Improved performance, faster speed, and greater endurance are all dependent on increasing your anaerobic threshold (lactate threshold). A case study reported by the website Active carried out on a group of high level runners showed that anaerobic threshold accounted for 87 percent variability in 3,000m running performance. Interval training has proven to be one of the best methods to boost your anaerobic threshold.
Interval training avoids injuries caused by repetitive overuse, a common problem for endurance athletes. It is one of the few ways you can continue to increase the intensity of your workout without resulting in overtraining or burn-out, and is a perfect way to incorporate cross training into a routine.
The high-intensity phase of interval training uses the anaerobic system to access energy stored in muscles for use in short bursts of effort. Although the anaerobic system does not use oxygen, the build-up of lactic acid produced by the anaerobic system requires oxygen to it break down.
The lower-intensity recovery element of interval training involves the aerobic system. During this phase, the heart and lungs recover oxygen needed to break down lactic acid and to access stored carbohydrates that are converted into energy.
Interval training at the anaerobic threshold can be incorporated into any endurance workout, especially running, cycling and swimming. After a 15-minute warm up, you should work up to your peak within the first 10 minutes and sustain this effort initially for 20 minutes. Recreational athletes typically reach anaerobic threshold at 65% to 80% of VO2 max, whereas professional athletes may not reach threshold until 85% to 95% of VO2 max.¹
One of the best workouts to boost anaerobic threshold at the high-intensity phase is tempo runs, say Active. This practice helps athletes sustain anaerobic threshold pace for the longest time before fatigue sets in. Tempo runs should be carried out for 20 to 40 minutes at a hard though comfortable pace. Try starting with little more than 20 minutes, increasing your time gradually over a number of sessions. Just remember that for most people, it is not possible to maintain an anaerobic threshold for longer than 40 minutes without sacrificing your training for the following two or three days.
Training at high-intensity levels teaches your body to adapt in order to burn lactic acid more efficiently. Athletes are then able to practice and compete at high intensities for longer periods before they reach the point of fatigue or pain.
Interval training, therefore, is one of the best ways to use both the aerobic and anaerobic systems to achieve the biggest increase in anaerobic threshold.
Have you been able to boost your anaerobic threshold with interval training? Share your experience!
¹ About.com Sports Medicine, “Lactate Threshold Training”