Lactate Threshold- what it is & how it can make you faster

Most runners have probably heard of a “tempo run”. I want to remove the ‘gray area’ from this phrase for you to understand how to improve your running by doing this type of run the correct way.

Why are tempo runs important?

  • Trains the cardiovascular & muscular system to utilize oxygen while simultaneously removing waste products such as carbon dioxide & lactic acid (image a bath running with the drain open.  Running at LT tempo pace is the rate at which the waste removal and waste production is basically the exact same). If you run ‘faster’ than your body can remove the waste, then you are defeating the purpose of the tempo run. We want to “toe the line”. It’s like black jack- you it’s better to be a little under pace than over!
  • Improves endurance and the “rate” that your body can remove the waste allowing you to run faster for longer
  • Promotes efficient running form
  • Teaches mental toughness & self control
  • Keep us ‘honest’ with our current fitness level & good gauge for coaches to predict future race performances

Running A Tempo Is Hard Work. I like to focus on nutrition before and after. Here are my favorite products that speed up recovery and give me energy:


What is roughly your tempo pace?

Use this calculator to find out

For example, I plugged in a 23:30 5k race result & here are the paces:

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Short Tempo- 30 min or less in total duration – 15-10k pace

Mid Tempo- 30-60 min in total duration– half marathon pace

Long Tempo- 50-90 min in total duration – marathon pace

It’s VERY important to note that your body is not always going to hit the exact same pace for a tempo run. Fatigue & stress will effect your pacing from day to day. 

Do you have a GPS watch? My recommendation for starting out is this:

Other pace effecting factors:

  • grade % (uphill, downhill)
  • temperature
  • terrain (trails, track, road)
  • Wind (headwind vs tail wind)

Go off “feel” rather than “pace”. During a tempo run it is SO important to NOT obsess over the pace you are running. Don’t over think it. Don’t get in your own head. Don’t push yourself ‘over your threshold’. 

Most importantly- How should you feel during a tempo run?

  • like you could keep going at this speed for longer than prescribed if you had to
  • like you could speed up if you had to
  • it should feel hard, but you should not feel like you are giving 100% – do NOT race this
  • breathing should be heavier than usually, but you COULD say a few words if you absolutely HAD to talk– probably don’t feel like talking at all
  • HR usually at 80-92% of max HR (ie. if max HR is 200 then 160-184 BPM)

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Should I warm up and cool down?

ALWAYS WARM UP AND COOL DOWN WITH EASY RUNNING. This is SO critical and SO important! Warming up can prevent SO many injuries. Your body needs to get warmed up for the faster running. Your warm up should be ran at an easy pace for at least 10-20 min before you begin a workout. 

How Often should you run at this pace?

Only 25% of your running mileage should be ran faster than an easy pace. For more about “easy running” read my previous blog here.  A great book to read on this theory is 80/20 by running coach Matt Fitzgerald

Example– if you run 40 miles per week, 30 miles should be run at an easy pace & 10 miles can be ran “faster”

I recommend at least 24 hours of easy running or rest between running “faster” workouts. 

Example Week of Training:

23:30 5ker running 40 miles per week (using 25% ‘hard effort’ limit)

Monday- 6 miles easy (9:30 avg pace)

Tuesday- 7 miles (1.5 mi easy warm up + 3 mile tempo @ 7:51 avg + 1.5 mi easy cool down)

Wednesday- 5 mile easy (9:30 avg pace)

Thursday- 7 miles (1.5 mi easy warm up + 5 x .5 mile @ 7:35 avg (5k pace)  with  .25 mi easy jog between + 1.5 mi cool down)

Friday- 5 mile easy ( 9:30 avg)

Saturday- 10 miles (3 miles easy warm up + 4.5 mile tempo @ 8:06 avg pace + 2.5 mi easy cool down)

Sunday– rest day 



🔥They typically feel like a 7-8/10 on an effort scale, and many people would describe the pace as “comfortably hard”

🔥You can figure out what YOUR paces should be for these workouts by inputting a recent race result or time trial into a VDOT calculator 🤓

👇Try out our favorite tempo workouts!👇

💥4 x .75 mile w/ .25 mile jog between💥

💥3 x 1 mile w/ .25 mile jog between💥

💥2 x 1.5 miles w/ .25 mile jog between💥

💥2 x 3 miles w/ .5 mile jog between💥


I want to help you reach your full potential as a runner:

Victoria Phillippi


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3 thoughts on “Lactate Threshold- what it is & how it can make you faster

  1. Thank you for this article! It kind of clicks for me finally. And it explains why I feel so much better refreshed at the end of a long, slow run.

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