Running: The Tempo Run - WHY It's The Backbone of Your Training Program!

The Tempo Run - love it or hate it, it should be the backbone of your training program.

First of all, let’s get clear on what the Tempo run actually is. It goes by a couple different names; Tempo, Lactate-Threshold or Anaerobic-Threshold just so we are all talking the same language. For our purposes, we’ll just call it the tempo run.

Where did it come from? It was made popular by running coach Jack Daniels, Ph.D., in his book Daniels' Running Formula that was first published in just 1998.

In order to understand why we want to practice tempo runs, we first need to understand what it is and what is happening physiologically when we workout this way. So here it is!

The tempo run is ran at or very near to your lactate threshold pace; this is defined as the intensity of exercise at which lactate begins to accumulate in the blood at a faster rate than it can be removed.

If you run any faster than this pace, your body cannot keep up and your muscles and blood stream are ‘flooded’ with more lactate than can be metabolized. This is where that all too familiar feeling of exhaustion, burning legs and a sudden wave of nausea come from.

How to ‘know’ you are in the Tempo Zone…well, in all honesty that is actually a very scientific process that involves a series of workouts and blood being tested for its lactate levels. We are not getting that sciency here today! For the average athlete and/or weekend warrior runner, estimating your pace will do you just fine. You can use Jack Daniels’ VDOT Running Calculator or if you don’t even want to get that fancy, you could take your 5K race pace and add 25-30 seconds.

It is pretty easy to feel when you are at your tempo pace; it should be comfortably hard. Not so hard that you can’t speak but also not so easy that you’re able to deliver a full monologue either. Short, simple sentences of a few words and definitely a thought or two of HOW good your post run beverage is going to taste!

OK…we have the What and the How nailed, now let’s tackle the WHY!

There are 2 basic reasons to add the tempo workout to your routine:

  1. Efficiency.

    With every tempo workout, you are pushing that lactate-threshold a little further and a little further. Meaning your body is getting more efficient at clearing out that excess lactate from the bloodstream and muscles. Faster lactate metabolization = ability to run faster for longer. 2 words every runner loves: Endurance & Speed.

  2. Running Is Hard.

    Because running can be mentally and emotionally taxing as distance builds, terrain difficulty and training load increases and/or the conditions worsen. As a runner, you need to train your mind just as much as your body and tempo workouts will definitely help you do just that!

OK so you’re new to running and are now thinking, this sounds intense and way out of your league, right? NOPE my new runner friend, tempo is for everyyyyyy runner! It just looks a little different, depending on your current fitness and goals.

Here are 2 examples of tempo workouts:

For 5K-10K Runners/New Runners/Returning From Injury Runners

  • Dynamic stretching warm up

  • 10 minute easy pace run, roughly 1:30-2:00 slower than your tempo pace

  • Dynamic movements - quick drills (power skipping, butt kicks, high knees etc)

  • 10 minute tempo run at 25-30 seconds slower than your 5k race pace, increase by 5 minutes every 2 weeks to a max of 20 minutes

  • 10 minute cool down run

For 10K + Runners/Experienced Runners

  • Dynamic stretching warm up

  • 10 minute easy pace run, roughly 1:30-2:00 slower than your tempo pace

  • Dynamic movements - quick drills (power skipping, butt kicks, high knees etc)

  • 15 minute tempo run at 25-30 seconds slower than your 5k race pace - increase by 5 minutes every 2 weeks to a max of 30-40 minutes depending on the race distance you are training for

  • 10 minute cool down run

2 words every runner loves: Endurance & Speed.

2 words every runner loves: Endurance & Speed.


The Ignited Health RunBuddies program is helping all types of runners improve their fitness, form, confidence and pace! Want to be a better runner? Get in touch today and find out how we can help

Thank you so much to Robyn for adding in her virtual program so those of us not close to her can truly benefit from her programs!!
If you aren’t close to Robyn, check out her virtual program. Gather a few friends and see what happens in 8 weeks.
— Sandra V

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About Me...

Heya I'm Robyn!

I'm Certified Personal Trainer, Runner, Skier, Cyclist, Lifter of Heavy Things, Foodie, Outdoor & Mountain Lover and Simplifier of Nutrition and Wellness!!

I've been told that I have a way of making nutrition and fitness feel simple and not scary at all. I’m here to help you develop your healthy (er) and fit (er) lifestyle through simplified nutrition and functional fitness!

My Goal is to teach you how to improve your overall health and build a better life!

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