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Running Tips: Train at the Lactate Threshold

Back in May, I had the honor of attending the World Spinning and Sports Conditioning Conference here in Miami. I attended the conference last year and learned SO much (check out recaps: Paleo vs. Vegetarian vs. Mediterranean Diets, Prenatal Pilates, and Running From Scratch) so I was pretty amped to get the invite this year.

Now that my life is a little different compared to last year, I was only able to attend two sessions on the last day of the conference. They were chock full of awesome info so I’ll be sharing some rich tidbits in future posts!

The first session I attended was titled Top 7 Lessons for Coaching Runners by Dr. Jason Karp. He created Run-Fit, a running specialist certification. This guy lives and breathes running–he knows everything about it!

Today’s discussion (one of many!) is related to the lactate threshold and how that applies to running. Ever heard of it?

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The lactate threshold (LT) is one of the best benchmarks for distance running performance. It essentially walks that fine line between the aerobic and anaerobic threshold. Aerobic exercise increases your heart rate and forces you to breathe heavily, kind of like a regular run; anaerobic exercise does not require oxygen–you get winded within seconds of the intense burst of activity, kind of like sprinting. Soo, simply put, the LT is the fastest speed you can run at that still keeps you in the aerobic arena. Get it?

Dr. Karp’s theory is that runs held at the LT work to raise your LT to a faster speed. What does this mean? You gradually become more capable of a faster pace before you hit fatigue.

Quick tip: If you’re focusing on longer distance runs it’s much more important to incorporate LT training. These sustained pace runs will help build up your endurance, key for the long distances.

Running at the LT should feel “comfortably hard”. Here’s how to figure out your LT:

Are you a recreational runner? Go run a 5k (local race or on your own time) and get your pace per mile. Take that pace and ADD about 10-15 seconds–that is your LT.

Are you a more advanced/competitive runner? Take your 5k pace per mile and ADD 25-30 seconds to get your LT.

And finally–what does an LT run look like?

  • One option is to go continuous: head out at LT speed for about 45 minutes, which could be anywhere from 3-8 miles depending on your skill level.
  • Another option is intervals: 4 x 1 mile intervals at LT pace with 1 minute of rest in between intervals.

There are much fancier LT run options as well, but these two are simple to follow.

Stay tuned for even more running tips, I’ve got a treasure chest full of them!