Threshold running pace: How to test it properly

Aerobic Threshold, Anaerobic Threshold, or maybe Lactate threshold? How about the Functional Threshold Power? Before examining the optimal way to find and test the threshold running pace, let’s shed some light on the above concepts!

Testing threshold running pace: Aerobic/Anaerobic or 1st/2nd Lactate Threshold? 

According to Wasserman’s study, published in “Advances in Cardiology”:

During exercise, the oxygen consumption (VO2) above which aerobic energy production is supplemented by anaerobic mechanisms, causing a sustained increase in lactate and metabolic acidosis, is termed the anaerobic threshold (AT). 

Generally speaking, ‘Anaerobic Threshold’ (AT) was a term applied to the lactate inflection point; or the point at which the appearance of lactate in the blood accumulates faster than its rate of use. But to clear things out, lactate does not cause fatigue, nor does it determine anaerobic metabolism. We rejected the misnomer ‘anaerobic threshold’ as a concept, nearly two decades ago. 

‘Lactate Threshold’ (LT) is a more recent and descriptive term for the lactate inflection point we’ve mentioned earlier. Furthermore, according to Binder et al (2008), we can use the term ‘Anaerobic Threshold’ for both the 1st and the 2nd Lactate Threshold; which, more often than not, is confusing. Indeed, both are the same; nonetheless, in modern science, LT is a more appropriate term than AT. 

What are the LT1 and LT2 in practical terms?

Practically speaking, LT1 is the point at which the athlete can run a marathon or maintain a specific velocity for 2-4 hours; especially if they replenish the carbohydrates and fluids their bodies usually consume during exercise. On the other hand, LT2 is the point at which the athlete can run or cycle (in cycling we use the term ‘FTP’) for approximately an hour.

How do we measure LT1 and LT2 in a laboratory?

During a maximal incremental test, at the end of every 2 or 3 min stage, we collect blood samples (0.3 μL) from the athlete’s fingertip. Then, we immediately analyze those for blood lactate concentrations with a portable analyzer, using an enzymatic-amperometric method. 

We can determine the individual relationship between lactate concentrations and running velocities, using a nonlinear regression model: y= b × exp(x/c) + a; where y = lactate concentration, x = running velocity, and a, b, and c are constants. Using this model, we identify the 1st and the 2nd lactate thresholds (LT1, LT2), as the velocities at which blood lactate concentrations are increased by 0.3 and 1.5 mmol· l-1 from resting values, respectively.

How do we measure LT1 and LT2 in the field?

The truth is that laboratory tests will always be more accurate than field tests, however, they’re expensive. What’s more, it’s hard to find a laboratory; plus, you cannot simulate race or training conditions. Thankfully, there are other tests that a coach can use to determine various physiological parameters; in this case, the lactate thresholds. Note that, in the field, the coach can only estimate the threshold running pace, not measure it. 

The most common test to estimate the 2nd lactate threshold running pace in the field is: 

  •  Warm-up: 10 minutes easy run/jog
  • 3×1 minute at approximately 5k pace, with 2 minutes active rest (walking) between reps
  • 5 minutes passive rest
  • 30min steady-state effort at the fastest pace the athlete can maintain for the entire test (main session)
  • 5 minutes cool-down 

The results for threshold running pace at LT

The average pace of the 30 min test is your pace at lactate threshold. The threshold running pace at the 1st LT is usually 1.5-2 km/h slower than the velocity associated with the 2nd LT.

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Testing threshold running pace with Endogusto

In Endogusto, we use advanced algorithms that can automatically detect when key parameters of aerobic performance have changed. Among others, these parameters include Lactate Threshold for running, Functional Threshold Power for Cycling, T-Pace for swimming. 

Yet, the capabilities of Endogusto do not end there; our platform can also keep an automatically tracked threshold history log, to monitor the athlete’s progress. Furthermore, we have created a field test to help coaches incorporate it in their athletes’ calendars. Every time the athlete executes the test, the system automatically detects the threshold values anew! 

If you want to test the threshold running pace the right way, Endogusto is the optimal — value for money — choice. Try it out today, and see how it can transform your coaching — and your athletes’ training experience —  for the better!

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Threshold running pace: How to test it properly was last modified: November 26th, 2021 by Aris Myrkos