Body by Amy, LLC

Lactate threshold training: what is it and how do you do it?

Lactate threshold training involves improving the body's ability to clear lactate from the blood. As an athlete runs faster, resulting in an increase in energy demand, the athlete's body will slowly begin to produce more lactic acid (a source of energy). As long as said athlete is fit enough for the demands he or she is placing on their body, the lactic acid he or she is producing is being recycled and converted back into energy. As soon as said athlete reaches a point where he or she is running too fast, or for too long at X pace, for his or her body to keep up with this conversion, hydrogen ions (formed in conjunction with each molecule of lactate) will begin to build up in the bloodstream and cause that heaviness and burning pain we all know so well.

So, how do we train in order to improve the body's ability to clear lactic acid and continue to use it as energy? Well, the goal is to run faster, and for a longer duration, at that point where our bodies are just able to keep up with recycling the accumulation of lactic acid and hydrogen ions. Thus, it would make sense that we need to practice/train at that threshold. Here are some examples of workouts you can do at your lactate threshold:

1. Marathon pace training. Holding marathon pace for an extended period of time will train the lower end of your lactate threshold zone.

2. Half marathon pace training. This pace is similar to your tempo pace and lies in the middle of your lactate threshold zone. You would run this pace for less time (approx. 20-40 min) than your marathon-paced runs since it will put more stress on your body.

3. 10K pace training. This pace lies within the high end of your lactate threshold, so we spend even less time at this pace - but we can do them repetitively with a little rest. Example: 1 mile repeats at 10K pace with 60 to 90 sec of rest.

If you're unsure how to include lactate threshold training within your own running training, consider hiring a running coach like myself or someone else you trust. A coach will understand workouts such as these and also be able to include other types of workouts to train different systems within your body.