What is lactate threshold?
This is probably one of the more common questions we get. In the scientific literature there are numerous lactate threshold concepts (25 in a recent review), which makes the topic confusing and difficult for many people to understand.
In everyday practice, the most common use of the term is the intensity at which your body can no longer sustainably keep up with the energy demand. In other words, it is the highest intensity, or the fastest pace, that you could maintain without a steady increase in blood lactate.
That is nice to know, but what does it really mean? Exercise at or above this point is said to include a significant contribution of the anaerobic systems and is important because it represents a critical physiologic limit that athletes must understand in order to train more efficiently and race more competitively. In practice, it represents the highest workload that can be maintained for an extended period of time, usually around 45-60 minutes.
Why do I need to know my lactate threshold?
Due to lactate threshold’s central role in real-time decision making, athletes ranging from Olympians to age groupers to professional coaches have adopted this one “golden metric” to find out what is really happening inside their body. Knowing your limit can be a key influencer in helping guide your race decisions to either go with that person who passed you or hold tight.
Another principle benefit of knowing your lactate threshold is to create personalized training zones based on your current fitness level. Training with zones provides a customized guide designed to help you vary the intensity of your workouts in order to get the most out of the time spent training. No matter what your goals are or what level of athlete you are, training zones will help you maximize the efficiency of your training and yield the improvements necessary to achieve your training and racing goals.
How do I train with lactate threshold?
Training with lactate threshold helps condition your body to better perform at harder intensities for longer periods of time—ultimately improving your performance on race day. It includes elements of training on, above, and even below your threshold in order to train your body to know how to adapt in a variety of circumstances. All of that factors into fitness gains and performance improvements. Seems simple? Sure it is when you break it down into smaller, easily digestible pieces.
I've explained the what and why, so now it is time to dive into the how. Next we move on to the fun part of implementing this knowledge and data into your training. Proper implementation of lactate threshold into your race and annual training plan is where changes are made and growth is seen.
Below are a few different generic threshold workouts for both cycling and running to help get you started.
|Beginner:||3x10 min at Zone 4* with 3 min Zone 1*|
|Intermediate:||3x15 min at Zone 4* with 3 min at Zone 1*|
|Advanced:||3x20 min at Zone 4* with 3 min at Zone 1*|
|Beginner:||4 sets of:
2 min at Zone 5* with :60 at Zone 1*
5x1 min at Zone 6* with :30 at Zone 1*
|Intermediate:||3 sets of:
5x1 min at Zone 7* with 1 min at Zone 1*
5 min at Zone 1* between sets
|Advanced:||2 min at Zone 7 with 2 min at Zone 1
1:45 at Zone 7* with 1:45 at Zone 1*
1:30 at Zone 7* with 1:45 at Zone 1*
1:15 at Zone 7* with 1:15 at Zone 1*
1 min at Zone 7* with 1 min at Zone 1*
:45 at Zone 7* with :25 at Zone 1*
:30 at Zone 7* with :30 at Zone 1*
|Beginner:||3x5 min at Zone 4* with 3 min at Zone 1*|
|Intermediate:||3x8 min at Zone 4* with 3 min at Zone 1*|
|Advanced:||3x15 min at Zone 4* with 3 min at Zone 1*|
|Beginner:||1 min at Zone 5* with 1 min at Zone 1*
2 min at Zone 6* with 2 min Zone 1*
3 min at Zone 6* with 3 min Zone 1*
|Intermediate:||20-25x200 meters at Zone 6* with 100 meters at Zone 1*|
|Advanced:||4 sets of:
3 min at Zone 5* with 1:30 min at Zone 1*
2 min at Zone 6* with 1 min at Zone 1*
1 min at Zone 6* with 1 min at Zone 1*
:30 at Zone 7* with 1 min at Zone 1*
For most athletes, training intensities at or above lactate threshold should not account for more than 20% of your total training volume each week. This is to avoid the risk of injury and burn out. Proper training with lactate threshold should include both a large component of aerobic (lower zone) work and a smaller component of anaerobic (upper zone) work.