How Tempo Runs Can Help Improve Your Running Performance and Endurance

Man and a woman on their tempo run

As a runner, you’re always looking for ways to improve your performance and endurance. One training technique that has become increasingly popular in recent years is the tempo run. 

In this article, I’ll explain what a tempo run is, the benefits it can have on your running performance and endurance, how it can improve your running form, different types of tempo runs, and more.

Introduction to Tempo Runs

Tempo runs are a type of training run that involves running at a steady, moderate pace for an extended period. This pace is typically faster than your easy, conversational pace, but slower than your race pace. 

The purpose of a tempo run is to improve your lactate threshold, which is the point at which your body begins to build up lactic acid faster than it can clear it. 

By running at a pace that is just below your lactate threshold, you train your body to clear lactic acid more efficiently, allowing you to run faster for longer periods.

A tempo run is typically done at a pace that is 10-15 seconds per mile slower than your 5k race pace or around 80-85% of your maximum heart rate

The distance of a tempo run can vary, but it’s usually between 20-40 minutes. During a tempo run, you should be breathing hard, but still able to hold a conversation if needed. 

If you can’t speak at all, you’re probably running too fast.

Benefits of Tempo Runs for Running Performance and Endurance

Tempo runs can have many benefits to your running performance and endurance. 

By improving your lactate threshold, you’ll be able to run faster for longer periods, which can help you achieve a new personal best in your next race. 

Tempo runs also help strengthen your cardiovascular system, allowing your heart to pump more efficiently and deliver oxygen to your muscles more effectively. This can help reduce your risk of heart disease and other health problems.

In addition, tempo runs can help you lose weight and improve your body composition. Running at a steady, moderate pace burns calories and boosts your metabolism, which can help you shed unwanted pounds and build lean muscle mass

Tempo runs also help to improve your mental toughness and discipline, which can be beneficial in all areas of your life.

How Tempo Runs Improve Your Running Form

Tempo runs can also help improve your running form. Running at a steady, moderate pace helps you develop a consistent stride, which can help reduce your risk of injury. 

It also helps develop your leg turnover and cadence, which can help you run more efficiently and with less effort. 

By running at a pace just below your lactate threshold, you’ll also be able to focus on maintaining good form, as opposed to struggling to keep up with a faster pace.

How to Incorporate Tempo Runs into Your Training Program

If you’re new to tempo runs, it’s important to start slowly and gradually build up your endurance. 

Begin with a 20-minute tempo run at a pace that is 10-15 seconds per mile slower than your 5k race pace. As you become more comfortable with this pace, gradually increase the distance and duration of your tempo runs. 

Aim to do at least one tempo run per week but no more than two.

It’s important to remember that tempo runs are just one component of a well-rounded training program. Be sure to include easy runs, long runs, and speed workouts in your routine to achieve maximum benefits.

Types of Tempo Runs

There are several types of tempo runs you can incorporate into your training program which include the following:

Continuous Tempo Runs

Continuous tempo runs involve running at a steady, moderate pace for a set distance or time without any breaks. This type of tempo run is ideal for building endurance and improving your lactate threshold.

Fartlek Tempo Runs

Fartlek tempo runs involve alternating between a moderate pace and a faster pace for a set distance or time. This type of tempo run is ideal for improving your speed and endurance.

Progression Tempo Runs

Progression tempo runs involve starting at a slower pace and gradually increasing your speed throughout the run. This type of tempo run is ideal for building mental toughness and endurance.

Tempo Run Workouts for Beginners

If you’re new to tempo runs, here are some sample workouts to get you started:

Workout 1

  • Warm up with 10 minutes of easy jogging
  • Run 20 minutes at a pace that is 10-15 seconds per mile slower than your 5k race pace
  • Cool down with 10 minutes of easy jogging

Workout 2

  • Warm up with 10 minutes of easy jogging
  • Run 5 minutes at a moderate pace followed by 1 minute at a faster pace
  • Repeat for 20-30 minutes
  • Cool down with 10 minutes of easy jogging

Advanced Tempo Run Workouts for Experienced Runners

If you’re an experienced runner looking to take your tempo runs to the next level, here are some advanced workouts to try:

Workout 1

  • Warm up with 10-15 minutes of easy jogging
  • Run 10 minutes at a moderate pace, followed by 2 minutes at a faster pace
  • Repeat for 40-60 minutes
  • Cool down with 10-15 minutes of easy jogging

Workout 2

  • Warm up with 10-15 minutes of easy jogging
  • Run 4 x 10-minute intervals at a pace that is 10-15 seconds per mile slower than your 5k race pace, with 2 minutes of easy jogging between intervals
  • Cool down with 10-15 minutes of easy jogging

Common Mistakes to Avoid When Doing Tempo Runs

When doing tempo runs, here are some common mistakes you should avoid:

  • Running too fast – Tempo runs should be done at a pace that is just below your lactate threshold, not at your race pace.
  • Neglecting recovery – Be sure to include adequate rest and recovery time between tempo runs to allow your body to recover and repair.
  • Skipping warm-up and cool down – It’s important to warm up and cool down before and after your tempo runs to prevent injury and promote recovery.

Conclusion

Tempo runs are a valuable tool in any runner’s training program. By improving your lactate threshold, strengthening your cardiovascular system, and improving your running form, tempo runs can help you achieve your running goals and improve your overall health and fitness. 

Whether you’re a beginner or an experienced runner, be sure to include tempo runs in your training program to take your running performance and endurance to the next level.

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