A lactate threshold workout is kind of like a beer mile, but with milk. You drink a glass of milk, run a quarter mile, drink a glass of milk, run a quarter mile, drink a glass of milk, run a quarter mile, drink a glass of milk, and run that last quarter mile. If the milk stays down, you have completed the workout. And you are allowed to eat all the cookies you can get your hands on.
I totally made that up. Sounds fun, though, right?! Gross.
A real lactate threshold run is where you run a pace and effort that is right on the line of where your aerobic system switches over to anaerobic. In other words, in the aerobic phase, you are taking in enough oxygen to supply your blood and muscles for your activity. You can sustain this effort for long periods of time. When you go anaerobic, your body starts pulling resources from other areas, creating lactate accumulation in your blood stream, and it is more difficult to sustain that pace without feeling ill effects. So if you can train at that fine line between aerobic and anaerobic, you will increase the amount of time you can sustain that effort, which is the key to distance running.
What is that pace, though? It varies for all runners. Some studies say it is 30 seconds slower than your 5k pace for average runners. Some call it your 10 mile pace. Other studies say it is when your heart rate reaches 120 beats per minute. These are general guidelines, but too broad to apply to all runners. A good way to tell is if you can still carry on a conversation. If you can talk fairly comfortably, you are still in that aerobic zone. If you struggle, slow down.
Here is a workout you can do to help increase your lactate threshold. This will also help you find that pace that you can label as “your lactate threshold”.
1200 meter repeats. You can do this on the track or on the road. Keep in mind that hills will effect your pace, so you will have to go by your effort when on the hills. On a standard track, this is 3 loops. On the road, you can use your GPS watch or phone and go 3/4 mile.
Start with some dynamic stretching (lunges, squats, jumping jacks) and at least a 10 minute warm up run. Then do 6 sets* of 1200 meters with 1:00 rest between each. If you are not able to recover in a minute, you ran too hard. You should still feel fresh and ready to go after each 1200m. Finish with a 10 minute cool down run and static stretching.
* For beginners to intermediate, start by doing 3 or 4 sets of 1200’s.
Adding this workout to your marathon or half marathon plan will help to make that transition form aerobic to anaerobic a lot less painful and hopefully help you run a faster race as the result.
With the holiday season upon us, I think we will all hit our milk and cookie threshold at some point. Maybe we need a training plan for that.