Whatever your individual goal may be when running, whether it is to prove a point or just to keep fit, there will come a time when you would want to run faster and further than before. Additionally, there will also come a time when no matter how hard you train, you won’t be able to go any further or faster than before. This is when you’ll have reached what is known as the “running plateau”.
When attempting to run further, many runners constantly try to increase the distance they train at, eventually causing themselves injury. Moreover, when trying to increase speed, some runners will try to run faster over the same distance. They tend to do this each time they train until their body cannot take it anymore. In other words, they are overtraining. As a result the body will require an extended rest period before starting training all over again. If this cycle is repeated continuously, it will slow down a person’s overall running development. It may even stop any development altogether. You must avoid the aforementioned issues whilst gradually improving your running.
Before we begin looking at ways to achieve that, we must first understand what the term “lactate threshold” means. Lactate threshold refers to the intensity at which an athlete can train while his or her body is still capable of processing the lactic acid produced. This is because, It is this processed lactic acid that is returned to the body and used as fuel for exercise.
Yes, that’s right. Lactic acid is actually a key source of energy for the body. It isn’t the only chemical responsible for making us feel fatigued as many would have you believe. Additionally, lactate threshold has been proven to be a much better indicator of training effectiveness than VO2Max. This is due to the fact that regular runners will not see much difference in their VO2Max levels despite their relatively high fitness levels.
With regard to running faster and further, we will only be capable of doing this by gradually increasing our lactate threshold. The way in which we can do this is to train close to our threshold. This form of training is commonly referred to as “tempo” training.
Tempo training refers to a training intensity that is higher than regular aerobic training and takes place over “shorter” distances. Research shows this level of intensity training can increase a person’s lactate threshold more effectively than continuously training at aerobic intensity.
A study by Eystein Enoksen split runners into two groups. One group trained at high intensity over short distances (50 kilometers / week), while the other trained at low intensity over longer distances (70 kilometers / week). The results of the study showed that the first group had a significantly sharper increase in their lactate threshold.
The next question that you may be asking yourselves right now is: “How can I find out what my tempo pace is?” While it is true that every individual will have their own tempo pace, there are many simple ways to identify it. Below are some of the way:
With regard to training programs, these will differ significantly depending on each individual runner’s needs. There are a huge number of such programs available out there. However, it is extremely important that you reduce your usual training distance when doing your tempo run. Additionally, these runs should make up no more than two of your weekly training sessions. This is crucial because your body needs time to recover properly. It will help to avoid injuries and ensure that you are not overtraining as you may have in the past. Just remember: “Time spent resting and recovering is just as important as the time spent training.”
M.D., Faculty of Medicine, Siriraj Hospital, Mahidol University, 2007.