The Norwegian method of endurance training (or Norwegian model of endurance training) is a training approach that is starting to take hold among endurance athletes outside of the Scandinavian region.
But, what is the Norwegian method of endurance training? What are the benefits of the Norwegian method of training for runners and cyclists? How do you implement the Norwegian model for running, cycling, or other endurance activities?
In this article, we will discuss the Norwegian method of endurance training, covering topics such as what is the Norwegian method of endurance training, key principles, and how to follow it.
We will cover:
- What Is the Norwegian Method of Endurance Training?
- Key Principles of the Norwegian Training Method
- How Does the Norwegian Method of Endurance Training Work?
- How to Apply the Norwegian Training Approach
Let’s jump in!
What Is the Norwegian Method of Endurance Training?
The Norwegian method of endurance training, also called the Norwegian model of endurance training, is an approach to facilitating physiological adaptations to your cardiovascular system, metabolism, and muscles to support improved aerobic endurance performance.
While the Norwegian model of endurance training is just recently seeing more of a widespread adoption by athletes all over the world, it is not a new training methodology.
However, as an increasing number of endurance athletes are beginning to replicate the Norwegian model of endurance training into their own training routines and seeing impressive success in doing so, its popularity is growing.
Some of the current noteworthy proponents of the Norwegian model of training for endurance athletes include Olympic triathlon champion Kristian Blummenfelt, 2020 Tokyo Olympics 1,500-meter champion Jakob Ingebrigtsen, and Ironman world champion Gustav Iden.
Key Principles of the Norwegian Training Method
Here are some of the key principles of the Norwegian method of endurance training:
- Training is separated into three zones: Zone 1 is the low-intensity zone, Zone 2 is the sub-threshold zone, and Zone 3 is above your lactate threshold.
- Zone 2 is the target zone for the key workouts, which involves performing intervals at or slightly below your anaerobic threshold or lactate threshold.
- Ideally, athletes are supposed to take lactate measurements during training to gauge intensity and verify that they are working at the appropriate intensity to support improvement and optimize performance.
- If possible, athletes should get metabolic testing regularly to assess progress and make adjustments to the training program.
While lactate assessments and metabolic testing are highly recommended, and certainly a part of the Norwegian model of training for elite and professional athletes, recreational athletes who do not have access to these services or technology can still apply many of the training principles with a somewhat less precise or scientific approach.
How Does the Norwegian Method of Endurance Training Work?
Ultimately, the hallmark characteristic of the Norwegian model of endurance training is using a high-volume, low-intensity approach while prioritizing lactate-guided threshold interval training.
In this way, the Norwegian method for endurance athletes focuses on increasing the anaerobic threshold within a polarized training model.The primary differentiating factor between the Norwegian method of training for runners and other endurance athletes is that instead of using pace or some other external marker to gauge the intensity or threshold intervals or Zone 2 workouts, blood lactate levels via finger or ear prick are repeatedly measured during the workout.
This is because the Norwegian model focuses on the true internal stress on the body imposed by running or exercising, which is information that cannot be garnered by external benchmarks such as running pace.
These Norwegian lactate threshold workouts are intended to be run at an intensity that falls between the first and second lactate thresholds.
Norwegian model training experts say that this lactate threshold range usually corresponds to lactate levels between 2.0 and 4.5 mmol/L, with the target of most coaches implementing the Norwegian model of training with their athletes hovering right around a blood lactate of 3.0 mmol/L.
Therefore, the lactate threshold workouts with the Norwegian method of training are done a little below the athlete’s critical speed.
The reason that this specific blood lactate level has been selected and used for the Norwegian approach to endurance training is that it is thought to be hard enough to induce improvement in aerobic fitness, anaerobic fitness, and the anaerobic threshold and lactate threshold, without significantly increasing recovery time.
The Norwegian method lactate threshold workouts are typically done on a treadmill, not only because this makes blood lactate testing easier, but also because using a treadmill makes it easier to control your pace without having variations in the terrain.
Furthermore, all of the Norwegian method lactate workouts are interval-based lactate threshold runs rather than continuous tempo runs.
This is because adding in rest breaks allows the athlete to push a little closer to that critical speed or second lactate threshold without accumulating too much blood lactate prematurely.
The rest periods allow the body time to buffer and clear some of the acidic buildup, maximizing your training volume done within the lactate threshold zone without crossing over into the anaerobic zone and needing to end the workout early.
How to Apply the Norwegian Training Approach
As we describe how to apply the Norwegian model of endurance training to your own training, we will present information on how to do the Norwegian method for triathlon training, running, cycling, or other sports under ideal conditions.
Remember that if you do not have the ability to do all of the testing that typically is integral to the Norwegian approach, you can still replicate the general schema of the Norwegian method of training with modifications.
Just bear in mind that your ability to properly assess intensity level and track progress with scientific specificity will be compromised, but there are workarounds.
With that disclaimer covered, here is how to follow the Norwegian training method:
#1: Separate Your Training Into 3 Zones
The Norwegian model of training for endurance athletes divides all training into just three zones.
Here are the Norwegian model training zones:
- Zone 1: Low intensity
- Zone 2: (Sub) threshold
- Zone 3: Above threshold
The reason that the training is divided into these specific, distinct training zones in the Norwegian method is to help deliberately target different energy systems.
Ultimately, the Norwegian model focuses on trying to improve the anaerobic threshold for endurance athletes, as this is essentially the maximum pace or exertion level you can sustain before crossing over and drastically accumulating significantly more fatigue and metabolic acidosis.
Zone 1 primarily targets the aerobic energy system, also known as the oxidative energy system, because energy is created in the presence of oxygen.
Zones 2 and 3 both target the anaerobic energy systems.
The bulk of the key workouts in the Norwegian approach is done in Zone 2, which is done at or slightly below your anaerobic threshold (AT).
Training in Zone 3 helps improve overall speed and metabolic efficiency for high-intensity performance.
#2: Norwegian Method Workouts
A thorough paper detailing the specifics of the Norwegian method of training notes that a typical training week on the Norwegian model involves a total of about 110 miles of running.
Note that this is certainly high-volume training, but not wildly more or less than the mileage for most elite marathon runners and endurance runners with other endurance training coaches.
The bulk of the training volume with the Norwegian model of endurance training is easy miles, done in the Zone 1 intensity.
Tuesdays and Thursdays both include threshold intervals (Norwegian method Zone 2 work) in the mornings and evenings.
Saturdays involve a Norwegian method Zone 3 workout, which is a high-intensity effort, such as 20 x 200-meter hill sprints.
Examples of lactate threshold intervals run with the Norwegian method of training include 5 x 6:00 at 2.5 mmol/L with 60 seconds of recovery in between each in the morning workout and 10 x 1,000 meters at 3.5 mmol/L with 60 seconds of recovery in between each in the evening lactate threshold workout.
Or, you might do 5 x 2,000 meters at 2.5 mmol/L with 60 seconds of recovery in between each in the morning workout followed by 25 x 400 meters at 3.5 mmol/L with just 30 seconds of recovery after each in the evening.
Generally, the morning lactate threshold workout involves slightly longer intervals at a slightly lower intensity or blood lactate concentration whereas the evening lactate threshold workout on the same day involves lactate threshold intervals that are shorter and faster while still remaining under the second lactate threshold.
For another approach to endurance training, check out our guide to the 80/20 method here.