“Your most important workout of the week”
: A tempo run is a steady, constant effort that can range from
1. For those training for a marathon, tempo pace is your goal marathon pace.
2. For those training for a half marathon, it is your half marathon pace.
3. For those training for a 5k-10k, it is roughly 25-30 seconds slower than your 5k pace, and 10-15 seconds slower than your 10k pace.
Tempo runs build strength and will leave you a bit fatigued, but, unlike speed workouts, shouldn’t leave you as sore and stiff the next morning. The key to tempos is realizing that you are running just below the lactic threshold line (which is why some people call tempo runs threshold runs) allowing your body to keep up with the amount of lactic acid being produced. This way, you are able to keep a steady pace longer, thus building much needed strength for any upcoming race on your docket.
How to use it year around:
As we know, there are different phases to running plans. The main ones are: base, transition, and championship (or competition). Within all of these phases there are great ways to incorporate tempo training to help build your strength.
How to use it in your training block:
Within the base phase placing the tempo runs early on will help build strength while you’re still building the miles, but not ready for the speed workouts yet. Within the transition phase, incorporating tempo runs:
1. Two days after speed workouts will help you work on your marathon or half-marathon pace while still not fully recovered thus mimicking how your legs could feel during the latter parts of a full or half.
2. Three days after speed workouts allowing for more recovering to hit the pace and feel more confident. Note- doing this option usually finds me doing my long run the next day, when not as tired from it, since the DOMS (delayed onset muscle syndrome) effect sets in 2 days after.
Within the championship (competition) mode, you’re honing in on that key race you have been focusing on now for a couple of months, perhaps longer. By now you are in maintenance mode, in the groove using these as mental preparation as you are now use to the week routine of speed workouts, tempos, and long runs. Envisioning yourself on the course during these tempo runs, and get to where you know exactly what your body feels like running at this pace. This will be very important come race day when the excitement is in the air and you are able to hit your paces early on and keep the goal in place you set for yourself, while avoiding going out too hard.
Get your copy of Austin’s Tempo Run Quick Reference Guide.
About the Author: Austin Bunn
Head Cross Country/Track Coach, Cottey College and USATF Level 1 Coach
Austin holds numerous course records including the marathon relay record at Hogeye Marathon in Fayetteville, Arkansas. He was a member of the Kansas City Smoke USATFElite Development Team 2007-2009, ran cross country and track at Southwest Baptist University and has coached high school for the past eight years. Austin’s passion is helping others set and reach goals with careful planning and training.