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.
The Norwegian Training Method
One of these new philosophies is the Norwegian training method.
The Swedish introduced us to fartlek, the Germans to intervals, and New Zealand to the 80/20 training approach. Now the Norwegians to lactate-guided threshold interval training (LGTIT), and it’s hard to argue against their success.
Norwegian 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.
What is lactate-guided threshold interval training (LGTIT)?
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.
Reading and understanding the study can be long and complicated, so I summarized it in the simplest way possible.
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 and improving endurance performance.
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.
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”
The LGTIT training model represents a promising approach for improving performance in distance runners. By monitoring blood lactate concentration during high-intensity training sessions and combining it with a high-volume, low-intensity approach, athletes may be able to optimize their training stimulus and enhance the physiological determinants of performance.
As with any training model, it is important to test and individualize it to the athlete’s needs and abilities.