Today I’m sharing everything I know about the “tempo run.” If you’re experienced runner, this is nothing earth-shattering, just general information about a tempo workout and why it’s useful.
What is a tempo run?
A tempo run is a faster-paced workout often referred to as a ‘lactate threshold’ paced workout, or “LT” run. The idea of a tempo run is that you are trying to increase your body’s lactate threshold, or “LT,” which is the point at which lactic acid begins to accumulate in muscles. Lactic acid is a by-product of the body’s metabolizing glucose, which is your main energy source when running. But an accumulation of this isn’t a good thing- it causes soreness and fatigue during a run. If you can increase this lactate threshold with a tempo run, you will be able to reduce the accumulation of lactic acid and run at higher speeds for longer!
What pace should you do a tempo run?
A tempo run is often described as “comfortably hard.” It should be run at a pace that you could maintain for about an hour, though you’ll generally only do so for about 20-40 minutes for a training workout.
Here are three different ways to approximate the pace you should aim for:
- Add 30-40 seconds per mile to a recent 5k race pace.
- Run it on ‘feel’ or perceived effort, i.e. on a scale of 1-to-10, with a 10 being all-out race pace for a 1ok/hour, a tempo run should be around a 7-8 effort.
- A “talk test” also works; the pace should be hard enough that short sentences are possible, but not conversations.
Why should you do a tempo run?
The goal of a tempo run is to increase your anaerobic threshold, which is important for runners of all distances. It allows the body to run at faster and faster speeds before fatigue and lactic acid set in.
Who should do a tempo run?
All runners! Whether you’re training for a 5k, 10k, half-marathons, or full marathon. Just adjust the duration of your tempo workout accordingly.
What if you run your tempo run too fast?
If you’re running your tempo workout based on a pace determined by one of the three methods above, you should be okay. Of course, as you become faster through the training season, the pace will gradually become faster.
If you’re feeling good on a run though, don’t be tempted to go too fast. You might crash and burn; you won’t be getting the benefits of the tempo workout.
A plan for your tempo run:
You should do 1-2 miles to warm-up first, rather than diving right into that tempo pace. Run the warm-up as slowly as you feel necessary. Then ease into that tempo pace, trying not to look at your watch too quickly. Give yourself some time to find a rhythm and hit that ‘comfortably hard’ pace.
As mentioned earlier, you will want to adjust the distance of your tempo workout depending on what you’re training for. For a marathon, you may want to extend the tempo part beyond four miles. I sometimes have a “broken” tempo on my schedule, or 2 by 3 miles at tempo pace with 3-5 minutes recovery in between each set.
After you complete the tempo portion, make sure you cool down for at least a mile or two.
Mental Tips for a Tempo Workout:
A tempo workout isn’t easy; a “comfortably” hard pace is exactly that – hard! So sometimes it’s scary to start a workout that is 4 miles or so at a hard pace. Intimidating!
It’s best to split the workout into pieces- the first mile is just a warm-up. Even the second mile, you’re just easing into it. Okay, the 3rd mile is going to be work, but you can tough it out for a mile, right? And then its the 4th mile, which is your victory lap; just finish strong!
BOOM 🙂 You did it. Four mile tempo run.
Tempo runs are a very effective way to become a stronger, faster runner. I encourage you to incorporate one into your training schedule today!
Good luck on your tempo workout runners!