Threshold Running Explained

Threshold runs are a staple running workout for distance runners.  Whether you’re a miler or a marathoner, you should be doing threshold runs as they help build endurance and improve your lactate threshold levels.  Based on your current fitness, find your threshold pace by looking at Jack Daniel’s charts and locating the appropriate pace.  

Threshold Runs Explained by TrainwithMarc.com

Threshold Runs Explained by TrainwithMarc.com

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Picking the Right Threshold Distance

You can run threshold repeats ranging from 400 meters all the way up to 5k or more.  Depending on your fitness and motivation, pick a repeat distance that is appropriate to your current training.  I recently relearned some information about threshold workouts from Coach Tarello at Monmouth University and Shannon Grady at System Based Training.  Both coaches suggest you choose a repeat distance that is manageable and attainable for the runner.  

Example: If a runner’s form, pace, and effort is strained while running repeat 1k’s, the runner should move to repeat 600s or 800s.  The focal point of threshold workouts should be the entire volume of the workout rather than on the distance of each repetition.   

To recap, the total volume of threshold is primary while the individual distance of the repetitions is secondary.  If a runner loses form and motivation at 800s, they should consider shorter repetitions (with equally shorter rests).

Threshold Running 101

Threshold Running 101

Types of “Threshold” Paces

There are primarily two types of threshold workouts, threshold and tempos.  The pace is considered “comfortably hard” and it’s the point at which your body creates and removes lactate accumulation at the same rate.  You can do a fairly high amount of work at threshold because it is requires relatively low muscle-stress.  

Threshold Repetitions

Repetitions will vary in distance and amount of work depending on each runner.  A typical workout would be a repeat distance (say 1,000 meters) with a specific recovery.  The recoveries are shorter than with other paced workouts because you are running at sustainable pace.

Tempo Runs

A tempo run is a threshold run without the recoveries.  So, it should be a little bit slower than your threshold repeat pace.  It should be a pace that you could sustain for an hour long race.  The pace of a tempo run is considered “comfortably hard” and it’s the point at which your body creates and removes lactate accumulation at the same rate.   

Summary:

Threshold and tempo runs (as explained by Jack Daniel’s) are staples for distance runners.  Threshold pace goes by many names depending on who you talk to, but the pace of both is considered “comfortably hard”. Threshold runs have short breaks, while tempo runs are continuous.  

Regardless of what you call this pace and what distances you run, remember that you should warm up and cool down properly and follow each threshold workout with an easy day.

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What are your favorite threshold distances?  What repeat is the longest you can do before your pace slows and your form deteriorates?

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