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Lactate Threshold Training: Improve Your Endurance and Speed

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What according to you is the primary focus of training? Well, generally it should be to enable your body to run at a fast pace for a longer period of time. Your first step towards running faster should be to build an aerobic base of rather easy miles and then improving the running economy with the help of strides and brief intervals. Once you are successful in developing a base, your next best option that would help you to get faster would be Lactate threshold training. But what is lactate and what does lactate threshold training mean? Here, we would take you through the detail of this training. We have also included a few popular workouts that would help you in getting faster. Let’s get started. 

Table of Content

  • Understanding Lactate Threshold
  • Calculate The LT Heart Rate
  • Importance of Lactate Threshold 
  • How to Improve Lactate Threshold
  • Marathon Lactate Threshold Training Workouts
  • Summing Up 

Understanding Lactate Threshold

What is Lactate or Lactic Acid?

According to the usual belief, lactate is the source that forces a person to slow down. But, it is not so. Lactate, in fact, is the fuel source which however is associated with the waste products that are responsible for slowing you down. Glucose is broken down by the body for the energy and one of the bi-products of this product is referred to as lactate. 

When you are running, the body would convert and recycle this lactic acid back into energy that your muscles need and expel the waste products. 

lactate threshold training
Push your limits

What Does The Term Lactate Threshold Mean? 

Lactate threshold training definition: Lactate threshold is the point where the body of the individual produces lactate in a huge amount, which is actually more than what it can utilize. It is for this reason that the waste products start to accumulate without being cleared. 

Lactate threshold (LT) is basically the point at which you can run without producing more lactic acid than what your body can use and convert it back to energy. At times when this happens, your blood’s pH levels would lower as the hydrogen ions which are basically a by-product of lactic acid gets accumulated in your muscles. This leads to the burning sensation that you experience when working out hard. 

This lactate threshold pace generally corresponds to 10 miles or to the pace of a half marathon race. It is for this reason that the lactate threshold training or the tempo run training has been designed in such a way that you would be running exactly at the pace of your threshold or right below it. 

When you run at your threshold pace or somewhere very near to the threshold, your body would eventually become more capable of clearing the lactic acid and then reusing it so as to provide energy to your muscles. Slowly and steadily, you would be able to push back the threshold and thereby run faster before fatigue takes over and you would be forced to slow down. 

Quite similar to lactate threshold, the anaerobic threshold calculates the point at which your body begins to burn glycogen rather than what it normally should. Anaerobic threshold and lactate threshold are related closely to each other and most of the athletes can actually get by without actually differentiating them. You as a runner can use the lactate threshold calculator to get an estimate. \

Lactate training threshold
Know your threshold (source)

Calculate The LT Heart Rate

The Lactate threshold heart rate (LTHR) can easily be calculated by doing a time trial of approximately 30 minutes all by yourself. It should be done as it was a race of 30 minutes. After 10 minutes into the race, on your heart rate monitor, click the lap button. The average rate of heart towards the final 20 minutes would be your LTHR. 

To be able to establish the lactate threshold training zones you would need to know your heart rate or the running paced that corresponds to the lactate threshold. The lactate threshold pace calculator can be used to determine the pace. Other than that, there is a typical LT test wherein the runner has to run at a low speed on the treadmill for some time. After that, the runner would be required to run extremely fast until the point when he/she cannot run anymore. 

At each step, the person taking the test would take small blood samples from the fingertips of the runner and measure the lactate concentration in the blood. Once the test is finished, this data is used and the lactate threshold is pinpointed where the concentration of the blood lactate begins to increase rapidly.

Lactate threshold training
Find out your lactate threshold (source)

Importance of Lactate Threshold 

The lactate threshold training or the tempo run workouts are meant to build the speed and strength of an individual. As opposed to the usual belief, this training does not improve the efficiency of the cardiovascular system in absorbing oxygen and transporting it. 

Lactate threshold is regarded as an essential element when it comes to determining the success in races of longer distances. There are a few factors that need to be considered when talking about the power of lactate threshold:

  • The Lactate threshold would most likely be higher in athletes who are very well-trained. This means that they have the capability to run faster in races while the VO2 max is very less likely to shift
  • The Lactate threshold is related to the performance at very low levels of exertion like the aerobic threshold and at times even higher level of exertion like that of VO2 max.
  • Higher Lactate threshold results in the comparatively rapid emergence of fatigue in an individual. Thereby, when you work on improving the LT, it leads to raising the "point of no return.”

In the end, what matters is how fast you are capable of running at your Lactate threshold. The benefit of lactate threshold training for distance runners is that they would be able to endure a greater intensity of effort for a much longer time. In short, lactate threshold training would lead to the improvement of your endurance. 

lactate threshold
Well trained runners have higher lactate threshold

How to Improve Lactate Threshold?

Lactate threshold can be improved greatly with High-volume aerobic training. You should focus on building aerobic volume at “Zone two.”

But, what exactly is Zone two and why is it important?

Zone two can be thought of as an aerobic intensity which is at about five or six on the discerned exertion scale. In simpler words, it's easy to easy-moderate exertion wherein you would easily be able to hold a conversation without having to stop for breath.

For most of the athletes, approximately 80% of the training is aerobic. The extent of the aerobic training would completely be dependent on what your goals are and your background. However, in general, most of the athletes should spend approximately 2 to 3 weeks in doing easy running before jumping onto the complex and challenging workouts. 

After this is where the lactate threshold training would come into light. With this workout, you need to remember that it is the effort that your body can sustain in an hour. When training at lactate threshold, you need to understand that it is not a race and as per the general rule, over the course of each workout, you would have to be running for about 20 to 45 minutes at LT. This could be broken up according to how much your body can sustain and the terrain at which you feel would be suitable for meeting your goals. 

Marathon Lactate Threshold Training Workouts

When you are training for a marathon, your primary focus is obviously to be able to run for a longer period of time, increasing your tempo run’s distance and to be able to perform more goal paced running. In all of this, it is essential that you do not forget to work efficiently on achieving the lactate threshold target. This is because; it is one of the most efficient ways to enhance your racing speed for the marathon. 

Listed below are a few Lactate Threshold Training Workouts that would help you to improve your endurance and succeed:

  • Marathon Fartlek

As your marathon pace is somewhat on the lower end of the of the tempo run, this workout turns out to be very effective in improving it. For this workout, run between thirty to ninety minutes and alternate between four minutes at the pace of the marathon and at two minutes at the pace of the 10k run. 

Begin by approximately thirty minutes early in the cycle of your training and then eventually keep increasing the distance each time you are working out to up to approximately ninety minutes.

fartlek training
Run faster with Fartlek
  • The Cruisey Susie

The Cruisey Susie is an ideal workout when it comes to lactate threshold training as the recovery period make it comfortable for the runner. Six to eight multiplied by four minutes of LT would be a good workout. Include two minutes of easy recovery. 

This workout offers the benefit of ensuring that you are running speedily enough at your lactate threshold but not so fast that it would lead to fatigue. Most of the trail runners have biomechanical fatigue which is reduced with shorter intervals. You might be tempted to run faster but it is best to avoid running too fast. 

  • 1 Minute Lactate Builder

When it comes to training for a marathon, most of us expect longer workouts. But, the 1 Minute Lactate Builder is short and works really well in enhancing the lactate turn point for all of the goal distances. This is possible because, with this workout, your muscle gets flooded with a lot of lactic acid along with a lot of other metabolites that go along with it. For this workout, perform 12 to 16 x 1-minute repeats at fairly your full pace. Follow up with 2-minute recovery jogs at a very easy pace. When repeating the workout, remain relaxed. 

This lactate threshold training would force your body to slowly adapt and thereby become more efficient in converting the lactic acid to energy. This means that now you would easily be able to overcome the fatigue that is usually associated with longer and fast-paced runs. Along with your marathon race performance, the lactate turn point would also improve. 

1 Minute Lactate Builder
1 Minute Lactate Builder
  • The Steady Freddie

On a terrain quite similar to that of your race, remain thirty minutes at the lactate threshold. Towards the beginning, this workout might seem quite hard and you might feel that you cannot continue anymore. 

But, after a few times of practice, you would soon find this workout easy enough. You could even consider including a few minutes of easy running recovery while you are running. It would make you feel more comfortable. 

  • Marathon Variety Run

You would see that most of the marathon runners like to practice for their big race in different locations. This helps to get ready for the longer distance marathon in a better way. Also, this is what the marathon variety run is all about.  

Begin on the road for 2 miles at the goal marathon pace. Now, head a track near you and run for 1 mile at 10K pace. Once done, head back to the road again for 2 miles at the goal marathon pace before you head back to the track for another mile at the 10K pace. 

Once you finish doing that, perform another 2 miles at the marathon pace on the road and get on the track for 800 meters. The first 400 meters on the track has to be done at the 5k pace and the last 400 meters have to be completed at a pace which is as fast as you can possibly run at. The total distance that you would be covering is 8.5 miles. 

workout for lactate threshold
Marathon Variety Run
  • The Crooked Buzzsaw

For this lactate threshold training, you would need to find a hill that is relatively long. Eight to twelve multiplied by three minutes uphill at lactate threshold including one minute of recovery time wherein you can jog down slowly. 

This workout is quite easy as compared to the other workouts with the much lesser pounding. This means the workout would be perfect for low volume runners or runners who are in their 40’s or above. 

  • 1 – 2 – 3 Mile Compound Set

This is a comparatively arduous lactate threshold training which would raise your ability to run at the same pace of the race even when you are fatigued. For this workout, begin with a run for 1 mile at a 5k pace. After finishing those, for the next two miles, run at a 10K pace. Next, run for 3 miles at the pace for a goal marathon. The total distance that you would be covering is 6 miles. 

As a beginner, start with just one set and then slowly keep increasing the sets. Also, there would be no recovery time. However, if you are doing more than one set, the recovery time would be included between each of the sets with about 5 minutes of passive rest.

Summing Up 

By including lactate threshold training when preparing for the marathon, you would be able to prepare your body as well as your mind to endure faster speeds for a much longer period of time. You need to remember that pacing is the key to enhance the benefits of this training and thereby reduce the chances of injury. 


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