According to Farrell, Wilmore, Coyle, Billing, and Costill, Lactate threshold is the best physiological predictor of distance running performance. We know it’s important,…however, what is it?..and how do improve it?
What is lactate threshold?
Have you been running and felt like if you go any faster, you will not be able to sustain it? If so, you have been very close to your lactate threshold! It is the point at which your ability to remove lactic acid from your working muscles is equal to how much lactic is entering the muscles. This cycle of lactic pooling (entering) and then acidosis (removal) is often called your lactic buffering capacity and is the primary ‘ceiling’ for your performance.
Thus, if we can increase our muscles buffering efficiency, we can run faster at the same level of effort whether running a 5k or an elite level marathon.
Training – How do we Raise the Bar?
Lactate training can be done in more than one way, here are 2 effective examples
Lactate reps: Perform 1-3 minutes of effort, followed by approximately 2 minutes rest. The efforts must be above race pace and should be sufficient to ‘burn’ and be outside of your comfort zone. Efforts above normal racing speeds overload the lactate system and generate ‘super compensation’ which is where the system becomes more efficient as a result of its being stretched.
Lactate Tempo run: (60 min example) 20 minutes at steady pace (65% of HR max), then building to a 20 minute ‘race pace’ effort (around 85% of HR max), followed by a further 20 min at steady pace (65% of HR max) This ‘training sandwich’ exposes your body to lactate threshold conditions and gently increases your threshold over time.
In my experience as a runner and trainer, these simple sessions can make a big difference to running performance.
Trainer and Nutritionist