Lactate Threshold

Want to run some PB’s in the New Year?

Of course you do.


I see lots of runners that do quite a lot of running, but come race day, their performances are consistently consistent, but not increasingly increasing. So what is the reason for this?


One of the reasons why many people start out struggling with their running but end up loving it is because they learn to find their ideal cruising pace. You know, that pace that you can sit in and just coast along without really having to get uncomfortable.

Physiologically speaking, that pace is well within your aerobic threshold where your body utilizes oxygen to produce its energy and the waste products (lactate) are broken down and transported away efficiently and easily. It’s no wonder that you end up feeling like you could run all day. Not that there is anything wrong with that… It’s just that your cruising pace, while being extremely efficient from an energy usage perspective, does little for improving your speed in racing conditions.

To really make a difference in your ability to push your pace upwards and maintain it, the key factor for improvement is raising your Lactate Threshold. This physiological measurement is representative of your body’s ability to produce this waste product Lactate and utilize it faster and more effectively than you otherwise would.

Research has found that Lactate Threshold is the most important determinant of success in endurance related activities and events. Improving this function is not necessarily Rocket Surgery but does require you to step outside the comfort fortress that many runners build around themselves. Raising your Lactate Threshold in training can be done in many different ways. Scientists have found that the three best ways to improve this are:

  1. High Volume Training – increasing the overall time you train in any given week.
  2. Maximal Steady State Training – such as tempo runs where you are running at a steady but hard to very hard pace.
  3. Interval Training above the Lactate Threshold – Fartlek, Speedplay, Intervals, it goes by many names, but hard efforts broken by periods of active recovery.

From a practical implementation point of view, your training program would ideally have a good mixture of these training states and gradually increase one or more of these factors each week. The increase is recommended to be no more than 10-20% per week, but this number will vary depending on the point at which the athlete is up to in their periodized progression.

The runners that I coach would be all too aware that I believe it is very important to include sessions of high intensity training in a wide range of applications including hills, pure speed sessions, combination intervals followed by low or moderate efforts and so on. You have to keep the body guessing for it to continually adapt…

So, if you have a your sights set on running faster in 2014 than you did in 2013 and perhaps even getting your name on the board in a race or two, consider the concept of Lactate Threshold training.

If you would like more information or to have someone do the training planning for you, contact me about an individualized Run Coaching program.


Run long,

Shaun Brewster.

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