Threshold training, or T-pace, running is highly beneficial for distance runners, providing satisfying workouts and better consistency while avoiding overtraining. There are two types of threshold training: tempo runs and cruise intervals. Tempo runs are moderately prolonged runs that improve endurance, while cruise intervals involve repeated runs with brief recoveries. The focus here is on tempo runs, including extended tempo runs.
Tempo runs can serve a broader purpose, such as providing psychological benefits, but their primary advantage is improving endurance. The ideal pace for threshold running is about 83-88% of VO2 Max or 88-92% of vVO2 Max or maximum heart rate. You can determine your threshold pace by running at a velocity that results in a steady state of blood lactate accumulation. It should be faster than a pace you could maintain for two or more hours (marathon pace for most) but slower than the pace you could maintain for 30 minutes (10K race pace for better runners).
Most runners find their threshold pace to be equivalent to a pace they could race at for 50 to 60 minutes. However, slower runners might consider their threshold pace to be their 10K race pace. The goal of threshold training is to stress lactate-clearance capability without overdoing it. Tempo runs should be “comfortably hard” and not as intense as pure interval training.
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A typical tempo run lasts 20 minutes at T-pace, which should be a pace you can maintain for about an hour in a race. However, the duration of a tempo run can be adjusted based on the course. It’s essential to run on flat terrain with good footing and under desirable weather conditions. Monitoring your heart rate can be helpful, but the focus should be on maintaining a steady rhythm and intensity.
One challenge with tempo runs is resisting the urge to turn them into time trials. Holding the proper pace is crucial, even if it may feel easier or harder than expected. A warm-up of at least 10 minutes and a cool-down with strides should bookend the tempo run. Progress should be measured by how much easier a workout becomes over time, indicating an increase in fitness level.
It’s important not to constantly push for faster paces in each workout but rather let your body adapt to the stress before increasing it. Monitoring progress can involve heart rates or blood lactate values, but learning to read your body’s feelings and reactions is also valuable. If you’re in a prolonged training phase without races, you can increase training intensity gradually. Maintenance programs aim to sustain current fitness levels without the need for intensity or distance increases.
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The placement of threshold training in a training program may vary based on individual needs and the event being trained for. Unlike endurance runs, which typically appear early in a program, threshold training can be emphasized early, in the middle, or late in the schedule. The key is to tailor the training phases to the individual and their goals.