When your muscles move, they produce lactate. Usually, your lactate levels stay pretty stable. But during intense activity you can surpass your lactate threshold, meaning lactate builds up faster than it can be flushed out of your system. This a concern in any sport that requires sprinting.
Lactic buildup can cause fatigue and pain that can really slow you down. But with the right training, you can actually raise your lactic threshold and delay pain so you can run faster and worry less about bottoming out.
Here are five drills to increase your lactic tolerance. They are very tough and should be performed only once per week, maximum. Your warm-up should be primarily mobility-based and low-fatigue. Because of their level of difficulty, allow for full recovery before attempting the drills.
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1. Split 400’s
The aim of this workout, from Jimson Lee’s speedendurance.com, is intentionally to introduce a greater level of lactic buildup. You run 300 meters at 95 percent, then rest for one minute. This allows the lactic acid to build up in your legs during the rest period. You then run 100 meters at 100 percent effort.
I usually prescribe 7 minutes recovery, then repeat three times.
You can do variations by splitting the 400 meters in almost any way: 200/200, 300/100, 250/150 and so on. You can also vary speed and intensity; adjust your recovery accordingly.
2. Tempo 200’s
Clyde Hart’s Tempo 200 is my favorite session, and I use it a lot. I vary it slightly due to the age of my athletes. The session involves 200-meter reps with two-minute recoveries.
I usually start the training year with 10 or 12 reps and work down toward 3 or 4 by the summer competition season.
The rule of thumb for males: 200-meter time is number of reps plus 20 seconds. So for a 10-rep session, you run 30 seconds. Females run 4 seconds slower.
The first few reps start out OK, but later reps really hurt. I have had athletes complain of lactic pain in their teeth and the tip of their nose after this session.
3. Split 600’s
I originally borrowed this slower session from Latif Thomas. The lactic pain is a slow burner as well. Run the 600’s in three continuous segments at different speeds as follows:
- 200/200/200 in 33/48/33 for males ; 38/50/38 for females.
- Rest for 7 minutes.
- Complete 5 repetitions.
Not only does the lactic acid build into the final 200 meters of each repetition, the buildup continues across the repetitions, so the final one is very painful.
4. RAST Test
The Running Anaerobic Sprint Test, developed by Draper and Whyte in 1997, estimates power thresholds, average power and the fatigue index. You can compare previous tests to monitor progress. More details can be found here.
Since this is an anaerobic test, it has an additional benefit as a high-intensity lactic tolerance session if completed correctly.
The test/session goes as follows:
- Mark off a 35-meter section of track.
- Sprint at maximum speed for 35 meters.
- Take 10 seconds to decelerate and repeat the run in the opposite direction.
- Do this for 6 repetitions.
5. The 150’s
My athletes know that right before competition preparation, they will do the 150’s. This ultimate killer session comes at the end of the training year because it is so tough. We occasionally do a 2-set version prior to indoor season preparation.
Do 3 sets of 3 repetitions of 150 meters at 95 percent intensity with 2 minutes recovery between reps and 10 minutes between sets. If you stick to your time, this is the toughest session you will do.
Check out more conditioning drills.