Lactate Testing To Set My Training Zones. Returning From Injury

Throughout my time in endurance sport and sports science, I’ve been a self-experimenter. I’m always keen to test out new methods of training and new ways to monitor training on myself to see whether there is any benefit to applying them to my athletes’ training plans. My latest interest is in lactate control training, an approach to training that uses lactate measurements to identify intensity.

While I’ve had a lactate meter for a couple of years, I’ve never really used it in a systematic way. Since I am currently building back from injury, I figured that now is a great time to begin a regimented lactate controlled training regime as I’ll be able to show some of the initial significant changes to my thresholds. This should help to convey the importance of lactate threshold(s) in relation to endurance training and performance.

So, what is lactate controlled training?

Lactate controlled training involves the correlation of certain lactate “thresholds”, i.e., points at which the blood lactate concentration shows a significant jump, with power output or speed. These can be used to create zones that can be used by the athlete for training.

There are various ways to use lactate control training including the Norwegian approach using double threshold days (as outlined by Maruis Bakken [here]), cluster training (Peter Coe), special block training (Renato Canova), HIIT science (Paul Laursen), and various works by Dr Andy Jones, Dr Stephen Seiler, and many others.

The process

As with any new training variable, benchmark testing was necessary to get an idea of how my blood lactate values correspond to run intensity. I followed a ramp protocol suggested by Dr Andy Jones, which involved running a 1.2 km (4-5 min) lap five times with power increasing each lap (from 300-397 W). The idea behind this was to identify the following:

Lactate threshold 1 (LT1): The initial point at which lactate increases above baseline levels, as seen by a jump in the blood lactate concentration from 0.7 to 2 mmol. This represents a transition from easy aerobic running to a low-end tempo/upper end aerobic capacity intensity and is often referred to as the “grey zone”

Lactate threshold 2 (LT2): Also known as the lactate turn point, this is what people are generally referring to when using the term “threshold”. It is the point at which blood lactate accumulates in the blood faster than it is removed and can be identified by a sudden sharp increase in blood lactate concentration.