The lac­tate thresh­old, or tempo run, has tra­di­tion­ally been hard to de­fine, but here’s why it should be an es­sen­tial part of your sched­ule

Runner's World (UK) - - Training -

THREE DECADES AGO, a team of ex­er­cise phys­i­ol­o­gists led by Ber­til Sjodin of Swe­den’s Na­tional De­fence Research In­sti­tute put eight dis­tance run­ners on tread­mills. First, the sci­en­tists tested the run­ners’ blood at var­i­ous paces, fo­cus­ing on lac­tate, a chem­i­cal thought to cor­re­late with rac­ing per­for­mance. Then they asked the run­ners to do weekly 20-minute train­ing runs at a pace they called VOBLA – the speed at which there was an ‘on­set of blood lac­tate ac­cu­mu­la­tion’ (OBLA) – what we call tempo runs.

The re­sults, pub­lished in the Euro­pean Jour­nal of

Ap­plied Phys­i­ol­ogy and Oc­cu­pa­tional Phys­i­ol­ogy, hit the 1980s run­ning com­mu­nity like a bomb­shell. After 14 weeks of such train­ing, the run­ners saw their OBLA paces drop by four per cent, from 5:43 per mile to 5:29.

Sjodin’s was one of sev­eral stud­ies to high­light the tempo run as a crit­i­cal el­e­ment in train­ing. But it also pro­duced the mis­con­cep­tion that there is one per­fect pace at which these runs should be done – and that the best way to do them is to find that pace and stick to it for about three miles. That sin­gle-minded fo­cus, how­ever, isn’t what the lat­est ex­er­cise phys­i­ol­ogy shows, nor what many top run­ners are ac­tu­ally do­ing.

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