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The Norwegian Running Method Explained

The Swedish introduced us to fartlek, the Germans to intervals, and New Zealand to the 80/20 training approach. Now, the Norwegian training method is based on lactate threshold interval training (LGTIT), and it’s hard to argue against their success. 

Norwegian endurances athletes are winning all over the world. Kristian Blummenfelt is the Olympic gold medalist, Gustav Iden the Ironman champion, and Jakob Ingebrigtsen is the 1,500 meters Olympic gold medalist.

As a running coach, I’m always looking for new and better ways to make the most out of my athletes’ training time and effort, from setting the proper heart rate zones in their watches to regularly adjusting their training paces based on their real-time fitness levels.

And as technology and research advance at blazing speeds, another critical part is staying on top—and experimenting— with the latest training techniques and philosophies.

One of these new philosophies is the Norwegian training method.

How the Norwegian Training Method Is Changing Endurance Training

The “Norwegian Method” of endurance training is revolutionizing the way athletes prepare for long-distance events. This approach emphasizes lactate threshold interval training, allowing for more personalized and effective training programs.

Its innovative focus on utilizing lactate testing to dictate training intensity ensures that athletes are working within their optimal zones, leading to improved aerobic and anaerobic capacity.

This method, which combines high-volume, low-intensity training with targeted high-intensity intervals, is fostering a new generation of runners who are breaking records and setting new standards.

As it gains popularity worldwide, the Norwegian Method is not only redefining personal bests for elite athletes but also offering insights and strategies that can be adapted by runners and cyclists at all levels.

What Is Lactate Threshold Interval Training (LGTIT)?

Lactate Threshold Interval Training (LGTIT) is a method within endurance training that prioritizes using blood lactate concentrations to fine-tune workout intensity.

In a recent study, researchers set out to explore the potential physiological mechanisms behind LGTIT and determine if it represents the “next step” in the evolution of distance running training.

The study found that LGTIT, when combined with a high-volume, low-intensity approach, can be an effective training model for improving performance in distance runners.

This approach is central to the Norwegian Method of training, where the primary goal is to enhance an athlete’s endurance performance by meticulously balancing high-volume, low-intensity training with precisely targeted high-intensity intervals.

At the core of LGTIT is the strategic use of blood lactate levels to determine the pace and intensity of training sessions.

What’s the Right Lactate Threshold Zone?

Athletes perform intervals where the pace is adjusted to maintain blood lactate concentrations within a specific target range, typically between 2 to 4.5 mmol·L−1. This allows for the optimization of training stimulus, enabling athletes to push their thresholds without overexerting, which can lead to improved recovery and greater overall training volume.

norwegian running training method

The LGTIT model is distinguished by its interval-based nature, which contrasts with continuous high-intensity training. By mixing high-intensity efforts with periods of rest or lower intensity, athletes can achieve high speeds and intensity while minimizing the risk of excessive lactate accumulation and injury.

This approach enhances aerobic and anaerobic power and recruits a maximum number of motor units, contributing to the overall efficiency and effectiveness of the training.

Adopted by some of the world’s leading endurance athletes, LGTIT is proving to be a game-changer. It offers a more scientific and tailored approach to training that can be adapted to individual athletes’ unique physiological profiles.

4 Key principles of the Norwegian Running Training Method

  1. Three-Zone Training: Athletes divide their training into three lactate threshold zones – low intensity (Zone 1), sub-threshold (Zone 2), and above threshold (Zone 3). The focus is on performing key workouts in Zone 2, where athletes train at or slightly below their lactate threshold.
  2. Lactate Measurements: The method recommends using lactate measurements to determine training intensity. This helps athletes ensure they are working at the right intensity to improve performance and optimize their training.
  3. High-Volume, Low-Intensity: The foundation of the Norwegian Method is a high volume of low-intensity training (100–120 miles/week), which helps build aerobic capacity without overly taxing the body.
  4. Interval-Based Threshold Intervals: Unlike continuous tempo runs, the Norwegian Method uses interval-based lactate threshold runs. These allow athletes to train close to their critical speed without excessive accumulation of lactate, thanks to the rest intervals that help clear acidic buildup.

The TL;DR

The LGTIT training model consists of performing three to four LGTIT sessions and one VO2max intensity session per week, along with low-intensity running up to an overall volume of 150-180 km/week.

During LGTIT sessions, the training pace is dictated by a blood lactate concentration target, typically ranging from 2 to 4.5 mmol·L−1, measured every one to three repetitions.

One of the benefits of LGTIT is that it allows for quicker recovery between high-intensity sessions compared to greater intensities, which can lead to a greater weekly volume of these specific workouts. The interval character of LGTIT also allows for achieving high absolute training speeds, maximizing the number of motor units recruited despite a relatively low metabolic intensity.

The LGTIT model may also increase mitochondrial proliferation. This, in turn, can lead to increased capillarization in Type I skeletal muscle fibers, augmenting oxygen delivery to working muscles to produce significant performance benefits.

While LGTIT is not vastly different from usual training modes in world-class runners, its focus on internal training load markers (blood lactate concentration) to match specific metabolic intensities represents a unique and innovative approach.

The Norwegian Training Method in Simple Words

If I have to explain the method in a few words, it would be:

“A high-volume method, around 100 miles a week, with very specific speed sessions based on blood lactate concentration with a target of 2 to 4.5 mmol·L−1”

A look at some of the concepts, history, and keys to improvement

The Norwegian Running Training Method intertwines several pivotal concepts, historical evolutions, and strategies for enhancement in endurance sports. This approach is not just a training regimen but a comprehensive philosophy that integrates physiology, performance, and precision.

Concepts: Central to the Norwegian Method is the concept of training intensity modulation based on lactate levels. Lactate, a metabolic byproduct, becomes a critical marker for training intensity. The method distinguishes between different training zones, each defined by specific lactate thresholds, allowing athletes to train more effectively by targeting the exact intensity needed to stimulate adaptations in endurance and efficiency.

History: While the use of lactate measurements in training isn’t new, the Norwegian Method’s distinctive approach—combining high-volume, low-intensity training with lactate high-intensity intervals—has set a new benchmark in endurance training. Norwegian athletes like Kristian Blummenfelt and Jakob Ingebrigtsen have exemplified the method’s efficacy, demonstrating its potential at the highest levels of competition. This success has propelled the Norwegian Method onto the global stage, where it’s now influencing training programs across various endurance sports.

Keys to Improvement: The implementation of the Norwegian Method is meticulous and data-driven.

Athletes and coaches monitor lactate levels to ensure training occurs at the optimal intensity for developing aerobic capacity and enhancing lactate threshold. This precision allows for tailored threshold sessions that adapt to an athlete’s evolving physiological state, maximizing the eficiency of each session.

The interval-based nature of the high-intensity workouts within the method allows for substantial training volume at high speeds without excessive fatigue accumulation, promoting recovery and facilitating consistent progress.

It stands out for its evidence-based, individualized approach, enabling athletes to harness their physiological data for targeted and effective training. Its growing popularity underscores a broader shift in endurance training towards more scientifically grounded, personalized methodologies.

Why the Norwegian Method Uses Lactate to Measure Training Intensity

The Norwegian Method utilizes lactate measurements to determine training intensity because lactate levels are a direct indicator of the metabolic state of an athlete during exercise. When athletes exercise, their bodies produce lactate, a byproduct of anaerobic metabolism. The lactate threshold represents the intensity of exercise at which lactate begins to accumulate in the blood faster than it can be removed, signaling a shift from predominantly aerobic to anaerobic energy production.

By measuring lactate levels, coaches and athletes can pinpoint the exact intensity at which the athlete transitions from aerobic to anaerobic metabolism. This precision allows them to tailor their training sessions more effectively, ensuring that they train at an intensity that optimizes their aerobic and anaerobic energy systems without overtraining. Training at or slightly below the lactate threshold enhances the body’s ability to process and clear lactate, which can improve performance.

Moreover, lactate levels provide a more individualized measure of exertion compared to heart rate or pace alone, which can be influenced by various external factors. The Norwegian Method’s emphasis on lactate-guided training ensures that athletes are working at the optimal intensity for their own physiological state, leading to more efficient training and better performance outcomes. This methodological approach is particularly beneficial in sports, where efficient energy utilization and the ability to sustain high intensities are crucial for success.

norwegian training method

Why a Runner Should (or Shouldn’t) Use the Norwegian Method

Runners should consider using the Norwegian Method if they’re looking for a scientifically grounded, data-driven approach to enhance their endurance performance. This method’s focus on lactate threshold training offers a tailored way to optimize aerobic and anaerobic capacities, potentially leading to significant improvements in performance. Particularly for serious athletes and those who thrive on structured, precise training regimens, the Norwegian Method can offer a new level of insight and control over their training processes.

However, it may not be the best approach or most runners. First, the method requires access to technology and expertise for regular lactate testing, which might not be accessible or practical for all runners, especially ones doing their own training. The approach also demands a high level of commitment and discipline to adhere to the detailed, data-driven training sessions, which might not align with every runner’s preferences or lifestyle.

Recreational runners or those who run primarily for enjoyment might find the rigorous structure and the emphasis on data somewhat detracting from the pleasure and simplicity they find in running.

It’s definitely not a training method recommended for beginner runners.

How to Apply the Norwegian Training Program

Applying the Norwegian Training Approach involves integrating specific principles and methods into your training regimen to optimize endurance athletes’ performance.

Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to implement this approach:

  1. Understand the Zones: Familiarize yourself with the three training zones defined in the Norwegian Method: low-intensity (Zone 1), sub-threshold (Zone 2), and above-threshold (Zone 3). The majority of your training should be in Zone 1, with critical workouts in Zone 2.
  2. Lactate Threshold Testing: The cornerstone of the Norwegian Method is training based on lactate threshold levels. You’ll need to undergo lactate threshold testing to identify your specific thresholds and set accurate training intensities. This can be done through a sports performance lab or with portable lactate analyzers during training.
  3. Plan Your Training: Structure your training plan to include a high volume of low-intensity workouts (Zone 1) and incorporate specific lactate threshold sessions (LGTIT) sessions (Zone 2). Typically, this includes three to four LGTIT sessions and one VO2max session per week.
  4. Monitor and Adjust: Regularly monitor your lactate levels during key workouts to ensure you’re training at the correct intensity. Use this data to adjust your training paces and intensities as you progress and as your fitness levels change.
  5. Recovery: Emphasize recovery as an integral part of your training. The Norwegian Method’s high volume and intensity can be demanding, so adequate recovery is crucial to prevent overtraining and facilitate adaptation.
  6. Consult with Professionals: If possible, work with a coach or exercise physiologist familiar with the Norwegian Method to help guide your training, interpret lactate data, and make necessary adjustments to your plan.
  7. Evaluate and Evolve: Continuously assess your performance and physiological markers. As you adapt to the training, your lactate thresholds will change, necessitating adjustments to your training intensities and volumes.

Conclusion

Norwegian Training Approach is a cutting-edge threshold training method that emphasizes a data-driven, personalized regimen.

By focusing on lactate-guided threshold interval training, this method allows athletes to train more efficiently and targets specific physiological markers for improvement. Its proven success among elite athletes has garnered attention worldwide, making it an appealing option for runners seeking to optimize their performance.

However, the approach’s reliance on detailed physiological data and structured training sessions may not suit every athlete, particularly those who prefer a more intuitive or less regimented approach to training. It requires access to specific equipment and expertise for lactate monitoring, as well as a commitment to adhere to its structured training principles.

For athletes considering the Norwegian Method, it’s crucial to weigh the benefits of its scientific rigor against the demands of its implementation. Whether you’re an elite competitor aiming for the next level or an amateur seeking structured improvement, the Norwegian Method offers valuable insights into how targeted, data-driven training can enhance endurance performance.

As with any training regimen, the key is to adapt its principles to fit your individual needs, goals, and circumstances, ensuring a balanced and sustainable approach to improving endurance and achieving athletic success.

Diego Alcubierre, a passionate runner and coach, started his journey at 26 with a 10k time of 1:06:23 and has since slashed 30 minutes off his personal record. With five running and coaching certifications, Diego is committed to sharing his expertise and proven strategies to help runners of all levels enhance their performance, stay motivated, and enjoy the journey of running. At Bannister, he simplifies complex training concepts, empowering you to achieve your running goals.