Running at the anaerobic lactic threshold or the lactic threshold? These are really technical terms for running training. Despite this, it is very useful for the majority of runners to know and especially to understand the anaerobic threshold in order to progress in the long term. It is indeed one of the main components of cross-country race performance. So I suggest you explain what this anaerobic threshold... And especially how to use it to optimize your training.
Running at the lactic anaerobic threshold: What is it?
To keep it simple, you simply have to see the anaerobic threshold as a running pace. A pace that can be maintained between 20′ and 1 hour depending on the level of training, the level of fitness you have. It's a pace I like to call comfortably difficult since I read Jack Daniels' book, I find this formula perfectly adapted. Running at the anaerobic threshold is intense, there is no debate about it.
It's intense, but it's still a tempo where you feel like you have some under your feet. For many of us, the anaerobic threshold is between the 10km speed and the half-marathon speed, between 85 and 90% FCM. It is difficult to give a precise standard, it is a threshold that varies enormously with training. It can be much lower for beginners and even higher for professionals. Only a lab stress test on a treadmill could accurately validate it.
Without going into detail, our body has several strings to its bow to create energy. Methods that are more or less quick to implement. When you run slowly, you depend mainly on the aerobic path. But the faster we run, the more limited this aerobic pathway will be. The body then becomes more and more dependent on what is called the anaerobic energy supply (= without oxygen) to create the energy needed to move forward. This key speed corresponds to what is called an anaerobic threshold or lactic threshold.
Above the anaerobic threshold there is lactic acid!
The anaerobic process has a limited time of use for several reasons. The main one is that it produces a lot of lactic acid in our muscles. If we run below the anaerobic threshold, the body has the ability to recycle this lactic acid in real time (voluntarily simplified vision, sufficient to understand the principle). There is a form of equilibrium, the level of lactic acid in the blood is constant / low. And from a point, the balance will be broken and this rate will skyrocket. This is a sign that we have exceeded this lactic threshold.
Running at the anaerobic threshold is running at the physiological limit from which our body can no longer "self-clean" our muscles from this acidity. This acidity will then start to accumulate and gradually reduce performance. And if lactic acid is not the big bad guy, as is often presented, it is still a good indicator. The higher its level in the blood, "the more our battery drains".
Running at the anaerobic threshold to be more enduring
The most important aspect of training is the fundamental endurance to lay the foundations for endurance. The second most important pace for the long-distance runner is certainly the anaerobic threshold.
Running at the anaerobic threshold means working your body just below this physiological limit so that the body adapts and gradually pushes it back. This limit increases as the body becomes more effective at recycling muscle acidity.
How to train at the anaerobic threshold?
Training your anaerobic threshold means sailing slightly below this limit to improve it. It can be practiced as a long split training. But as it is a "comfortably difficult" pace, it can also be practiced continuously. A few training sessions that you can use once a week to develop your endurance.
Continuous anaerobic threshold session
20′ is an ideal time to work at the threshold. Long enough for the body to have time to work well, long enough to prove to you that this rhythm is sustainable for a long time, and short enough not to have to draw from the reserves.
Session at the anaerobic fractionated threshold
Running at the anaerobic fractionated threshold allows you to do more, without generating additional fatigue. In fact, recovery first allows you to mentally split your effort and therefore find it easier to achieve. Then, it also allows you to break the effort, to relax your body for a short period of time before getting back to it. Normally, you should feel that this recovery time is optional, that you could have easily continued to run at the anaerobic threshold.
Example: 3 x 5′, 2 x 10′ or 3 x 8′ r : 2′ jogging.
The dangers of the race to the anaerobic threshold
Knowing your anaerobic threshold is very important for good training. Because exceeding its anaerobic threshold is unacceptable. Whether in training at a Tempo Run session or in a half-marathon competition, exceeding this threshold at the beginning of the session will necessarily be paid in cash.
Indeed, the main trap of the anaerobic threshold is that once the body has started to draw from this energy reserve, acidity begins to accumulate and... The faster you go, the faster it accumulates and this process cannot be reversed... Unless you run slowly for a while... Not practical in the middle of a session! Indeed, the only way to eliminate this acidity is to run slowly, in strict fundamental endurance so that the aerobic process cleanses the muscles of the acidity.
Be careful because the purpose of these sessions at the anaerobic threshold is to work below this physiological limit to avoid entering this spiral of lactic acid accumulation. Because an anaerobic session is much more traumatic for the body and the extra fatigue is always paid for at one time or another!
New methods of lactic anaerobic training!
Recent research has shown us that the improvement of the lactic anaerobic threshold is not only achieved by running at the threshold. On the contrary, it even seems that working well above the threshold is even more impacting on the progression of our anaerobic threshold! Supporting figure I will give you ideas of sessions that make the lactic anaerobic threshold work... While having other assets!
Speed sessions 5 and 10 km
Faster than the anaerobic threshold, the specific 5km and 10km sessions do not accumulate a large quantity of lactic acid if you work on this split pace. But they make it possible to make long fractions that will train the body to manage lactic acid / reuse as much as possible as an energy source.
Example: 6 to 10 x 2' /1′ or 3 to 5 x 3' /1'30 at 5km speed. 5 to 8 x 3' /1'30 or 3 to 4 x 6' /2′ at 10km speed... These are examples to adjust according to your shape!
Sessions at 100% VMA
The classic short VMA sessions, run at 100% VMA, increase the anaerobic threshold! Their first goal was to improve this so-called VMA... But several studies have shown that if the VMA increased by 4% at the end of a work cycle mainly using this speed... The threshold speed increased by 3% at the same time without running to the anaerobic threshold in training! On these sessions, use a recovery equal to the effort time
Example: 30/30 sessions as I talk about it here then when the form becomes better than 1'/1′, then 1'30/1'30 until potentially 3'/3′ when you are very fit
Lactic Power Sessions
A very intense type of session, until then reserved for 800 and 1500m runners... But which has since demonstrated in several scientific studies its effectiveness even for long distance runners! Here we run at a very fast pace that we can barely hold for a few minutes. In this case, it is the opposite of traditional sessions, it is the recovery which is at least twice as long as the fast fraction! Not a job to be done often, because it is tiring, but it can still be interesting to consider!
Example: To start 6 x 1′ with a recovery of 2′ is already a lot. The feeling of inability to run due to the acidity will be strong. But the body gets used to it quickly and you can then increase the number of fractions.
Enough to replace the weekly anaerobic threshold session with its specific sessions? It's up to you, personally I use both! I assume that diversity is good and that different demands make it possible to progress in a more homogeneous way!
Running at the anaerobic threshold: Only advantages!
Personally, I am convinced that speeds ranging from 10km to half marathon are the ones that make the most progress in endurance. We work around this anaerobic threshold to make it progress and become more enduring by running our aerobic system at full capacity. In the end it is effective from the middle distance to the ultra since the aerobic process is the one that provides the major part of the energy of all these efforts. Optimizing your aerobics and postponing as much as possible the moment when you will have to work an anaerobic is therefore essential for those who want to progress in medium and long distances.
And you, you run to the anaerobic threshold? Regularly? Do you see this as an improvement in your endurance?