what is a tempo run

What Is A Tempo Run? What Have Answers! We Know How To Get Started.

Especially for hard-core runners out there, running your hardest seems to always be the goal for you. Whether it is to stay in shape or prepare for the next 10K or marathon out there, you want to push yourself to be the best athlete that there is to be.

While all of that sounds admirable, why not consider adding tempo runs to your already-intense workout? Perhaps you have never heard of that word, or maybe you have heard of it, but do not know what it means.

That is why in this article, we will answer some of your frequently-asked questions on just what is a tempo run, as well as ways that you can get started training and striving to become your best for the next big race.

With that said, let us get started!


What is a tempo run?

Officially known as an “anaerobic threshold (AT) run” or a “lactate threshold run,” tempo runs are essentially workouts that have you go at a fast pace, but just below the threshold of your maximum level. Think perhaps 90 percent of your speed. Not only that, but it also means keeping that just-below maximum threshold run at a consistent pace for a few minutes, or even a few miles.

What are the psychological effects of doing a tempo run?

Many athletes tend to do tempo runs as a way of warming up, or otherwise making it easier for them to gradually adjust to race pace over time. In other words, a runner performs just below the threshold needed to produce lactate, or otherwise to start getting tired- normally, it is at 30 seconds slower for a typical mile pace.

That said, athletes find tempo runs to be a good psychological strategy to mentally prepare themselves for the competitive, grueling race ahead, especially if they are nervous or under pressure to succeed. Tempo runs are a good way to pace yourself, all the while keeping it at a solid speed that is neither too fast nor too slow for your running abilities. In the end, you will not be as burnt out than if you had gone all-out during the race.

On the other hand, there are some runners who actually find tempo runs to be disadvantageous, just because its pacing at just below threshold can cause the body to get adjusted to it, thereby too comfortable and more difficult to break out from it when it comes to pushing yourself towards the finish line at the end of the race. Some athletes end up disappointed when they discover that they completed at a “tempo run” pace, or rather a few seconds to a few minutes slower than what their expectations were.

That said, tempo runs are a double-edged sword, in that it contains both positive and negative psychological effects for runners, depending on just what their goals and circumstances are in that current situation.

How can you get started doing a tempo run?

If you are a runner who does not mind giving tempo runs a shot, then here are a few different types of tempo runs from popular websites that you can do to get started with training as such:

1. Tempo Run #1 (taken from CariFit)

Workout Details:

Warmup walk/jog for 10 minutes.

Then do 5 sets x 3 minutes at tempo pace, 60-second easy jog in between each one (if you have to walk during the recovery, you’re going too hard). So, your running portion will be approximately 20 minutes (not including warmup and cooldown).

Cooldown walk 5-10min.

2. Tempo Run #2 (taken from Runner’s World)

Do a 10- to 15-minute warmup and cooldown.

  • First week: 5 x 3 minutes at tempo pace, 60-second easy jog in between each one (if you have to walk during the recovery, you're going too hard). Week 2: 5 x 4 minutes at tempo pace, 60-second easy jog recovery Week 3: 4 x 5 minutes at tempo pace, 90-second easy jog recovery Week 4: 20 minutes steady tempo pace
  • Second week: 5-K to 10-K Run three easy miles, followed by two repeats of two miles at 10-K pace or one mile at 5-K pace. Recover with one mile easy between repeats. Do a two-mile easy cooldown for a total of eight or 10 miles.
  • Third week: Half to Full Marathon Do this challenging long run once or twice during your training. After a warmup, run three (half-marathoners) or six (marathoners) miles at the easier end of your tempo pace range. Jog for five minutes, then do another three or six miles.

3. Tempo Run #3 (taken from Active)

Begin and end the run with a 1-mile warm-up/cool-down. Run these beginning and ending miles at an easy conversational pace. For the miles in between, alternate between a 5-minute fast and a 5-minute slow interval. The fast intervals should be run at a pace that's 25-30 seconds slower than your 5K race pace. Continue alternating the fast and slow intervals until you reach the last cool-down mile.

4. Tempo Run #4 (taken from Active)

To create a negative split time, run the first half of the run at an easy conversational pace. Run the back-half at tempo pace creating a negative split.

5. Tempo Run #5 (taken from RunnersConnect)

  • 1-3 mile warm up
  • 3 miles @ 10 mile- 1/2 marathon pace with 2-5 minute rest
  • ​2 miles @ 10 mile- 1/2 marathon pace with 2-5 minute rest
  • ​3 miles @ 10 mile- 1/2 marathon pace with 2-5 minute rest
  • 1-2 mile cool down

Take away message

All in all, a tempo run might seem like an intimidating process, but in fact, it is far from being scary. In actuality, it can be very manageable, since you only need to perform at 90 percent of your maximum speed, all the while maintaining it at a consistent pace. By starting slow and gradually working your way up to a comfortable level, it is a surefire way to improve your running times and efforts.

Feel free to comment and share. Happy running!

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