Tempo Runs are a beneficial training tool for any runner, whether you run a mile or a marathon. This training method helps you to build both mental and physical stamina while improving your pace. Below we look at how you can incorporate tempo runs into your training routine.
Tempo runs help you to run at or near your lactate threshold. You should run at the pace at which you are producing the maximum amount of lactate your body can clear from your bloodstream and muscles. This lactate threshold is the faster you can still run aerobically, without running beyond your threshold. The goal is to straddle your lactate threshold and hold yourself back from running faster.
Running, especially for long distances is mentally draining. After all, a marathon is hard, stressful, and fatiguing on both body and mind. By incorporating tempo runs into your training you learn to manage your emotions, particularly when running becomes difficult and you hit that wall. Tempo runs also teach you to tolerate more pain and discomfort, which helps you to build mental stamina alongside physical stamina.
A tempo run has three popular training descriptions; comfortably hard, paced, and heart rate.
With this tempo training method, you run at a pace that is faster than moderate, but not quite hard. This is perfect for those who don’t use digital running tools and run by feel instead.
This tempo method uses the pace time to base the workout. To get your tempo pace, use your one-hour pace. To get this look at your previous race times to see your pace per mile. Generally, this would be similar to your 10K pace.
Training by heart rate requires knowing your maximum heart rate. Then during tempo runs, you want to reach 85-90% of your maximum heart rate.
Many training programs will have you start with tempo repetitions, then progress to sustained tempo runs. Ideally, you should be able to do a certain mileage at tempo with a short break in between miles, before progressing to a continuous tempo run.
Tempo run repetition training involves intervals at your tempo pace. Recovery time after each interval should be kept short, with longer repetitions. For example, running a mile at tempo, with a 90-second recovery jog, and repeating.
Sustained tempo runs are where you incorporate one block of running at tempo. Ensure there is no break or recovery in the middle of this training block. An example would be a 7-mile run with miles 3-5 at a tempo pace. This way you run seven miles, with the middle 3 miles at your pre-determined tempo pace.
Ensure you cap any sustained tempo runs at around 40 minutes, as any more can become too difficult. Those just starting out with tempo runs should start with 10-15 minutes of sustained tempo, before gradually increasing the duration.
This advanced tempo run option adds a surge of speed to a sustained tempo run. Each surge is 30-60 seconds long, at just above pace every 5-8 minutes. This surge in pace introduces more lactate into the bloodstream. Then, when you slow back to tempo pace, your body clears that lactate. This training method can help your body to process lactate more efficiently, and increase your lactate threshold.
When you incorporate tempo runs into your training, you can increase endurance, and reduce injury risk.