Threshold Pace: How to Find It and Use It In Your Training Runs

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Have you ever thought of running with less intensity to improve your performance? It sounds counterintuitive, doesn’t it?

But you can improve your endurance by lowering your pace a little when you doing a hard workout. Running at this speed – a few notches below your race pace – is known as threshold pace.

Whether you’re a new or experienced runner, this underrated type of run could be your secret weapon to getting faster.

Here’s everything you need to know about threshold pace, how to figure yours out, and how to use it in your training runs to boost your stamina.

What Is Your Threshold Pace?

Threshold pace—also known as T-pace—can get a little complicated. In scientific terms, this is the pace at which your body needs to produce energy without oxygen. It does this using glycolysis, which produces a byproduct called lactate.

When the lactate—and its associated metabolic waste—builds up in the body to the point where it can’t get rid of it fast enough, that’s known as your lactate threshold.

In less scientific terms, your threshold pace is the average pace at which you can run a 60-minute race. While that’s a generalization of the term, it’s a good way to remember it and get an idea of how it works.

How to Determine Threshold Pace

You can determine your threshold pace through physiological testing, but it’s not necessary to go to that extent unless you wish to.

Many Garmin watches and others have a built-in FTP, functional threshold pace test. You can simply follow the instructions.

You can figure it out yourself if you don’t have a Garmin and have some heart rate training experience. Your T-pace is around 85 to 90 percent of your maximum heart rate—or between 83 and 88 percent of your VO2 max.

If you don’t use heart rate or VO2 training, you can use perceived exertion to get a ballpark figure of your T-pace. You should be able to say a three to four-word sentence without gasping for breath. A threshold run should be fast but isn’t meant to be all-out.

Alternatively, if you know your marathon pace, that’s a pretty close indicator of your threshold pace.

The Benefits of Training at Threshold Pace

Why even consider training at a threshold pace? Here are some benefits you can expect when using threshold pace in your training.

Improved Endurance and Performance

The more your lactate threshold improves, the better you can perform. And the more you perform threshold pace training, the better your lactate threshold will get.

You may be surprised that workouts like tempo runs—usually run at a threshold pace—can be the biggest improver of endurance.

This means you can run for longer at the same pace before you fatigue and your body moves from oxygen consumption into glycolysis.

Reduced Chance of Injury or Overtraining

Regularly including moderate-intensity runs like threshold runs in your training schedule reduces the chance of injury.

Consistent levels of high-intensity training can lead to overtraining. Overtraining can set you back in terms of performance and motivation, but regular tempo runs in your routine can help reduce the stress your body undergoes.

How to Include It In Your Training

All you need to do to include threshold training in your program is add workouts that have you maintaining your threshold pace for a certain time. Depending on your preference, they can be continuous runs or shorter intervals.

Use Heart Rate Training

The easiest way to include threshold pace training in your schedule is to do heart rate training. Most smartwatches have a heart rate zone feature that you can use to monitor your HR as you move through the exercise.

Make sure you’re staying within that zone of 80 to 90 percent of your maximum heart rate, and you should be at your T-pace. Once you get used to training at this pace, you should find it easier to get into this zone by feeling rather than having to check your watch.

Stick To Two Threshold Sessions Per Week

These kinds of easy-ish runs sound great to do every day! However, we recommend adding them to your schedule once or twice a week so that you can have recovery time in between.

Doing more than two per week can leave you open to overtraining. This can be especially worrying if you’re training for a particular event, so resist the temptation to push yourself and do more than two weekly sessions.

Vary Your Distances

Like any other type of run, you can vary your threshold runs so you don’t get bored, and your body doesn’t become too used to them.

Try a 5-mile run on one day and then intervals the next day. You can also vary your intervals; for example, try four half-miles one day, and two 1-mile runs the next. You can get creative!

Reassess As You Improve

It’s important to reassess your lactate threshold as you improve. As your endurance improves and you begin to perform better, your T-pace will improve too. You should double-check it every few weeks to ensure you’re still training appropriately for your skill level.

Bonus Tip: Run To Music

It can be tricky to settle at the right pace. But music can help! If you don’t mind listening to music while you run, you can create a playlist of songs at the right pace.

A cadence of between 160 and 170 beats per minute is ideal for most runners. You should be able to search for songs on your favorite platform that falls into that category, and running with them in your ears can help you to keep pace effortlessly.

5 Threshold Pace Workouts

Here are 5 easy threshold workouts you can add to your routine, depending on your skill level and schedule. Make sure you warm up before each workout, and it’s worth doing a short run beforehand to get your pace right. Cooling down is also important!

Intro Workout

This workout is a great introduction to threshold pace. Aim to run for 5 minutes at your threshold pace, followed by a 1-minute jog at a recovery pace.

Repeat this for four to six reps. This is a great way to start if you’ve never done threshold workouts before, and it makes an excellent warm-up.

Interval Workout

A slight step up from the intro workout, you’ll run one mile with a 1-minute recovery jog in between. Repeat this for four to six reps.

You can move to this exercise once you find the previous introductory workout too easy.

Steady Workout

Once your endurance has improved, you can aim for this workout. Run for 10 minutes continuously, staying at your threshold pace throughout. This is where the music trick comes in handy!

Serious Workout

Run two intervals of 20 minutes each at your threshold pace. You want to keep your recovery break between sessions as short as possible. Try to limit it to 90 seconds before getting into your second 20 minutes.

Advanced Workout

Once you’re used to running at your threshold pace, you can try this advanced workout. Three to five sets of running 2K, with a 2-minute recovery jog between each set.

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AUTHOR

Ben is an avid road and trail runner, and has completed multiple marathons and ultras. A former running store owner, he now shares his knowledge and experience writing these articles.