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Threshold workouts are an important addition to any training plan. Their primary purpose is to boost your aerobic capacity (VO2 max) as well as increase your lactate threshold. These adaptations will enable you to run at a faster pace while still producing energy through aerobic metabolism. Therefore, you won’t have to battle that oh-so-dreadful feeling of burning legs and overwhelming fatigue.
This challenging threshold workout is designed for intermediate and advanced runners, though it can be modified for beginners. It involves running at your threshold pace, which is roughly the pace you would be able to maintain if you had to run for one hour at max effort. For most runners, this falls somewhere between 10k and 15k pace.
If you wear a heart rate monitor while you run, you should aim to have your heart rate around 75-80 percent of your maximum heart rate during the “on” intervals.
Or if you’re more of the run-by-feel type of runner, your threshold run pace should be about 7.5-8 on a rate of perceived exertion (RPE) scale of 1-10, where 10 is a full-on sprint.
Though your fitness goals may vary, it’s recommended by most coaches that you incorporate at least one threshold workout–like the one below–into your weekly training schedule. Start this one with a 1-2 mile warmup run.
- For runners training for a 5k: Run 4 x 5 minutes at threshold pace with 90 seconds jog in between each.
- For runners training for a 10k: Run 4 x 8 minutes at threshold pace with 90 seconds jog in between each.
- For runners training for a half marathon: Run 4 x 10 minutes at threshold pace with 90 seconds jog in between each.
- For runners training for a marathon: Run 3 x 15 minutes at threshold pace with 90 seconds jog in between each.
Cool down 1-2 miles depending on your target mileage.
Amber Sayer is a fitness, nutrition, and wellness writer and editor, and contributes to several fitness, health, and running publications. She holds two master’s degrees—one in exercise science and one in prosthetics and orthotics. As a NSCA-Certified Personal Trainer and USATF level 1 running coach for 12 years, Amber enjoys staying active and helping others do so as well.