improve your lactate threshold and is a continuous run of say 20 to 40 minutes at LT Pace. An example I give some of my athletes is a 2 mile warm up, 4 miles at half marathon race pace and a 2 mile cooldown. The would do this workout on a relatively flat road or on the track. At first it is a good idea to either do tempo runs on a track or with a GPS or accurately measured course in order to check your pace. After a few tempo runs you start to get a feel for your true LT Pace. Studies have shown that most runners can reliably reproduce this pace once they have learned it. Low key (C Focus) races of 5 – 10k are a great substitute for tempo runs. My coached athletes will do these without a taper and often at a given pace – some of them even manage to stick to this pace and NOT go too hard! The key is not to get carried away and go eye balls out.
Lactate Threshold Intervals
Rather than doing a continuous tempo run, you can gain a similar benefit by breaking the tempo run into 2 or 4 segments. These workouts were popularised by Professor Jack Daniels and are sometimes known as cruise intervals. An example could be 3 repetitions of 8 minutes each at LT pace. LT intervals can be a good option if you tend to avoid tempo runs. However remember most athletes do what they like to do not what they should do.
So if these intervals sound more up your street then the additional mental effort of a tempo run will help you when the going gets tough in a race. A good coach will understand where you need to work.
Lactate Threshold Hills
A great way to increase your LT is to run long hills. If you are fortunate (unfortunate) enough to live in an area with a number of good sized hills you can do LT workouts in a training loop concentrating on the hills. An example session could be a 10 mile loop that includes 4 half-mile long hills and one mile long hill. If you pushed the uphills so you are running at LT intensity you would accumulate about 20 minutes or so at your LTVO2 during the run.
In my article on VO2 we saw that your VO2 max increases through training. Unfortunately VO2 max increases during your earlier years but tends to plateau, so if you’ve been training effectively for a number of years you’ve probably realised most of your potential gains in VO2. Lactate Threshold however continues to increase with adaptations occurring at a cellular level to allow you to run at a higher percentage of VO2 max without building up lactic acid. Studies have shown that the increase in lactate threshold occurs due to both decreased lactate production and increased lactate clearance.
For races longer than 10k, lactate threshold (LT) is the most important factor in determining running performance so include these in your weekly mix of sessions to see performance improvements.
Table 1 Examples of Lactate Threshold Workouts
Leave a comment. Ask us a question...