Lactic Threshold Runs Are My Game Changer

Guest Blogger Michael Kahn

In case you are intimidated by this word Lactic Threshold, feel free to call it a “tempo run,” but just in case you want to turn some heads at the office while speaking near your non-running friends, you might say something like, “Phew, that Lactic Threshold run really kicked my butt this morning.”

The best way to improve lactic threshold is to run at your lactic threshold pace. Great, what does that mean? I dont’t want to make a doctors appointment or visit a lab and have them stick me with any needles. So how can I find my Lactic threshold pace without the hard evidence of when my blood levels change? There are several ways but I have found it to be roughly between 15K and 25K pace, so I like to call it my Half-Marathon pace.

What is it? There is an optimal point in running that is considered the Lactic Threshold and its not too fast and not too slow. Scientifically it is the point in a workout when lactic acid builds up in the circulatory system faster than the body can dispose of it. Thus the threshold.  So on easy runs my body is able to easily digest this lactic build-up and disperse it throughout my blood, conversley runing faster than LT pace, besides making me want to vomit, produces a large amount of lactic build-up forcing me to slow down eventually.

Nutrition is important period, but I want to stress the importance of meal planning while training and working to improve Lactic Threshold pace as its important to have proper energy stores in order to sustain this higher intensity workout as well as recovery afterwards.

For me personally, my coach has me do 60 minute “steady state” workouts at Lactic Threshold pace.
So this workout is to be done not all-out but right at about 85% of VO2Max for approximately an hour. Typically, I will do a 2 mile warm-up (or 15 minutes) then 60 minute run at LT pace followed by a 2 mile cooldown (or 15 minutes).

These Lactic Trheshold runs or tempo runs are the backbone of my marathon training and serve as a great indicator going into a race my current fitness level. Since implementing these as a result of working with my coach Mark Hadley, I have seen the results drop my personal record in the marathon by 11 minutes. Obviously there are other things to account for this improvement but Lactic Threshold runs were a significant piece of the puzzle.

So significant, I have asked for his opinion on the reason they are so frequent within my training schedule.

Coach Hadley:

For Marathon training I find 3 variations of these threshold runs that Mike descibed to be very effective:

1)  60 minute runs done at an even pace of about 10-20 seconds slower than half marathon race pace

2)  60 minute runs done in a progression manner starting at half marathon pace per mile plus 30-40 seconds and ending at near half marathon pace.

3)  60 minute run, alternating every 5 minutes at HM pace + 40 seconds per mile and HM pace

By using all three variations in our training schedule, we work our threshold from different angles and that sparks improvents which turn into PR’s on race day.

The reason why they work, is that they improve the pace at which we can run before our body starts to accumulate bothersome amounts of lactate.  On race day this allow us to run at a faster pace without getting more tired, or in other words it improves our bodies efficiency at faster marathon and half marathon race paces.  The end result is we can run a run a faster pace on the same amount of energy.

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