The tempo run is one of the most critical components of any training program. A tempo run teaches your body how to run at a fast pace for a long period of time. They also are critical in developing the mental concentration and toughness needed to race well. Training yourself to maintain a pace that is outside of your comfort level for an extended period is so important for fast racing. Here are a few pointers.
What is a Tempo Run?
A tempo run consists of a 10-15 minute easy warm-up jog, followed by a 3-6 mile run at about your 10k pace. At the very least, make sure that you are running hard during these workouts; you should not be able to carry on a conversation with someone next to you. After the tempo run, make sure to include a 10-15 minute jog to cool down your muscles. If you are just starting to run tempos, make sure that you don’t exceed 20 minutes of hard running or you’ll be beating up your body too much. After the workout, it is also very important to refuel your body by drinking water and eating protein-rich foods to get the most benefit from tempo run.
Why is a Tempo Run Important?
A tempo run increases your body’s lactate threshold, or “LT.” The LT is the point at which lactic acid begins to accumulate in muscles. Lactic acid is a by-product of the body’s metabolization of glucose, which is the primary energy source for running. An accumulation of lactic acid causes increased levels of acidity in the muscle tissue, which causes the fatigue and soreness that runners experience in races. If a runner increases his or her LT through a tempo run, she will be able to reduce the accumulation of lactic acid and run at higher speeds without suffering muscle fatigue.
When To Start a Tempo Run
A runner should do a tempo run once he or she has built a running base of 30 miles a week for two months. This will ensure that the runner has the necessary fitness to perform the workout without risk of injury. It is important not to overdo the tempo run and to balance it with other kinds of speed workouts. Keep in mind that starting speed workouts can lead to injuries, including achilles tendonitis, IT-Band soreness, and runner’s knee if your body is not ready for the faster pace. If you feel pain, it is very important that you not try to ignore it. To help cut down on the risk of injuries, make sure that you are running in good running shoes and don’t have any signs of over-training.
A variation on the tempo run is a workout called tempo intervals. This workout draws some similarity to the fartlek, however, it is a bit more structured. Tempo intervals are essentially a tempo run broken down into two-four 6-10 minute sections. A good example of this workout is: 10-15 minute warm-up, 8 minutes hard, jog two minutes, 8 minutes hard, jog 2 minutes, 8 minutes hard, 10 minute cool down.
The general rule is to run your tempo interval sections slightly faster than your 10k race pace. I have had success with tempo intervals because they are not as taxing on your body as a long, unbroken, tempo run. The workout also does a great job simulating a race because it is uncommon to run a race at one constant pace. Tempo intervals are a great way to train yourself to respond to mid-race surges.
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