In this piece, we look at tempo runs and why they are important in a runner’s life and journey, what value do they bring in improving performance and making a distance runner strong in multiple areas.
Imagine, if we had to walk or run every day at the same pace and on the same route day after day, what is likely to happen? We may loose interest, excitement, get burnt out and may even reach a point where we could even leave the sport.
We all need variety, we all need excitement, goals, progress and most importantly hone our running skills. It is this drive for improvement and progress that keeps us in the game, makes us look forward to the next training session and helps us love the sport.
Let’s look at tempo runs.
What is a tempo run and why do we need it in the first place?
Tempo run is targeted to improve your lactate threshold (LT). This is a run which is done 25-30 seconds slower than your 5K pace or 10K pace. From a heart rate perspective, we run a tempo run which should not be all out but comfortable, hard enough to be at 85%-90% of your maximum heart rate. It helps to build speed, endurance and makes you skilled and comfortable enough to take on the challenges of running your race at your specific race pace. The duration of a tempo run should be at least for 20 minutes, meaning you run at a very specific pace for these 20 minutes.
When is it used?
Tempo run helps a runner build comfort to sustain or hold a faster pace over a long distance and helps a runner to run at a specific pace without getting fatigued. A tempo run necessitates that one should build a good running base mileage.
Example of a Tempo Run
10 mins – Warm-up-Jog-Dynamic warm-ups
20 mins Easy run
20 mins Tempo pace
10 mins Cool down
You could also convert it in a distance format.
A tempo run can be done in blocks and some experienced runners may do this in repetition for a single bout of tempo workout for greater confidence and practice in the run up to the race day. Ideally, once a week is good enough to work on your speed and endurance by adopting a tempo run workout.
What are the benefits?
Builds mental toughness: The run is all about embracing discomfort with comfort. One is motivated and this approach is a great way to work on mental strength. It trains your mind to challenge yourself and work towards getting comfortable in running in the pace you have set as your target. By doing this we are building the slow twitch and fast twitch muscle fibres. Also, read step wise guide to building speed and stamina.
Builds speed and endurance: As runners you learn to endure and hold a pace for at least 20 minutes being in the lactate threshold zone and prevent onset of fatigue as the body is able to produce and clear lactate efficiently. The run typically lasts for 60 minutes so the tempo run gives an opportunity to work on dual skills – speed and endurance. Runners can train their bodies to run faster for longer periods of time.
Helps to embrace speed and replicate race specific scenarios without adding too much of stress.
Brings in diversity, variety and fun.
In the next write-up, we will look at the various dimensions of a long run.