The Norwegian Training Method is gaining attention after the success of Gustav Iden and Kristian Blummenfelt in triathlon. In this blog post, you will learn how to apply the Norwegian Method in 3 simple steps to increase your triathlon performance. We will discuss the training philosophy, how to control intensity with lactate measurements, and the importance of regular metabolic testing.

By Loek Vossen

THE NORWEGIAN METHOD: HOW TO APPLY IT IN TRAINING
Image: INSCYD partner Triathlon Training Academy

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What is the Norwegian Method?

The Norwegian Training Method is a comprehensive approach to endurance training that emphasises high-volume, high-intensity workouts, with a focus on building aerobic capacity and improving lactate threshold. 

 

The Norwegian Method combines running, cycling, and swimming with strength training and recovery practices for a well-rounded approach to fitness. Here are some key takeaways from the article to incorporate the Norwegian method into your training:

 

  • The method involves separating training into three zones: low intensity (Zone 1), sub-threshold (Zone 2), and above threshold (Zone 3).
  • Key workouts are performed in Zone 2, with intervals at or slightly below the anaerobic threshold.
  • Control intensity with lactate measurements during training to ensure you are working at the appropriate intensity for optimal progress and performance.
  • Regular metabolic testing is necessary to track progress and make adjustments to your training program.

Let’s dive deep and see how you can apply them in your training.

How To Apply The Norwegian Training Method

The training philosophy of the Norwegian method is mainly applied in endurance sports like triathlon, running, cycling and swimming. It focuses on increasing the anaerobic threshold.

 

Simplified speaking, it starts with separating 3 training zones. We’ll dive deeper into these training zones when talking about intensity control.

  • Zone 1: Low intensity
  • Zone 2: (Sub) threshold
  • Zone 3: Above threshold

Or as Arild Tveiten (Sports Director Norwegian Triathlon Federation) calls them

 

The idea behind this approach is that different energy systems are trained optimally in different zones. For instance, Zone 1 mainly trains the oxidative energy system, which is responsible for low-intensity work, while Zone 2 and 3 aim to develop the anaerobic energy system, which is required for high-intensity work.

Key workouts of the norwegian method

The key workouts of the Norwegian training method are performed in zone 2: at or slightly below anaerobic threshold (AT). This “sweetspot” intensity enables them to train close to what they want to increase (AT), without accumulating too much fatigue.

By performing intervals at or slightly below AT, fatigue does not accumulate too fast, which enables you to spend more time at this intensity.

Training at this (sub)threshold intensity is also part of our free whitepaper: 5 tips to decrease VLamax. You’ll find more details over there.

High volume

The key workouts are the most important in a training plan, but you can’t perform key workouts every day. You wouldn’t be able to recover enough and it would make training very monotonous.

Whatever other workout you add to your training plan however, should never negatively impact your key workout. That’s why the Norwegian training method adds low intensity training to the mixture.

This is where zone 1 comes around the corner.

The idea is that zone 1 training doesn’t impact the key workouts. Since the intensity is so low, you can (or: need to) increase volume to get a training stimulus.

We’ll talk about the exact zone 1 intensity in a bit.

High intensity work

The Norwegian Method does include high intensity work every now and then. However, it’s clearly not their main focus. If they do intervals above threshold, it’s still in a controlled way (rarely all-out).

Summarising the Norwegian Training Method

When you visualize these three training zones and the time spent in each zone, you get the well-known pyramid training distribution. This distribution includes high volume at low intensity (Zone 1), key workouts in Zone 2, and only a few workouts above threshold (Zone 3).

Pyramidal training - Norwegian Method
Pyramidal training includes a high volume at low intensity (zone 1), key workouts in zone 2, and only a few workouts above threshold (zone 3).

Note that this is a different training model than the well-known Polarized training model. Also note that the zone 2 in the Norwegian model does not equal the famous zone 2 training, described by Iñigo San Milan.

What are Norwegian intervals running?

Norwegian intervals running is a specific type of interval training that is used in the Norwegian Method. It involves running at a high intensity for a set period, followed by a short rest period. The goal is to build speed, power, and endurance.

Control intensity with lactate measurements

Measuring lactate is a common way to control the intensity of workouts in the Norwegian Training Method. The method focuses on working at the highest intensity at which lactate concentration does not increase over time, also known as the maximal lactate steady state (MLSS). This is typically determined through lactate threshold testing, which involves measuring the amount of lactate in the bloodstream at different exercise intensities. 

 

By working at or near the MLSS, athletes can train at a high intensity without accumulating too much lactate, which can lead to fatigue and reduced performance. By regularly measuring lactate levels during training – sometimes even with continuous lactate monitors –  athletes can adjust their intensity levels and ensure they are working at the appropriate intensity for optimal progress and performance.

What is lactate threshold in a triathlon?

Lactate threshold is the point during exercise at which the body begins to produce more lactate than it can clear. This can cause muscle fatigue and limit performance. In triathlon, improving lactate threshold is important for building endurance and maintaining a strong pace throughout the race.

Lactate concentration at anaerobic threshold

The key workouts contain many anaerobic threshold intervals. But these are not performed at “Functional Threshold Power (FTP)”.

The intensity of these intervals are performed at the highest intensity at which lactate concentration does not increase over time. This is called the maximal lactate steady state (MLSS). 

In other words: if you do a 30 minute interval, the lactate concentration measured after 30 minutes may not be higher than the lactate concentration measured after 20 minutes.

When reading more about the maximal lactate steady state, you’ll discover related terms like: lactate threshold and LT2.

Example maximal lactate steady state
Example maximal lactate steady state: at an intensity of 260 watts, lactate concentration does not increase over time (after an initial increase). This means there is a lactate steady state! But is it the highest exercise intensity at which there is a lactate steady state? No! At an intensity of 275 watts, there is still a lactate steady state. At an intensity of 290 watts, there is no lactate steady state anymore. The MLSS is close to 275 watts, and definitely below 290 watts.

This Norwegian definition of anaerobic threshold – namely MLSS – is the exact same definition INSCYD uses for the AT. You can discover your own MLSS intensity via an INSCYD test.

Obviously, the intensity at MLSS differs per person. But note that the lactate concentration at MLSS can also differ per person. In theory you could have a steady state at 3 mmol/L or at 8 mmol/L. Arild Tveiten (Sports Director Norwegian Triathlon Federation) about the lactate concentration at anaerobic threshold / MLSS:

“We typically find that the anaerobic threshold lands around 2.5-3.0 mmol/l lactate rather than the typical 4 mmol/l, which is often used as a benchmark lactate level for the anaerobic threshold.”

As a result, you can’t measure MLSS with a conventional lactate step test and then simply use the 4 mmol/l mark.

If you’re a coach or lab interested in implementing the Norwegian training method, schedule a free call consultation with the INSCYD team today! Our experts can help you integrate lactate measurements and regular tests to monitor progress in your training programs. For athletes looking to work with an INSCYD Coach or Lab, find one near you via this link.

Intensity control during training

If you want to be 100% sure you are swimming/cycling/running/.. at the right exercise intensity, you need to monitor it during training. The Norwegian Method uses lactate samples during training to do so.

That means athletes need to carry a lactate analyser, lactate strips, needles etc. with them during training. Or have a coach nearby. However, in both situations, they need to temporarily stop their workout to measure lactate concentration.

INSCYD provides an easy alternative that is more accessible and practical: the advanced Training Zone Builder (TZB).

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INSCYD Training Zone Builder

Here are 3 examples of how you can use the Training Zone Builder to predict lactate concentrations in training.

Our example athlete: male, weight 70kg, height 185cm, body fat 10%, VO2max 70 ml/min/kg, VLamax 0.4 mmol/l/s, anaerobic threshold 4.83 m/s.

Lactate concentration after 30 minutes at

Imagine you’re planning on running 30 minutes at anaerobic threshold, and you’d like to know what your lactate concentration will be. In the INSCYD Training Zone Builder, you simple say:

 

  • Master metric = Anaerobic threshold; Target = 100%
  • Additional data = time (s); value = 1800 seconds; metric = lactate concentration
Master metric = Anaerobic threshold; Target = 100% Additional data = time (s); value = 1800 seconds; metric = lactate concentration
Click on the image to zoom in

INSCYD now combines the metabolic profile, derived from an INSCYD test, with the body composition and gender. The result is:

Lactate concentration after 30 minutes at AT
Lactate concentration after 30 minutes at AT

You already knew the AT (4.83 m/s) but now you also know that lactate concentration after 30 minutes at AT will be 6.3 mmol/L (for our example athlete). You can add several additional metrics, like the carbohydrate combustion per hour at this running intensity (e.g. 289 grams per hour).

Running speed at a lactate concentration of 3 mmol/L

Imagine you’d like to know how fast you should run to get a lactate concentration of 3 mmol/L in a 5 minute interval. We simply use the TZB again:

 

  • Master metric = Lactate concentration; Target = 3 mmol/L
  • Additional data = time (s); value = 300 seconds; metric = lactate concentration
Running speed at a lactate concentration of 3 mmol/L
Click on the image to zoom in

Here’s the result, without the need to carry lactate measurement tools and pause your workout after a 5 minute interval:

Running speed to get a lactate concentration of 3 mmol/L after a 5 minute interval
Running speed to get a lactate concentration of 3 mmol/L after a 5 minute interval

The example athlete now knows he needs to run 4.7 m/s to reach a lactate concentration of 3.0 mmol/L in a 5 minute interval.

Zone 1 intensity

The intensity of zone 1 training is below lactate threshold 1 (LT1, sometimes also referred to as the aerobic threshold), according to the Norwegian method.

LT1 is one of the metrics that you get from the INSCYD metabolic profile.

Arild Tveiten (Sports Director Norwegian Triathlon Federation) shares that “easy training” is performed at a lactate concentration of about 1 mmol/L. Here’s how to find out what running speed correlates to this intensity. Let’s use the INSCYD TZB again:

 

  • Master metric = Lactate concentration; Target = 1 mmol/L
  • Additional data = distance (m); value = 1000 meters; metric = lactate concentration
Master metric = Lactate concentration; Target = 1 mmol/L
Click on the image to zoom in

We now get the running speed that you need to reach a lactate concentration of 1 mmol/L after a 1000m run:

Running speed to get a lactate concentration of 1 mmol/L after a 1000m interval
Running speed to get a lactate concentration of 1 mmol/L after a 1000m interval

For our example athletes, that’s a running speed of 2.82 m/s.

Summary intensity control

Intensity control is a very important pillar in the Norwegian training method. You can do this by actually measuring lactate concentrations during training. As you can imagine, for most athletes this is not practical.

Luckily there’s a solution. The INSCYD Training Zone Builder enables you to easily predict lactate concentrations, based on an individual metabolic profile. You can calculate lactate concentrations based on intensity and duration, or the other way around.

Learn more about the Training Zone Builder:

 

Interested in learning more about the Training Zone Builder and how it might help you anticipate lactate concentrations during training? Schedule a free demo with our team of experts to learn how to include it into your training.

REGULAR METABOLIC TESTS TO MONITOR PROGRESS

So far we’ve talked about the training philosophy and the intensity control.

The final pillar of the Norwegian training method is regular metabolic testing to monitor progress. The testing is not only used to see how you’re improving but also to see if you’re on the right track.

If Kristian Blummenfelt and I train exactly the same, I get more explosive while Kristian trends into a different direction. So we do metabolic tests to see where we are at.”

INSCYD software is built to create these 360 metabolic performance profiles, based on an exercise test.

Test technology

The Norwegian method is known for using many sensors while testing. To name a few:

 

  • Heart rate monitors
  • Lactate analyzers
  • VO2 analyzers, both lab and remote
  • Cycling power meters
  • Running power meters

The data of all these technologies can be used as input for the INSCYD software. A unique proposition of INSCYD is that you can create a metabolic profile, regardless of the protocol and technology you use. 

Whether you prefer a lab test with spirometry, a field test with lactate samples, a remote test based on power (cycling) or GPS (running) only, a self-made test or a combination of these tests, INSCYD can do it.

Olav Aleksander Bu – coach of Kristian Blummenfelt and Gustav Iden – about the technologies and tests:

“All these tools allow us to do a form of accounting as we move, and understand before race day how things are starting to change. How do we adapt? How do we respond to different training stimuli? It allows us to make corrections before the big day. That’s obviously what we want, because a plan is a plan, but it’s also nothing more than a plan.”

RECORD RESULTS

The final important aspect of regular testing is recording the results of these tests. This allows athletes and coaches to track progress over time and adjust the training program accordingly.

 

You can learn about metabolic testing in this article: “3 REASONS WHY EVERY COACH AND ATHLETE SHOULD USE PERFORMANCE TESTING, we’ll cover the top 3 reasons why the best coaches use metabolic testing, whether you’re working with a professional or amateur athlete.

APPLYING THE NORWEGIAN METHOD TO YOUR TRAINING

The Norwegian training method is a highly effective way of training for endurance sports, with a focus on increasing the anaerobic threshold. By using lactate measurements to control intensity and regular tests to monitor progress, athletes can see significant improvements in their performance.

Now that you know what the Norwegian training method is all about, how can you apply it to your own training program?

Here are three steps you can follow:

  1. Start with a metabolic test. It will give you a starting position and the exact details you need for training.

    You don’t need a fancy lab with VO2 analysers, lactate analysers etc. INSCYD enables you to do a metabolic test using a power meter (cycling) or GPS watch (running) only. Of course you can also go to a lab.

    Coaches and labs can become INSCYD users via a free demo.Athletes can find an INSCYD coach or lab via this link.

  2. Implement the pyramidal training method. Use the INSCYD metabolic test results to discover your exact intensities. 

    The LT1 intensity is your upper ceiling for zone 1 high volume endurance training. 

    Your anaerobic threshold, defined as your maximal lactate steady state (not FTP), is your interval intensity for key workouts. 

    Add some, but not a lot, intervals above threshold to your training program. Make sure they are not all-out efforts. 
  3. Control your exercise intensity, either by pricking lactate during a training, or more conveniently: by using the INSCYD Training Zone Builder to calculate lactate concentrations in advance.

Looking to implement the Norwegian Method in your training program? INSCYD can help! Coaches and Labs can become INSCYD certified to provide the ultimate training experience for athletes. And athletes, you can find an INSCYD Coach or Lab to apply the Norwegian Method to your own training program. Contact INSCYD today to learn more.

For coaches and labs

Watch Inscyd in action

With INSCYD, you can tailor training programs with unparalleled precision, ensuring your athletes achieve their peak performance faster and more efficiently.

Don’t let your athletes settle for anything less than their absolute best. Book a Free Demo with INSCYD today and experience firsthand how you can elevate your coaching game.

For ATHLETES

IMPROVE YOUR PERFORMANCE

Athletes why train with generic plans when you can have a program tailored to your unique physiology? INSCYD is the key to unlocking your full potential. Find your dedicated INSCYD coach or lab here. 

Already have a coach? Experience INSCYD in action with your coach and redefine your training approach.

LOEK VOSSEN

Human Movement Scientist | Content Marketing and Education

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