The tempo run, in its most basic state, is defined as a sustained, steady effort over a set distance or predetermined length of time. It’s long been a staple workout in many a runner’s training program. Whether you’re training for a fast 5K or getting ready to run your first marathon, sprinkling a tempo run or two into your training schedule will give you a lot of bang for your buck.
This type of workout yields many benefits, including increased stamina and enhanced efficiency, but perhaps most importantly, will help you develop the confidence to run your goal race pace for a prolonged period of time. Races, however, aren’t always run at an even effort from start to finish, so it’s important to practice changing gears during some of your toughest training runs. Tempo runs with a “twist” are an effective way to do just that.
So, what’s the twist? It’s as simple as sprinkling a short “burst” of 30 to 60 seconds into your tempo runs every fifth or tenth minute. Such a practice will better prepare you for the rigors of racing, which often involves changing gears, and will also help keep your mind and legs sharp when your focus starts to fade.
Take a look at the sample workouts described in the following pages and add a twist to your next tempo run!
- Run easily for 10 to 15 minutes, follow with 6 x 20-second strides.
- Run for 20-40 minutes (or 3-6 miles) at your half marathon race pace (If you don’t have a half marathon time to base this off, add 15-20-seconds per mile to your current 10K race pace). Every fifth minute throw in a 30-second “burst” at 5K-10K effort followed by an immediate return to half marathon pace.
- Run easily for 10-15 minutes, stretch.
- Run easily for 15-20 minutes, follow with 6 x 20-second strides.
- Run for 30-60 minutes (or up to 9 miles–tops!), at your half marathon race pace. Every tenth minute throw in a 1-minute “burst” at 5K-10K effort followed by an immediate return to half marathon pace.
- Run easily for 15-20 minutes, stretch.
Fitting Tempo Runs Into Your Training Schedule
Not training for a half marathon or marathon? Not a problem. The benefits of training at this pace have been shown to benefit distance runners training for any event from the 5K to the marathon. If you don’t have a half marathon time to use as a baseline, add 15-20-seconds per mile to your current 10K race pace to figure out your “tempo” pace. This comfortably challenging effort will develop your aerobic system more effectively than any other type of workout, and has a shorter recovery time than a hard interval session or a set of killer hill repeats.
If you’re training for shorter races such as 5K or 10K, perform this workout (aim for 4-6 miles of running at tempo pace) every other week during the early part of the training cycle. Sustaining this steady effort will do wonders for revving your aerobic engine, while the bursts will help you practice surging off a slow pace.
For half marathoners and marathoners, tempo runs should be a staple session in your weekly training schedule. Alternate the “classic” version of this workout with the “twist”, gradually increasing the length of the tempo run every second or third week as your training progresses. Since the volume of this type of workout can creep up on you quickly, be careful not to perform this workout too close to race day. Ten days out from a key race is plenty of time to recover well and reap the benefits on race day.
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source: Competitor By Mario Fraioli