In 10 Instructive Ways For Marathon Training Progress, we were talking about the 10 key factors to Marathon Training and what they consist of. In how to develop Marathon training for outstanding results, we go a step further and talk about how to develop the Lactate threshold LT, since it’s the crucial factor in running long distances faster.
Lactic acid or lactate threshold training is about moving the threshold for what your legs can handle before they stiffen when you run too fast, because of the accumulation of lactic acid that gives a burning sensation in your legs. We can divide them into 4 main groups: Tempo, Intervals, Hill training, and Fartlek.
A tempo run is the classic training type to move the LT. The tempo run is 20 to 40 minutes running by an intensity corresponding to the LT or the area around. By running just below this limit, develops the body’s ability to convert the lactate faster, which means that you move the limit and become able to train harder.
In addition to these physical advantages, tempo run also develops a psychological feeling for setting the pace and building up your confidence that you can maintain a tough pace for a longer time.
A tempo run will usually start with about 2 – 3 kilometers warm-up followed by a 5 to 8 kilometers tempo run with an intensity that corresponds to your 15-kilometer pace, finished by 2 – 3 kilometers cool down.
Mental toughness training
It’s hard training which besides the positive effect of LT, also will give you a mental toughness that makes it easier to cope with hard training runs and the race you look forward to. You can check out the tempo from a marathon race winner on the last 200 m here.
To manage the intensity, you can use a Heart rate monitor. It would be a good idea to run the first tempo runs on a carefully measured route. In this way, you can both keep an eye on the kilometer time (pace) and the heart rate at this pace.
When you have a clear picture of the right pace, you can practice anywhere, but preferably on a flat route with the heart rate average, you had on the measured route.
When you train for a marathon, you can also get some good LT training by participating in 5 and 10 km races. It will also give you race experience and motivation. Just remember not to run too fast, because it would require a long recovery and thereby reduce the training effort for several days after.
Variation in your training is also very important, to avoid one-sided training and maintain motivation. Training intervals vibrate and swing. Intervals give you simultaneous the progress you want and even in a simple manner.
Interval training varies between run and break. It also varies between periods of high and low intensity. It accelerates and lowers the speed. Intervals can be performed in many ways and with great variation in intensity.
Benefits of interval training
With intervals, we learn to run faster and to improve the energy supply to the muscles at a particular pace. When we have breaks, we can run at a higher pace.
The duration of the breaks can be determined from:
- The time you can predefine the breaks after seconds or minutes. It is the most widely used method in athletic/running clubs. It can be a little boring but also easy to manage, and the lactate is gone before you start again.
- Heart rate the rule could be that we should not start again until the heart rate is below e.g. 110 beats/min. This will often be preferred, when you run alone.
- When you feel ready this will be the best and most relaxed way, particularly if it is the first time you practice interval training and do not necessarily want to push yourself too much. We have here often a tendency to keep shorter breaks than we might think.
Thus, instead of running continuously for 20 to 40 minutes like in tempo runs, you can divide the runs into intervals of e.g. 4 to 8 minutes duration. As an example, you can run 4 LT intervals à 7 minutes with a 3 to 4 minutes break between each; this will give a total of 28 minutes with the desired intensity. With these shorter intervals, you can also run a bit faster than the longer tempo run.
Threshold intervals are a good alternative to tempo run, particularly if you cannot manage the many minutes of focused training. If you can run the first interval at the same pace as the last, you have found a good balance.
Long hills are also excellent LT training. Hill training is furthermore a method to increase muscle strength, coordination and to fine-tune your running pattern and hereby the running economy. Hill training develops the neurological pathways needed for faster running. The training is similar to LT intervals since we also here use intervals.
Hills around 1000 – 1500 meters are appropriate. If you can make a circular route that includes some long hills, you can run slowly on the flat sections and down the hill and then run at an intensity corresponding to the LT, uphill. Four runs on a 1-kilometer long hill will give around 20 to 25 minutes of training around the LT.
In addition to the positive training effect, hill training will bring some variation to the training, which is very motivating and it counteracts the one-sided loads of the body’s various structures from LSD training.
To strengthen the muscles, running technique and coordination, even more, you can supplement this training method with a staircase run or hill jump, where you run up a hill with long steps and exaggerates your movements.
Fartlek or speed play is a Swedish invention, which consists of free intervals of slow and fast runs eventually in different terrains, where you decide how to put the intervals together. This is a more unstructured form of interval training. You run as you feel rather than from a predefined plan. The work periods are not planned and rest periods vary too.
The crucial difference between fartlek and intervals is, that in fartlek you do not have standing breaks i.e. you decide during the training, how to switch between long sections, short sections, heavy periods, quiet periods, pace shifts, sprints, etc. In the breaks, you just slow down the pace (jogging).
If you run in a group, you can take turns to determine both the intensity and the length of the intensive periods of work. Hereby the fartlek comes to resemble the excitement in a competition, where you often need to keep up with the competitor’s pace shifts.
If you train alone, you can leave it to the terrain to determine the intensity by alternately raising and lowering the speed between lampposts or side roads. One of the best places to train fartlek is in the forest, where changes in the terrain, the distance between trees or forest trails can specify the length of working periods.
Fartlek is a method that yields good variation, breaks the more structured interval training and sometimes too on-sided LSD.
Lactate Threshold Training – The Effect
LT training is training with high intensity, which moves the LT limit, improves the Oxygen uptake and the utilization rate. Running at this intensity level also results in local changes in the muscles. These changes enhance the neurological pathways and the muscle fibers’ aerobic combustion capacity.
This means that muscle fibers can combust fat and carbohydrates at intensities, where it previously was necessary with anaerobic combustion. Thus, the muscles can work more without producing too much lactate and therefore they become not as quickly tired.
Training both just above and just below LT leads to moving the threshold. Besides this, LT training also gives a very good effect on the heart’s stroke volume. The restriction is that you cannot cope with more than about 25 to 60 minutes before you are exhausted.
Crucial changes in the muscles
The Muscle fiber’s aerobic system affects with great effect. The crucial changes in the muscles happen by:
- The Type II fibers stimulate to change in aerobic direction
- The number of capillaries increases i.e. the capillary density increases. The Capillaries are the smallest ramifications of the veins, where the delivery of oxygen and absorption of waste products from the combustion occurs. More capillaries make it easier to deliver oxygen and carry away lactate.
- The number and size of the mitochondria in the muscle fibers increase. The mitochondria are the muscle’s “Power Stations” where carbohydrates (as glycogen) and fat convert into energy.
- The aerobic enzyme activities increase, which results in faster energy combustion, and hence a more efficient use of glycogen. This improves the muscle’s ability to absorb and consume oxygen and thus produces more energy for running work.
- The myoglobin volume increases. Myoglobin binds oxygen and acts as an oxygen depot inside the muscle cell. With more myoglobin increases the immediate oxygen depot.
- The capacity to remove lactate from the muscles increases.
When you get started with LT – Training you raise your energy level in general and that is something you will be aware of. Be sure not to run intervals more than 2 times a week with several days between, because it is intensive training.
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