Tempo Runs 101
The intensity of a Tempo Run is best described at a pace that is comfortably hard, meaning you WILL be working and need to be focused, but you shouldn't have to kill yourself to reap the benefit of the run workout. As a general rule, you should be able to run at your tempo pace for about 60 minutes, assuming that you're rested and fuelled up. That's not to say that you should be running your tempo runs for that length of time, in fact it's typically much shorter periods of time you will spend in any given training session at this pace.
The primary goal of a tempo run is improve your body's ability to clear lactate by spending a period of time running at what is known as your Anaerobic threshold, or close to it. I describe it in more detail in the video below in case you want to see my pretty face. If not...keep reading on!
Using heart rate as an example, your pace in a tempo run would see you running at approximately 80-90% of your maximum heart rate, which would have you running right in that sweet spot that would stress your threshold. You can also use a specific pace per km/mile which would sit somewhere between where your 10K and half marathon race paces would be.
There are several ways you can execute a tempo run, but we'll focus in on two very common workouts, the Classic Tempo Run and Cruise Intervals.
The Classic Tempo Run would have you running at your Tempo pace for a pre determined period of time. 20 - 30 minutes which is a common timeframe, would provide the desired training benefit and is straight forward to execute. A warm up and cool down before and after your tempo work would make a great session. This could look like a 15 minute easy pace warm up, 20 minutes at tempo pace and a 10 minute cool down at an easy pace. 45 minutes...done deal.
Cruise Intervals are a great way to spend even more time in a workout running at your tempo pace, because rest periods are taken between each interval. For example you might run for 10 minutes at your tempo pace and then take a 2 minute rest and then repeat this 3 or 4 times. The built in rest periods allow you brief recovery and ultimately enables you to spend more time at your tempo pace than you would if you ran for one long block of time.
It's a good idea to mix both types of runs into your program as they have both physical and mental benefits. Being able to hold a tempo pace for 30 minutes is a great way to boost confidence and teach your body at the same time how to run faster.
Keep in mind that you don't want to run harder than your tempo pace in these workouts......faster is not better. The goal in any run workout is to achieve the maximum desired benefit with the least amount of stress. In a tempo run, it's easy to get sucked into going too hard, which you want to avoid.
Have questions about how to use a tempo run in your training? Comment below with your question and I'd be stoked to answer!
Happy running good people.
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