In this article, I want to look at lactate threshold running workouts, and how you should be doing them to increase your lactate threshold so you can run faster for longer.
I’ll be sharing examples below, of some of my favourite running workouts designed to improve your lactate threshold. At least one of them will surprise you!
In my first article in this series of posts on lactate threshold training, I took a moment to define this commonly used term and explain what “lactate threshold” actually means. The second article described the various different ways of testing lactate threshold in runners.
What is Lactate Threshold?
Your lactate threshold is the specific intensity of exercise where blood lactate starts to accumulate. This onset of blood lactate accumulation occurs when you start relying on your anaerobic metabolism to produce the energy to maintain this high intensity of exercise.
Through regular lactate threshold workouts, a runner can increase the pace at which they hit their lactate threshold, in effect training their body to run faster for longer without the heavy-legged feeling of fatigue that comes with the build-up of blood lactate
Here’s a graph to show the changes in blood lactate accumulation that can be seen after a period of specific training using lactate threshold running workouts.
How to Increase Your Lactate Threshold
It is possible to increase your lactate threshold with specific workouts.
Running at an intensity very close to your lactate threshold will provide the training adaptations which will delay the onset of blood lactate accumulation and in doing so increase the running pace that you can maintain for a given effort level.
Don’t be fooled into thinking this is easy though, as these type of lactate threshold running workouts can be very demanding, both physically and mentally! Therefore in your weekly schedule, you need to factor them in with adequate recovery time.
Most runners would typically start with one lactate threshold session per week and perhaps add another as a later progression.
Remember, should definitely test and re-test your lactate threshold periodically to monitor your progress. Here’s an article on how to find your lactate threshold.
There are three main ways to improve your lactate threshold:
- Increase your weekly running mileage
- Add weekly tempo runs into your running schedule
- Perform regular lactate threshold intervals
Let’s look at each of these points in turn…
Increase Weekly Running Mileage
This first one might surprise you, but simply by increasing your weekly running mileage will make the mitochondria (the powerhouse within your cells), making them more efficient at providing you with energy to run.
It’s these cellular changes ultimately increase your lactate threshold, and allow you to run faster for longer.
In many cases, runners are simply not running enough to develop their aerobic capacity, the foundation upon which all other aspects of running fitness are built. So even though this is an article on lactate threshold, I want to start this list by making the point that merely by conducting aerobic work you will improve your lactate threshold.
When increasing your weekly running mileage, focus on increasing the volume of easy (aerobic effort) running you do each week, rather than increasing the harder running workouts.
Tempo Running Workouts for Lactate Threshold
For most runners, these are key running workouts that specifically increase your lactate threshold. Your tempo running workouts don’t need to be complex. In fact, they can be as simple as a continuous run of typically around 30-60 minutes at your lactate threshold pace (or heart rate).
Try this simple example of a tempo running workout:
Lactate Threshold Intervals
You can get a similar benefit that you get from the tempo run by splitting it into reps. These workouts are classic Professor Jack Daniels type workouts. He calls these cruise intervals. Check out the video below where Daniels presents a talk on lactate threshold training.
If you don’t enjoy the ‘sustained effort’ nature of tempo runs, then lactate threshold intervals are a good alternative.
However, remember that for us runners, it’s often the sessions that we like the least that we need the most!
Here are three examples of lactate threshold interval workouts:
Here’s a great talk I found from Professor Jack Daniels, where he talks about lactate threshold workouts for runners: