You may well have come across the term lactate threshold when looking at running training programmes and descriptions of running workouts.
In this first post, I’m going to take a moment to define what we mean by lactate threshold, and why it’s an important factor in pacing your running sessions correctly to get the maximum benefit from each workout.
Once you know how to start lactate threshold training, you’ll be able to train your body to run faster for longer!
Definition of Lactate Threshold
Lactate threshold is a level of intensity during exercise whereby lactate (a by-product of the carbohydrate metabolism) begins to accumulate in the blood. In other words, the production of lactate begins to exceed the rate at which the body can clear it. This is a sign that your body is now relying on anaerobic respiration to produce the energy required to maintain the level of intensity.
When resting, or exercising at low levels of intensity, the amount of lactate in your blood stays low, as at this intensity the rate of production equals the rate of removal. However, when you increase the intensity and the rate of lactate production exceeds the removal rate, blood lactate concentration rises.
Once this level of blood lactate concentration has started to increase significantly, you have reached lactate threshold. Try to maintain this intensity (for us runners, I mean to maintain the pace), and you’ll feel that all too familiar heavy-legged fatigue begin.
Here’s a great video from Sage Canaday discussing Lactate Threshold:
What is Lactate Threshold Pace?
When each of us run we don’t all use the same amounts of oxygen at the same running speed.
In terms of oxygen economy, like many things in running, some of us are more economical than others. When we consider the amount of oxygen consumed at the point of lactate threshold, we call that LTVO2. Sports Scientists such as Farrell et al., 1979 have shown that as a performance predictor for distance runners that LTVO2 and the pace at which it occurs is more accurate than a measurement of VO2 max. This lactate threshold pace is determined by only two factors:
- Your oxygen consumption at LTVO2
- Your running economy
To illustrate this point and the advantage of high LTVO2 Farrell et al., consider runners with VO2 max values that are identical, say 56ml of oxygen per kg body weight per minute (ml/kg/min) but different LT.
Athlete A’s LTVO2 occurs at 44.8 ml/kg/min (80% of VO2 max) whilst Athlete B’s LTVO2 occurs at 39.2 ml/kg/min (70% of VO2 max).
If both runners race at a speed that requires 42 ml/kg/min then Athlete A will be able to maintain the pace but Athlete B will have to slow down first.
So, What Can You Do With This Information…?
In my second article in this series, I’m going to show you some simple ways in which you can calculate your lactate threshold. Then, in the final article, I’ll share some of my favourite lactate threshold running workouts with you, so you can increase your lactate threshold, and start running faster!