Tempo Runs Make You Fast!

Hey Guys! How’s everyone’s Thursday going? Mine’s off to a good start for sure.  Something about Wednesday date nights really rejuvenates me for the rest of the week.  Last night we made Chicken fajitas and relaxed since it was cold and rainy out.  There was not a new Modern Family on which was a little disappointing…I love that show and look forward to it every week!  Another good night’s rest has me feeling very peppy this morning!

Tonight’s workout calls for a tempo run.  I regularly do tempo runs as part of my marathon training and am surprised when I hear how many runners don’t do them!  I’ll be honest, I kind of love of  ’em and hate ’em.  I dread them all day because they are challenging and take a little more work than my typical runs and you don’t get to look forward to resting like you do during a track workout.  Your settled in and pushing your pace for quite a while.  I love them because I feel awesome after and they make me feel strong and confident about holding a goal pace during 26.2 miles.  And I love feeling fast!

Tempo Runs Make You Fast!

Tempo runs are also called lactate threshold or threshold runs.  They are one of the most important workouts you can do to build speed at long distances.  Essentially you train your body to maintain at faster pace over a long period of time, something the track can’t help you with.  Runner’s World explains how it can help you train your body to use oxygen for metabolism more efficiently,

How? By increasing your lactate threshold (LT), or the point at which the body fatigues at a certain pace. During tempo runs, lactate and hydrogen ions–by-products of metabolism–are released into the muscles, says 2:46 marathoner Carwyn Sharp, Ph.D., an exercise scientist who works with NASA. The ions make the muscles acidic, eventually leading to fatigue. The better trained you become, the higher you push your “threshold,” meaning your muscles become better at using these byproducts. The result is less-acidic muscles (that is, muscles that haven’t reached their new “threshold”), so they keep on contracting, letting you run farther and faster.

A typical tempo distance is usually 2 to 3 miles for a 5k.  Runner’s World recommends 4 to 6 miles for the 10k, 6 to 8 miles for the half-marathon or 8 to 10 for the marathon plus warm up and cool down.  While I am training for a marathon my tempo runs have never been 8 to 10 miles.  My typical tempo run is a 1 mile warm-up followed by 5 to 6 miles at a ~7:45 min/mile pace with a 1 mile cool-down.  I run a sub-4 hour marathon and an average pace for my long runs is about an 8:45 to an 8:50.  I do this workout every other week.  I alternate with track workouts.

Recent Tempo Run

Not feeling like you could tackle the tempo?  Get creative with the workout.  You could start with a 1 mile warm up then do 2 miles at tempo, a 1 mile rest, then 2 miles at tempo, and another 1 mile rest and cool down.  Or build up gradually by doing a warm up and then 5x 3 minutes at tempo with 60 second rest.  The following week you might try 4x 4 minutes at tempo with 60 second rest.  Once your comfortable with that try 2 to 3 miles at tempo or 15 to 20 minutes.

I like to describe my tempo speed as running as fast as I can without “blowing up”.  I’m running fast, it hurts, I’m out of breath and I can’t say much more than yes or no and sure as heck can’t have a conversation.  After the first half mile my body will settle in and I can sustain this hard but comfortable pace.  If you are in pain, you are going to fast.  If it doesn’t hurt a little bit or you can have a conversation you are not running at tempo.  Runner’s World also suggestions the following for determining pace,

Recent Race: Add 30 to 40 seconds to your current 5-K pace or 15 to 20 seconds to your 10-K pace

Heart Rate: 85 to 90 percent of your maximum heart rate

Perceived Exertion: An 8 on a 1-to-10 scale (a comfortable effort would be a 5; racing would be close to a 10)

For more reading on tempo runs check out Runner’s World.  I’ve noticed a big improvement in my running since I started doing tempo runs.  I feel stronger and faster for longer distances.  If your spring goal is to PR at a half-marathon, 10k or 5k be sure to add tempo runs to your training plan.  You’ll feel as fast as an elite runner before you know it!

Fast As These Girls?! Tempos make it possible!

Tempo runs, love ’em or hate ’em?  Are they part of your training plan?  Do you do them weekly, bi-weekly, once a month?  Have you noticed an increase in your speed as a result? Are you not doing tempo’s and need to add them to your plan?


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