Add Tempo Runs to Your Weekly Routine
You’ve just completed your first distance race.
Or maybe you’ve done a lot of races and want to challenge yourself a little more.
At some point, most runners want to know how to run faster and set a new personal record at their favorite distance. That’s where the “tempo run” comes in.
What is a Tempo Run?
Simply, a tempo run is a steadily paced workout that you complete at your threshold pace. For most runners, this is 25 to 30 seconds slower than your 5k race pace. If you’ve got a heart rate monitor, you’ll be running at 85-90% maximum. A tempo run pace can also be measured by feel – “comfortably hard” is a typical description. You want to make sure you’re not starting out too fast and blowing up by the middle of your run.
How to Add Tempo Running to Your Workout
First, since you’re going to be running comfortably hard, remember to warm up appropriately before pounding the pavement. Second, remember that these runs are designed to be difficult in order to challenge the body – but it is not an all-out effort. Running at a steady pace and running just below your lactate-threshold (not above it, like in sprinting) will reap the greatest benefits. You should be able to talk – but not carry on a conversation.
The distance of your race will subsequently determine how long your tempo runs should be. Obviously, those at the longer distances like marathons will end up having longer (eight miles or more) tempo runs, while 10k racers may have a goal of 20 minutes or more. In the beginning, it’s best to work up gradually to longer tempo runs so as not to injure yourself or over-train quickly. Eventually, substituting one of your regular runs with a tempo run on a weekly basis may be possible – listen to your body and build up gradually. Remember, the goal is a comfortably hard, evenly paced effort for gradually increasing amounts of time to challenge your body appropriately.
Why Add Tempo Runs?
At the tempo run pace, you are below your body’s lactate threshold. Remember that lactate is a byproduct of cellular metabolism in your muscles when you run. Lactate makes your muscles burn and gives you that tired feeling when you run fast. During a tempo run, you are making some lactate, but not enough to fatigue your body too quickly.
While you are making lactate, your body is also working hard to remove it from your system. Tempo runs are designed to help increase your body’s efficiency at removing this byproduct. This allows you to run faster for longer by training your body to work smarter. Over time, you will see that you don’t fatigue as quickly and your tolerable distance for the tempo run pace will increase.
Points to Remember
A tempo run is a hard work out. Make sure you give your body ample time to recover after a tempo run.
You should work up slowly to longer distances at the tempo effort. Don’t try to run at a tempo pace for your goal tempo distance the first time you go out. Start with small amounts and work up.
Keeping a training log will help you visualize if tempo runs are working for your body. Use a written record to see if your race pace times are improving after you’ve been doing tempo runs for a while. This type of workout is just one of many methods you can use to challenge your body and improve your running.