Friday, October 10, 2008

LT Training (Part II) by Chris Puppione...

4) What are some examples of threshold workouts?
Threshold workouts can be done several ways, whether you choose to run cruise intervals (a la Dr. Jack Daniels), tempo runs of varying lengths, fartlek runs, or even by dropping uptempo sections into a daily run. The key is to get in at least 20 minutes worth of work at or around LT pace.
Now remember--we are talking about "true" threshold work here, nothing more. This is an effort that elicits a 4mmol blood lactate level while running. You can workout above and below this, but the training effect is different, and that is a whole other discussion. For example, when I answered the questions regarding the long run, I spoke of running at a pace :50-:60 slower per mile than 5k pace. In that session, we are looking to improve an athlete's aerobic threshold, which has a blood lactate level of 2mmol--not the 4mmol level that we are looking for in our "true" tempo training.

Anyway, onto the sessions I prefer for high school runners:
Cruise Intervals
-6-10 x 1000m @ LT pace w/ :30-1:00 rest btwn
-5-8 x 1200m @ LT pace w/ :45-1:15 rest btwn
-4-6 x 1600m @ LT pace w/ 1:00-1:30 rest btwn
-3-5 x 2000m @ LT pace w/ 1:15-1:45 rest btwn
Tempo Runs
-20min tempo run + 5 x 200 @ 1600 w/ 1:00 rest
-3 mile tempo run + 5 x 300 @ 1600 w/ 1:00 rest
-4 mile tempo run + 5 x 400 @ 3k cutdown w/ 1:00 rest

Broken Tempo Runs
-2 miles @ LT+:10 per mile w/ 2min rest;
-2 miles @ LT w/ 2min rest; 1 mile @ LT-:10 per mile
-2-3 x 2miles @ LT w/ 3min rest

Fartlek Tempo Runs
-10min easy; 2-3 x 10:00 @ LT w/ 3min easy run btwn; 10min easy
-10min easy; 3-4 x 7:00 @ LT w/ 3min east run btwn; 10min easy
-10min easy; 2-3 x 5-3-1min @ LT w/ 2:30-1:30-:30 easy run btwn; 10min easy

Uptempo Runs
-10min easy; 20-30min progressive tempo effort; 10min easy
-20-30min easy; 20-30min progressive tempo effort; 10min easy
Some special notes here:
- Even though I did not enter it on all the workouts, finish each of these sessions with something at or faster than race pace. 100s, 150s, 200s, 300s, or 400s will do--just do something quick following these workouts, anywhere from 600m-2000m worth depending on the athlete's overall training volume and ability.

-I used to loathe tempo runs on the track, but I have found that they are an excellent way to teach athletes proper pacing and feel for tempo runs. If possible, do so on a dirt track--it is easier on the legs. If not, they will be fine getting in a 20min tempo on the track, and it is easier for the coach to monitor the session and give advice along the way.

-Mix up the type of threshold work you do. Keep it fresh. This also forces the athlete to learn how their body works and responds to training by attuning themselves to the effort and recognizing what their personal threshold is like. Body awareness is key for any athlete, and especially so when it comes to this kind of training. Go too far and the session is all for naught.

5) Why is threshold training so effective?
Well, LT work is effective because, as I mentioned in the long run Q&A, distance running events are primarily fueled through aerobic processes, and LT work is an aerobic support pace. It is a pace between 10k and half-marathon pace, which means it has a close correlation to these two races (obviously), and by improving one's efficiency of effort in longer races, our shorter races will improve because we have bolstered our ability to carry a stronger pace for a longer distance (i.e. extensibility). As I said earlier, LT pace is roughly when blood lactate levels reach 4mmol--it is before this point that the body is still able to clear as much lactic acid as it is building up in the system, thereby allowing the athlete to continue their current effort for quite some time. Once the blood lactate level exceeds 4mmol, the body can not clear the byproducts fast enough, and some of the elements that accompany lactic acid begin to hinder performance.


If we can push our 4mmol blood lactate level to a greater speed (i.e. we do not reach that level until we run a much faster pace), we can run faster at all sub-maximal race distances. The way to push that 4mmol level up is to then bump up against it regularly in training--each workout, repetition, or run then functions as a means to "raise the roof" on our aerobic ceiling. The higher our aerobic ceiling, the greater chance that we will run faster at an easier effort than before.

For example, if my 5k pace is 5:00 (I wish!), then I want to train at 5:24-5:32 pace during my LT sessions. By doing this, over the course of several weeks, I may discover that running 5:24-5:32 pace feels much easier. Chances are that I am no longer approaching the 4mmol blood lactate level in my sessions, indicating better fitness and improved performance. But should I go faster? Not without testing it out--and the best way to do that is race. If I run a 5k after this and hit 4:52 pace, then I can begin doing my LT work at roughly 5:16-5:24 pace.
So, by virtue of training at LT pace, race performance improves because we "raise the roof" or "stretch the ceiling" of our aerobic potential and ability to delay the onset of blood lactate accumulation (OBLA).

6) How do you progress with your threshold workouts from the beginning of the season, mid season and finally championship season?
As I noted above, the progression of LT work really is done on its own, meaning it is determined by improved performance. DO NOT SET GOAL PACES FOR LT SESSIONS! This completely defeats the purpose of the work and leads to disaster inevitably.

The one thing a coach can progress despite paces is the length of the run or intervals, the duration of the rest period, and the volume of the session--but never all at once. Only manipulate one element at a time. Never tweak rest, intensity, or volume at the same time--it is another recipe for destruction of the athlete.

7) Any other comments you might want to add?
LT work is absolutely essential in distance running, regardless of your event. If you can handle a greater pace at a lower level of blood lactate, you will be much better up and down the race board. Remember, plenty of people have the speed to run a 4:00 mile, but how many people can carry that speed the prescribed distance? Not many. So the key is not speed here--it is extensibility.

And LT work will get you much closer to that 4:00 mile than any amount of fast 200s or 400s any day.
Comments? Thoughts? Training questions for Chris? He would love to hear your thoughts or feedback about any of his contributions.


M. Mann said...

I love the last two installments, and I would love to see an article on Race Pace training and how to best utilize the Date Pace and Goal Pace. I'd also like to see an article on speed work and one more on the pre-race day, as I've long wondered what is the best plan for the day before a race. Thanks so much for posting what you have so far from Chris.

Albert Caruana said...

Coach Mann,

Thank you for the comment. I do like the proposed ideas for future articles and will include them in future postings.

BTW, where do you coach?

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