The “mildly uncomfortable” training to improve endurance

  • The “lactacid threshold” is the point at which training goes from moderate to intense, resulting in the production of lactic acid.
  • A hybrid athlete (bodybuilder and runner) like Nick Bare uses 800-meter intervals, maintaining an “mildly uncomfortable” pace near the lactacid threshold.
  • Training near the lactacid threshold offers benefits such as improved lactic acid tolerance and improvements in the cardiovascular system and oxygen distribution to the muscles.


Let’s say that, “mildly uncomfortable” is more interesting than “definitely exhausting,” isn’t it? It is, indeed. It promises to improve overall endurance and the ability to last in running without spitting out your lungs in the attempt. To understand how it works, however, it is best to take a small step back: we are sorry but we have to talk about lactacid or aneorobic threshold.

What is the lactacid (or aneorobic) threshold

When you train or compete and generally in physical exertion, you can distinguish two phases: one in which you make moderate exertion and one in which, progressively, the exertion is felt more and more until it is unbearable. The former (aerobic) is characterized by metabolic engagement of your cells using oxygen to produce energy while the latter is defined by lactic acid production and occurs in the absence of oxygen.

The second phase is typical of explosive efforts such as weightlifting or sprinting in the 100-meter dash, while the second phase characterizes more prolonged and less intense efforts. “Like running!” you might be saying to yourself at this point, and the answer is twofold: yes if you’re going medium slow but no as soon as you run faster, for example in a race. Even in endurance races, in short, one meets the anaerobic threshold.

The problem with this threshold, also defined as the point at which anaerobic metabolism comes to the aid of aerobic metabolism to produce energy (i.e., simplifying, that limit that distinguishes mild from intense exertion) is that it also defines the beginning of a phase in which lactate (or lactic acid) production is greater than your body’s ability to dispose of it. So what? And so the cramps, muscle pains, etc.

If you have followed me this far and if I have explained myself well, you will have understood that oxygen plays a key role. In other words, the more your body can get oxygen to your muscles, the better: in fact, this means you will cross the lactacid threshold later and thus produce less lactic acid and only beyond a certain point in your training and competition. Translation: the pains come later. That’s why a value as mysterious to many as VO2max-which measures the oxygen available to your muscles-is important: the higher it is, the more you will endure your efforts and the longer you will last without fatigue wearing you down.

Good: now we can talk about the “almost strenuous” training ;)

A bodybuilder running marathons

Let’s say that few worlds seem as far apart as bodybuilding and running. After all, in the former you make explosive efforts by lifting immense weights and have massive muscle mass, in the latter the weight is crucial but in reverse: the less the better (again simplifying!).

Nick Bare belongs to the first group: as a bodybuilder he is capable of lifting more than 180 kg (that’s 3 1/2 Kipchoge) yet he managed to run a marathon in 2 hours, 48 minutes and 11 seconds. In short, Bare is what is called a hybrid athlete, that is, the kind of athlete who, while working very hard, must do so intelligently, that is, without exhausting himself to the point of risking injury.

Bare does a particular kind of endurance training: intervals of 800 meters, but at a pace that is, indeed, “mildly uncomfortable.” Or almost exhausting. In other words: Nick comes to the threshold and stands there, never crossing it.
You will have already figured out which threshold we are talking about: that’s right, the lactacidal one. In short, Bare trains by producing lactic acid but in not excessive amounts, so as to increase endurance while still managing to get rid of enough of it so as not to compromise the other workouts he has to do. “Stopping earlier” in short means getting to that point where the effort is felt but not excessive. Above that threshold you are overtraining and overloading your body to the point where it is unable to perform other work.

In short, we talk about “moderate intensity exercise” and “anaerobic threshold training.”
No more gibberish! You are right: put another way, this threshold is subjective and corresponds to 80-90% of maximum effort.

Training by staying on that limit allows you multiple benefits:
– Increases tolerance to lactic acid, which is produced but not in excessive doses, so your body can manage and eliminate it bit by bit
– improves the performance of your cardiovascular system, which gradually adapts to the exertion, enduring it more and more
– improves the distribution of oxygen to the muscles, resulting in a delay in the entry of Darth Vader, i.e., lactic acid.

Okay, but in practice?

Lactate concentration is so important that Norwegian middle-distance runner Jakob Ingebrigtsen and his entire team keep a constant eye on it, even using Bluetooth detectors that, once he points his finger and collects a drop of blood, tell him in 10 seconds what level it is.

If you want to equip yourself with it-though then you’ll also need a machine that reads the results called Lactate Scouts (prices range from 400 to 800 euros) or similar-know that the Norwegian national cross-country team has calculated that the ideal lactate concentration range is between 2.0 and 4.5 mmol/L. In short, staying within this limit means training “at the threshold.”

To keep it simple, though, know that you only need to train like this a couple of times a week by doing runs at a brisk pace that are meant to increase anaerobic thresholds and are done like this:
– 10-minute warm-up
– Running at a pace that is 30 seconds slower than your time over 5 km for about 20-40 minutes.
– 10-minute recovery/cool down: serves to accustom your body to clear lactic acid from the bloodstream more quickly.

Ready? Well, now you know everything. Really everything.

(Via Inside Hook)


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