Three Running Workouts to Increase Your Lactate Threshold

lactate threshold running workouts

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.

lactate threshold graph

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:

  1. Increase your weekly running mileage
  2. Add weekly tempo runs into your running schedule
  3. 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:

  • 5-minute easy running warm-up
  • 30 minutes at your 10km race pace
  • 5-minute easy running cool-down

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:

  • 5-minute easy running warm-up
  • 4 x 1600m at 10km race pace (with 2-minute jogging recovery between reps)
  • 5-minute easy running cool-down

or

  • 5-minute easy running warm-up
  • 3 x 2km at 10km race pace (with 3-minute jogging recovery between reps))
  • 5-minute easy running cool-down

or

  • 5-minute easy running warm-up
  • 2 x 20 minutes at 10km race pace (with 5-minute jogging recovery between reps))
  • 5-minute easy running cool-down

Here’s a great talk I found from Professor Jack Daniels, where he talks about lactate threshold workouts for runners:

 

Last updated on April 20th, 2019.
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8 Comments

  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
    Gray

    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
        Gray

  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.

    Stevie

  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.
    Neil

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