How to use Training Zones the Right Way (Part 3)

Training zones, lactate threshold, anaerobic threshold, VO2 max: training buzzwords. Do you know what they mean? Do you know how to use them to improve your training? Find out in this three-part series. (Read Part 1, and Part 2.)

Part 3: Training above Lactate Threshold

Intervals above LT could be aimed at training to reach the athlete’s biologically-determined VO2 max, or training to be able to sustain VO2 max exertion for longer. The highest output intervals may be improving an athlete’s anaerobic capacity (all-out sprinting power.)

In the nomenclature I prefer, Level 4 (L4) training encompasses exertion above LT training and capping out at VO2 max. (VO2 max refers to the point at which the body is using as much oxygen as it possibly can at one moment. Check out this article for more.) L5 is training above VO2 max, where the body is leaning heavily on anaerobic energy production: usually in reps no longer than 90 seconds. (Beyond 90 seconds, our capacity for producing energy anaerobically tanks.)

The precise breakdown of exactly what pace to use for L4 training may depend on the type of competition an athlete is preparing for. Let’s take the example of a runner training for a 10k race. Some of their shortest intervals, 200 meter and 400m reps, will be done at their VO2 max (roughly their 3k race pace,) or slightly faster, mixing aerobic and anaerobic energy production. Their longer L4 reps will be close to 10k pace, significantly slower. All would be considered L4 intervals, just as tempo and LT training are both considered L3.

In the end, knowing the nomenclature is a shortcut for understanding the nuance.

Training levels 1-5 is the system I use in parlance with my athletes, and the degree of specificity of each workout within the training levels depends on the precision of the athlete’s performance goals, and the nature of the sport. (Consider the difference between a track race and a cross country race, for example: a track provides a much more consistent and predictable level of exertion than the variable terrain offered up on an xc course. Interval training should be designed to match.)

I hope you have enjoyed this deep-dive into the physiology of training paces. Refer to this chart to help keep your various training paces straight.

Want help writing your training plan and designing intervals that work? I’ve got you!

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