When I started running, I kept hearing about tempo runs. I thought they sounded intimidating so I never attempted one. I knew they would good for speed work, but my focus was distance. I knew they were good for strengthening, but I did weight training. I also knew they were good for building endurance, but my three-times-a-week cardio kickboxing class did the trick for that. What I didn’t know is that when you start working full-time, it’s not as easy to run long runs every other day with cardio kickboxing classes in between.
Tempo runs are perfect to throw into any consistent running routine because they have the benefits of endurance and strength training packaged into one workout. As I train for the half-marathon in September, I’m learning tempo runs will be the key to allowing me to run the full 13.1 miles without being as tired.
Distance runners use tempo runs not only to work on speed but to increase endurance. According to an article on Runner’s World’s website, the “best predictor of distance-running performance is your lactate threshold, which is the speed you are able to run before lactic acid begins to accumulate in the blood. ” After lactic acid is released into the blood, you start to feel fatigued and will have to slow down. Tempo runs help to slow down this process and in essence, speed up your run.
Traditional Tempo Run
If you haven’t tried a tempo run before, I would suggests starting with a traditional tempo run first. This consists of a 2-mile jog warm-up to loosen up your muscles and get your heart rate up. Then, you run for 2-miles at a “tempo” pace. This is NOT a sprint! Tempo pace is typically referred to as “comfortably hard.” You want to run faster than your normal pace but not so fast that it becomes difficult. After you finish the 2-mile tempo run, conclude your workout with a 2-mile jog/walk cool down.
As you start to get better at this, add a half a mile to your tempo run every two weeks. Pretty soon you’ll be able to run up to 6 miles at tempo pace.
Interval Tempo Run
If this is difficult, another option is to do a modified tempo run my uncle showed my cousin and me last weekend. This endurance-building run is easiest to do on a track. Start off with a 1-mile warm-up run around the track. Once you’re done with that, beginning at the 100-meter mark (the straightaways of the track) run at a fast pace, again NOT a sprint, but a pretty comfortably hard pace. When you get to the curve of the track, slow down to a jog to recover your breathe. Repeat this 8 times, equaling 2 miles. Then, do another 1-mile jog/walk cool down.
As always, don’t forget to stretch!