The lactate threshold: What is it & how can you improve it?


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You know that feeling like your muscles are on fire? That moment right before you want to — no, need to — stop cycling, running or lifting? Congratulations! You’ve found your lactate threshold. If you got tired after only 10 minutes of exercise, don’t be ashamed. You can actually raise your lactate threshold so that your endurance improves.

What is lactate? Bicycling.com defines it in layman’s terms best: “Lactate, your body’s buffering agent, neutralizes the acid that builds up in your legs and makes them burn during heavy exertion. The harder you turn the cranks, the faster acid accumulates. Eventually, your muscles generate more acid than you can neutralize and your searing muscles force you to ease up. The point at which you begin to accumulate acid more quickly than you can dissipate it is your LT, or, in riding terms, the fastest pace you can maintain for 30 minutes without feeling like your legs are on fire.”


Lactate threshold training

There is no right way to increase your lactate threshold … yet. However, studies prove that the more you work on building it up, the better your performance will be. You can actually train your body to use lactate more efficiently, so it takes longer to build up in your blood. The most notable workouts to enhance your threshold are said to be a combination of high-volume, steady-state (keeping a steady intensity for an extended period of time, as close to your lactate threshold as possible) and interval workouts.

Lactate threshold training is not recommended for fitness newbies. You will have more success if your cardiovascular system is conditioned and you gradually build up the intensity of your training before playing with your lactate threshold levels.

Because there’s a fine line between building up your lactate threshold and overtraining, we recommend speaking with a fitness professional before starting this training. If you’re looking for specific workouts to increase your running time, check out this Runner’s World article. To increase your cycling endurance, check out Bicycling.com.