Next Race: Rotterdam Marathon 7th April 2019

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 wanted to look at LT workouts, their objective, and examples of how to conduct each of them. At least one of them will surprise you!

Having read the first two articles we have a better understanding of Lactate Threshold and for distance runners the training associated with it can be the most important type of training they do.  All LT workouts aim to achieve the same thing they look to having you train at, or above your lactate threshold.

By training at your LT you actually increase the threshold and in doing so you can increase the pace that can be held for a given effort level. Don’t be fooled into thinking this is easy as this training can be demanding and therefore in your weekly schedule you need to factor it in with recovery time. An athlete would typically start with one session a week and perhaps progress to two or three. You can revisit your method of determining LT after you have trained this way and determine whether or not you have been successful. I’d certainly think you will have improved your endurance by training just below this threshold.

The 3 main way to move your threshold point to the right:

  • Increasing Volume
  • Tempo Runs
  • Lactate Threshold Intervals

Increase Volume

This one might surprise you but simply by increasing run volume you make changes in the mitochondria (the powerhouse within the cell) but it is changes made here that ultimately make changes in lactate threshold. In many cases runners are simply not running to develop their aerobic engine so even thought this is a post on lactate threshold I wanted to make the point that merely by conducting aerobic work you will affect LT.

Tempo Runs

These are the staple workouts that are prescribed to improve lactate threshold and are a continuous run of typically around 30 minutes at your LT Pace.  An example of this that I give some of my athletes is a warm up, then 4 miles at half marathon race pace and a cooldown.

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 and he calls these cruise intervals.  An example that he cites could be 3 repetitions of 8 minutes each at LT pace. If you don’t ‘enjoy’ tempo runs then LT intervals can be an alternative  However remember most athletes do what they like to do not what they should do.

Lactate threshold (LT) is an important factor in determining running performance in longer races so try including one of these sessions to start with in your weekly mix.


  1. Hi
    A quick question. Is Lactate Threshold equal to Aerobic or Anaerobic Threshold? There are conflicting views in articles I read and research I do.
    Thanks for your help and great source of information.
    Best wishes

    1. Great question! Not so easy to give a short answer though!

      During exercise at low intensity levels, blood lactate stays near to resting levels. As intensity increases there comes a point where blood lactate levels rise. Researchers have suggested that this is where the shift from aerobic metabolism to anaerobic energy production occurs.

      There are many terms have been used to describe this shift and the area on a graph around this shift but they are not the same point. However I think this is of more use to a scientist rather than an athlete:

      Lactate threshold
      • Anaerobic threshold
      • Aerobic threshold
      • Onset of blood lactate accumulation (OBLA)
      • Maximal lactate steady state

      These terms are often used in the running media and to be honest by myself but they do not describe the same point. Lactate concentration is the balance between production and removal and doesn’t refer to suggests oxygen availability so the terms aerobic and anaerobic are used incorrectly.

      Hope that helps and hasn’t clouded the water even more!

      1. Neil

        Thanks so much for this. So many people, including coaches, use these terms without full reference so this really helps. I’m a Chi Running instructor and also a personal trainer in the UK and need to be very specific in what I’m teaching so its great to get such a detailed, straight-forward description. You would mind if I posted this response on my website with of course full credit to you and link to your site?
        Best wishes

  2. Hi Neil,

    You mention the importance of threshold and VO2Max paced sessions, I was wondering where do 10K paced sessions fit into a training program? Are these sessions beneficial in the same was as threshold running is? I have often overlooked threshold running and used 8 x 1K @ 10K and 5 x 1mile as staple sessions. Would I benefit from more threshold sessions?

    Great articles and very informative, thanks.


  3. How does LT differ from V02 max? I read both of your articles and while the LT article explains very well how i should train once I know my LT pace, I can’t figure out what I’m supposed to do once I know my V02. In other words how do I convert my V02 data to usable training info? How does this number convert to interval pace?

  4. How do you feel about LT Hill runs on a treadmill? Same benefit as using the road?

    I usually start my hill at 5-8% and work up to 12% while maintaining about an 80% effort for 5 miles.

  5. Timm
    I’m not a great fan personally of the treadmill but of course you can do sessions there and indeed for many people it is a necessity. I think the session you describe could be broken down to a session more akin to the LT Intervals described in the article or to set the treadmill to the hills setting and to aim for LT on the uphills recovering on the down akin to that described as LT Hills.
    Thanks for the question.

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