Run Training…Tempo Time

A 500 mile training base may seem like an astronomical goal to achieve for novice or recreational runners. However, as discussed in a previous post (Run Training…500 Miles), laying this foundation is a critical step in developing a runner’s fitness and running economy. At some point before reaching their 500 miles though, many runners are wanting to increase their running speed often before they increase their running distance. This need for speed seems primal and perhaps it is even hard-wired into a runner’s psyche. From my experience, once I was able to run comfortably for 3 miles, I wanted to beat my own run times, and run those 3 miles faster. Intuitively, I began to employ ‘tempo runs’ into my 3 to 5 mile runs long before I knew about this bread and butter workout. Simply described, tempo runs (also known as lactate threshold) describe a comfortably hard pace which a runner can sustain for at least 20 minutes. The actual pace of that 20-minute period is individual to each runner’s current fitness level; the key training outcome of performing weekly tempo runs is that these workouts will actually help you become a stronger, faster runner! How do you gauge if you are running too fast during your tempo run? I like to keep it simple and suggest that if you can’t hold your up-tempo pace for at least 10 to 20 minutes, then you are running too fast. The purpose of a tempo run is to train your body to become efficient, in fuel metabolism and running mechanics. The tempo-run is not an all-out sprint; rather, it is learning to pick a pace that is not conversational which can be maintained over a one or two-mile distance. It takes time to practice and dial in your comfortably hard pace, but if you have a need for speed, this is a worthwhile training tool to add to your runner’s toolbox. Read this article from Runner’s World for an in-depth explanation of the mechanics and benefits of tempo training.