Working on the lactate threshold is especially important for cyclists focusing on shorter races where it is important to sustain high intensity for extended periods of time. These workouts are very often missing from amateur training because they are more intense than endurance but not exactly sprints, so those without a well-formulated workout might struggle to hit the right intensity to improve. The core of these workouts is usually a series of intervals. Let’s take a look at two examples.
Before we jump into workouts, here’s an important advice for cyclists who don’t only do road races. It’s very often mountain bikers and cyclocross riders that have to train their lactate threshold a lot, but they only train it on road because it’s easier to manage the intensity there. Try to do at least some of these workouts off-road. It’s essential for racing because you will have to be able to produce power while handling the bike and you will get fatigued because you will be utilising stabilising muscles that aren’t used when riding on the road.
Goal for the threshold workouts
The main point of the following threshold workouts is to improve the maximum sustainable 1-hour steady-state power, or the functional threshold power (FTP). This is achieved by improving the ability of the body to process and clear lactate more efficiently and at higher intensities.
Description for workout 1
Our first threshold example ride will be 1 hour and 30 minutes to 2 hours long with a TSS of 87. The intensity will again be expressed in maximum heart rate (Max HR), threshold heart rate (Threshold HR), and functional threshold power (FTP) so that you can choose which numbers you are most comfortable with. This session could be called “1.5-hour ride with 4×7 min. threshold intervals and mid-interval sprints”.
Warm-up – 25 min. building up to 60-75% Max HR / 68-83% Threshold HR / 60-70% FTP
Intervals – 7 min. intervals at 83-92% Max HR / 95-105% Threshold HR / 90-95% FTP with a 15 sec. all out or 120-130% FTP sprint in the middle of each, 3 min. easy spinning between each interval at 40-50% FTP, repeat all 4 times
Cooldown – 28 min. at 60-75% Max HR / 68-83% Threshold HR / 55-65% FTP
Description for workout 2
Our second threshold ride will be the harder of the two, lasting 1 hour and 30 minutes to 2 hours with a TSS of 123. This session could be called “1.5-hour ride with three 15 min. over/under blocks”.
Warm-up – 15 min. building up to 65-75% Max HR / 65-83% Threshold HR / 60-70% FTP
Intervals – 15 min. over/under blocks, each block alternating between 2 min. at 75-80% Max HR and 1 min. at 75-80% Max HR, 3 min. of easy spinning after each 15 min. block, repeat all 3 times
Cooldown – 21 min. at 60-70% Max HR / 65-83% Threshold HR / 55-65% FTP
There are various ways to improve your lactate threshold, but it’s always important to write it out, so the intensities and durations you want to hit are very clearly defined. Next time we will take a look at workouts using even higher intensity to help you improve your VO2 max.