"There's only one hard and fast rule in running: sometimes you have to run one hard and fast."

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Practical Lactic Acid Tolerance Training

What LATT is/ Why do it

Lactic acid tolerance training is running at a very fast rate, in order to generate as much lactic acid as possible, quickly. It's the major determinant of success in racing 800-1500 meters, but becomes decreasingly important the longer the race. By increasing the amount of lactic acid in muscle, the cells become more efficient in removing it; this in turn means that the steady-state level where the amount generated is equal to the amount removed (lactic acid threshold or anaerobic threshold) is increased - one can run faster, longer.

For races over 90 minutes, this becomes a two-edged sword. One is able to run faster longer, but at the cost of burning glycogen much faster. This means depleting sooner. That's why great 5K runners rarely become great marathoners; they use up all of their glycogen by the half-way mark and struggle afterward. If a long distance runner does LATT, he or she should also do carbohydrate loading and should be taking in sugar in food and drink while running. This is a lesson I wish I had learned at 19, rather than 40 (I'd probably have been a 2:25 marathoner).

The main benefit to an ultra runner is that one can run some hills that would otherwise be walked and this impresses the other runners into letting you beat them (rather than trying to catch you on the downhills).

How it's done

Take a deep breath and hold it. The length of time you can hold it is about how long you can run at the fast end of the range of LATT. The length at the slow end is 2-3 times as long (about how long one can hold one's breath if hyperventilating beforehand). In my case, the range is 75 seconds to 3:45 [I once held my breath for 4:54, but under unusual circumstances].

Using my numbers, there are two possible workouts. The first is to run as hard as possible for 3:45. This is ridiculously hard for most people. I recommend instead that one enter 5K races (there's one almost every week here in the Twin Cities) and concentrate on running the final half mile as fast as possible. The idea isn't to race the entire 5K, but to build up to a final hard push at the end; this seems to help all racers develop experience and confidence.

The alternative is to run three 75 second repeats. This interval workout goes by several names. Jack Daniels refers to it as repetition running (and "fast running" in places). Bob Glover refers to it as "power running." The high school where I coached called it PTA: Pain, Torture, Agony.
Because this is run very hard, the best way to accomplish it is to run a steep incline; this allows one to reach the highest heart rate quickly and at a slower pace. The rest interval between repetitions should be about 5 minutes - or longer; one should be completely recovered in between and this often is more psychologically demanding than one would expect. The effort level is 90% (if I ran 400 meters in 75 seconds, then I could expect to race 400 meters in 67.5 seconds (75x0.90); it should feel demanding, but not quite all-out.

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