Lactate Threshold

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What Is It and How Do You Leverage It for Endurance Running?

If you take running seriously, you may already be familiar with your lactate threshold and how to utilize it to improve your performance. If not, we’re here to help you break down what lactate threshold is and teach you how to incorporate it into your training to improve your fitness and endurance.

What is Lactate Threshold?

In the simplest sense, your lactate threshold is the training zone between aerobic and anaerobic exercise. For experienced runners, your lactate threshold is where your fastest pace can be maintained for 30–60 minutes, depending on your experience level.

When you’re training in the aerobic threshold, your body is taking in a sufficient amount of oxygen to meet the effort you are exerting. For more seasoned runners, this threshold is achieved at around 120 beats per minute (bpm). This is the beginning of the aerobic threshold, and the end of this threshold is where the lactate threshold begins.

Lactate thresholds vary for every individual, but if for example, your maximum heart rate is 210 bpm, your lactate threshold would be close to 190 bpm. This makes your aerobic threshold 120–190 bpm. By training at your lactate threshold—in this case 190 bpm—you’ll become a more efficient runner, which will allow you to run even further distances.

How Will It Help My Endurance?

Running at your lactate threshold will train your body to exert more energy for longer periods of time. You’ll be able to sustain a running pace longer and improve your racing times.

How Do You Measure Lactate Threshold?

Although an exercise laboratory would be the best place to determine your lactate threshold, it is also expensive. To determine your lactate threshold one your own, all you need is a treadmill and heart rate monitor.

Using the Borg Scale of Perceived Exertion as a guide, start at a relatively low intensity and run for a few minutes. Then record your level of exertion on a scale from 6–20. Continue increasing your intensity and record your exertion level as well as your heart rate at level. Once you’ve reached a level of 13, you’ve hit your lactate threshold. This is where you should keep your heart rate while you train.

Incorporating Lactate Threshold In Your Workout

Once you’ve discovered your lactate threshold using the Borg Scale, you can start incorporating it into your workouts. On Monday start off by running a 4x1200m at your lactate threshold with a one-minute rest in between. The next day, increase the distance to 5x1200m at your lactate threshold with a one-minute rest between.

Continue pushing yourself each day until you’re able to do 8x1200m with one-minute rests between sets. The goal is to go longer distances at your original pace, and running at your lactate threshold will help you accomplish that.

Not Just for Running

Using your lactate threshold to better your endurance isn’t just for running. Whether your sport is hiking, cycling, skiing, climbing, or any other sport, benefit from training to your lactate threshold.

Start by doing your sport at your lactate threshold for 10-minute intervals three times, with a short one-minute break in between each set. The next time you go out, up your time by one minute, and eventually you’ll find that you’re able to go way further at your same intense pace.

If you’re looking to improve your endurance and your competition times, start training at your lactate threshold. After a few weeks you’ll notice you have more endurance to run at a faster pace for longer periods of time.

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About Author

Kevin Jones is a health and fitness blogger and regular contributor to a number of fitness websites. He writes for NordicTrack. During his free time, he likes to be active and spend time with his wife and two children shredding the slopes of Park City, Utah or chasing down Salt Lake City’s Korean food trucks. Connect with him online; LinkedIn - Twitter.

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