Getting Started With Threshold Running Training

Threshold running is a popular speed workout that can be adapted to any runner’s training plan. The goal of threshold running is to increase your different running thresholds so that you can run at a sustained, fast pace for longer. The distance run during threshold running training sits between your half marathon pace and your 5-10k paces. Because you are not exerting as much energy and covering as much distance as you do in 5-10k marathons, you should easily be able to work this into your existing training routine.

There are a number of exercises that are great for those just starting out with threshold running training to suit a range of runners.These exercises combined with the right apparel such as running headwear and running sunglasses, can keep you focused on your goal and constantly improving as a runner. Keep on reading to learn about the benefits of threshold runs and what exercises you can do to achieve them.

Benefits of threshold running training
Running at your threshold pace provides just enough of a challenge to help improve the thresholds your body meets while running, so you can run faster for longer. We talk more about the types of thresholds in the next section. After some time doing threshold training workouts correctly, your body learns to clear lactate buildup faster, so you can run at a steady pace for longer. As you will have felt during a long run, the lactate buildup causes your body to feel tired and weak, essentially slowing you down. Threshold training teaches your body to become more efficient at resisting and getting rid of the lactate buildup, so you can spend more time running at your best race pace.

3 thresholds that increase with threshold runs

As you continue threshold training, you will likely notice an improvement in your ability to sustain a faster pace for longer distances. Below are the thresholds that improve with targeted, intentional threshold running training.

  1. Lactate threshold: This is the tipping point during a run when your body starts to feel fatigued and you begin to slow down. Inside your body, lactate is starting to build up very quickly.
  1. Anaerobic threshold: This is the point during a run when your body begins to use its glycogen stores for energy rather than fat stores. Your body is beginning to produce lactate more quickly than it can be removed.
  1. Aerobic threshold: This is typically your current race pace. It is running at a steady yet fast pace that doesn’t allow lactate to accumulate too much. It is a less reliable source of immediate energy as it produces energy slowly.

Beginner’s guide to threshold training

If you have been doing the same few training sessions over and over, you’ll likely have noticed a drop in your improvements. This is bound to happen as your body gets stronger and more effective at running. To get the most out of your running workouts, it’s important to switch things up once in a while and increase the distance, speed, and difficulty level of your training sessions.

If you are new to threshold training, start out running shorter distances and work your way up. Increasing your race pace and distance covered should only be done every 2 weeks, so you don’t get an injury. A good rule of thumb is to rest for 1 minute for every 5 minutes of working out at your threshold running pace. Also, you need to keep increasing your running pace for threshold training sessions to complement your race pace, as your race pace will likely advance with continued training.

Sample threshold training workouts

Below are a few threshold training workouts that you could try. Remember, start slow and short until your thresholds increase, at which point you will have to change up and increase the difficulty level of your training. And remember, what works for one runner might not work for another, so give different threshold training exercises a try and see what helps. Also, there is no universal threshold running pace. Each runner has a different existing pace and race goals, so find your personal training pace by referring to resources such as Tinman Elite’s charts or Jack Daniels’ VDOT charts. Run repeats of the below threshold running workouts for short distances and periods of time, then gradually cover longer distances. Focus on either distance or time for each repetition at threshold pace.

  • 8 x 2 min
  • 12 x 400m
  • 3 x 3kms
  • 10 x 1km
  • 6 x 1.5km
  • 6 x 3:30

Tips on threshold training 

You should always take a short 30 second-1 minute jogging break between intervals for maximum benefits. At the end of each threshold training session, you should feel as though you have pushed yourself really hard, but not as hard as you do on race day. Also, you should be able to jump right back into your race pace after each short break – that ‘s how you know you aren’t overdoing it. You should not need too much time to recover from this type of speed workout.

Always maintain running form and pace to avoid negating any benefits. If you are struggling to keep up with a certain pace or distance, turn it down a notch and run at a point that is manageable for where you are in your fitness journey. The total amount of effort and exercise done at the end of each threshold session is far more beneficial than running long distances during each interval. Run on a terrain that is similar to your race day track for best practice.

Run better and faster for longer

While threshold running training is a great way to run faster for longer, you might still find yourself short on energy during a run. Running gels are a convenient energy boost that you can easily carry on your runs. Make sure to also wear comfortable running gear to help protect you from the elements. A trusted running store will always stock high quality yet affordable running shoes online, as well as running nutrition and accessories. Investing in some quality gear and following an intentional threshold running plan can reward you in more ways than one. So take some great strides to improve your running today.