Tempo Run Workouts As Training Enhancers

Runs with a specific tempo have been a significant part of endurance training for a long time.

Since the 1960s, Bill Bowerman, one of the co-founders of Nike, asked his University of Oregon distance runners to participate in three-mile “up-tempo” runs on the track during the off-season of fall and winter, according to Bob Williams, a steeplechaser who achieved conference-winning success on Bowerman’s 1967 team. Running for 20 minutes began to become noticed in the world of running in the early 1980s, when a Swedish exercise physiologist, Bertil Sjödin, asked eight long-distance and middle-distance athletes to add this type of workout into their regular program once a week.

Unfortunately, Sjödin neglected to have his runners do trials before and after the workouts, yet found that in 14 weeks these exercises increased speed by an enormous 4%. This would bring the personal best for moderately skilled runners for a 5km down from 17min:45sec to 17min:00! Suddenly, everyone wanted to benefit from Sjödin’s amazing solution, and interval training went from being relatively unknown to becoming the norm. The only obstacle was to determine the prescriptions; what is a tempo run precisely?

Do 20 minutes provide the best outcome, or are other lengths of time just as good, if not better? If you ask a dozen coaches about a certain topic nowadays, you will probably be given a variety of diverse answers.

For certain people, any kind of moderately brisk jog lasting a minimum of 20 minutes can be considered a tempo run. For some, running means going at a speed that is drastically different between those who are participating in marathons versus those who are racing in 5km events.

Finding your pace

You can find a portable blood lactate measuring device, resembling what a diabetic uses for glucose readings, for around £240 ($300 US) on the internet. Using it, you can find out your lactate threshold by testing your blood at different speeds.

However, there are more affordable and less agonizing methods to determine the suitable speed range. Alberto Salazar, a coach for the Olympics, said that the optimal pace for a twenty-minute tempo run should be pleasurable but energized. The run should end before it’s no longer enjoyable. Other ways to estimate the right pace include:

Jack Daniels, the author of Daniels’ Running Formula, suggests that your pace in a race lasting around an hour will be equal to your lactate-threshold pace. It is likely to be between running a 10K and running a half-marathon pace.

The centre of Daniels’ formula is the VDOT tables. Going back four decades to work done together with Jimmy Gilbert, they calculated the maximum oxygen uptakes (VO2max) linked to a range of running achievements and lengths.

The tables provide guidance on training speeds, including the recommended rate for threshold efforts. If you cannot find the book, you can look up the calculator at runsmartproject.com/calculator/.

The Conconi test measures your heartbeat while running at different speeds and diagrams the data on graph paper. When walking or running at a slow to moderate speed, your heart rate should increase steadily as the pace increases.

At some stage, the rate of progress diminishes no matter how quickly you go.

By Francesco Conconi, a biomedical researcher from Italy, in his 1982 paper, it is a reliable indicator of when one is about to exceed their lactate threshold and shift to anaerobic activities. The same Francesco Conconi was later embroiled in doping controversies within the world of cycling.

A study was conducted comparing the outcome of 3200m time trials to lab-measured lactate threshold curves. Using the formula, the number of seconds for a person to maintain a threshold pace can be determined in meters per minute as 5 – [20.82 x 3200m time (in minutes)].

Nonetheless, this test should be approached with caution. It can be difficult to understand the units, and the results it produces are often much faster than when using Daniels’ VDOT tables to calculate time trial performance.

One researcher has proposed that the outcomes could be moderated by roughly 10 per cent. He encountered the same difficulty with the Conconi Test.

This time trial necessitates you to individually monitor your heart rate for 30 minutes, similar to the Conconi test. You need to ensure you are doing this trial alone, with no help from anyone.

The creator of the test, U.S. cycling and triathlon coach Joe Friel, suggests that carrying out the trial as part of a race or with friends makes a difference in the results because the competing aspect can make an individual push faster than they would if it were only a time trial.

Do not pay attention to your heart rate during the initial ten minutes of your workout as you are still warming up. You are looking for the mean during the last 20 minutes. Friel states that this is the kind of thing you should aim to replicate when doing tempo workouts.

Putting it into practice

Making use of the research that can at times be inconsistent to devise a workout program brings us back to Bowerman’s original thought.

Time trials are neither competitive races nor extended jogs but exist somewhere in between the two. Some are more ‘fun-fast’ than others. Some, especially for marathoners, are pretty tough. But here are some options:

Sjödin ran a classic 20-minute tempo as their exercise and many people currently still use it. The aim is to maintain a consistent rate at your judgement of the highest level of endurance/energy.

Predator runs involve beginning at a slow speed and gradually accelerating. Scott Simmons, a coach of the American Distance Project in Colorado Springs, Colorado, usually uses the term “predator runs” rather than “progression runs”.

Begin running at a pace that is one minute slower than what you would typically go for a 10K distance, then gradually increase speed each mile. But don’t push too hard; it’s not a race.

The amount of mileage you decide to run depends on what your race goals are; a good place to start is to aim for a distance between six and ten miles, setting off with a speed that you can keep up a conversation with and gradually increasing your speed. Somewhere along the way, you’ll hit the threshold.

The concept is to complete a series of repetitions that are much shorter than 20 minutes, with short rest periods in between. You should run the distance at your lactate threshold speed, or a bit faster (especially for distances shorter than 1600m), with only very brief breaks.

I like doing 600-meter sprints with 20-25 seconds of rest between each one, but if that’s not your style then try a 1200-meter sprint with 45 seconds of break time in between or a mile with 60-75 seconds of rest. You could also do 2K with 90 seconds of rest or 3K with two to two and a half minutes of recovery time between reps.

If you’re trying to figure out the equation, limit how long it takes to regain energy to 15-20% of the amount of time in the interval that came before.

Beginning at 4 miles, the total distance is equal to what you would cover during a 3-mile tempo run, taking into account rest intervals. For those who run frequently and substantially, the number of your regular workouts can be maximized up to 10% of your total runs during the week. In some circumstances, the amount might be even more.

Long tempos – These are controversial. In the revised version of his book, Daniels had a chart included that outlined how to change the speed of tempo runs that last more than 20 minutes.

He advised a 38-minute 10km runner to reduce their speed by 5 seconds per mile over 25 minutes. For 30 minutes it was 8 seconds per mile. It took 35 minutes and 11 seconds to get up to an average of 21 seconds per mile for a single-hour tempo.

In his latest version, he got rid of lengthy tempo runs instead of not exercising for more than 20 minutes in any single tempo session.

If you would like to do more, he suggests that you take regular pauses and repeat the tempo run as often as you desire – making a long tempo run into multiple 20-minute tempo increments.

Runs at a marathon pace would be considered to be an intense version of long-distance runs, mainly relevant to people training for a full or half marathon. The concept is to complete jogs at a fast pace similar to what you would use while running a marathon, beginning with a few miles and gradually increasing up to 1 hour or more.

One popular route to prepare for a marathon is to compete in a half-marathon a few weeks beforehand and make sure to try to keep the speed close to your expected marathon pace.

It is unclear how this works scientifically, but it could be connected to utilizing the LT effect in prolonged exercises.

Perhaps it is mostly about preparing the mind to handle the rigours of pushing oneself intensely, not just for a brief period, but for several hours. All serious, frequent marathon runners will likely want to try out this type of training session.

Tempo Run Workouts to Increase Speed

1. Classic tempo run

This sort of speed exercise session is a customary running workout. Incorporating a classic tempo run into your weekly exercise regimen is a fantastic way to incorporate speed into your program.

Traditional pace running is straightforward, does not necessitate any advanced planning utilizing the watch, and is still very useful for strengthening speed and stamina.

To finish a classic tempo run, you should begin with a 15-minute warm-up at a relaxed speed. Following your warm-up routine, run at a brisk jog for 1 to 6 miles. To conclude, end with a 15-minute break where you keep your intensity low.

When you’re a beginner, you should only run around 1 mile at a speed that is achievable but still challenging. Concentrate on running at a speed that feels difficult the whole duration. When exercising outdoors, pay attention to how quickly you are going so that you don’t cause a decrease in speed.

Once your body adjusts to regular speed exercises, strive to raise the length of your tempo over each week. When preparing for a 5k race, a 2-mile tempo run is all that is needed to get to peak conditions.

If you are training for a long event like a half-marathon or full marathon, it’s key to make sure to gradually increase your running distance to between 4 and 8 miles at your usual pace.

2. Race pace tempo run

This kind of middle-paced run exercise is good for any runner that is practising for a specific finish line time or personal record at an upcoming contest. To figure out the speed you need to reach in a particular race to meet your expected finish time, calculate the average number of miles you’ll need to travel in that amount of time.

For a tempo run of race-level speed, keep the same warm-up and cool-down format as the conventional tempo run (15 minutes each), but strive to finish each tempo mile at racing speed.

This tempo run is an excellent way to help raise the confidence of any runner while they train.

It offers us an opportunity to run at our competitive velocity and also gives us assurance in hitting our ambitions, or assesses what needs to be refined to reach them.

Incorporating regular up-tempo runs in your training is an effective way to build trust that you can reach your race objectives.

3. Tempo run intervals

The structure of this tempo run workout is the same as many other running workouts in a training schedule. Speed run intervals differ slightly from the traditional tempo run, but the concept remains the same.

Start your tempo run with 15 minutes for warming up, as usual. Next, do a set amount of time at a steady speed — anywhere between 5 minutes to 1 mile or longer – at your average tempo.

Once you have finished your tempo interval, jog slowly for 1-5 minutes to recover. Switch between a faster rate and a slower rate until you are done with your intervals and finish off with 15 minutes of cooling down.

Running tempo intervals is an effective way to start incorporating tempo runs into your exercise routine. These exercises set at specified intervals can be beneficial for those just getting into speed experimentation and more brisk running.

As you get better at being physically fit, you can extend the length of your tempo interval.

For example, when practising for a marathon, you could do a tempo set of intervals which includes completing three separate 2-mile tempo sections and then ending with 6 miles of tempo running in total. There is no single correct approach to organizing this exercise.

4. Negative split tempo

If you want to get the most out of your tempo run workouts to get ready for racing, trying a negative split tempo run is your best choice. This workout involves running at a challenging pace that both pushes the body and sharpens the mind, preparing one for the demands of race day.

Starting a negative split tempo includes a 15-minute warm-up. Following your warm-up, move on to your fast miles at the initial speed.

Begin your run with the pace you were running at the start of your training; if you have increased your pace over time, this is the speed you should use.

After a while or a certain distance, gradually accelerate your speed. Many runners opt to quicken their speed every mile since these are the intervals that one’s time-keeping will register.

You don’t need to speed up your pace by more than a 5-10 second gap per mile, provided that the time for each mile you run continues to get quicker.

For your tempo run, it is best to start slow and gradually increase your speed throughout the duration. Once you have finished your tempo mileage, wind down the training with a 15-minute cooldown. This exercise intends to finish with each tempo mile’s speed gradually increasing.

Doing tempo runs is an ideal way to prepare for competition since it encourages you to begin gradually.

It can be very tempting to give your maximum effort at the beginning of a race, but it usually leads to athletes becoming exhausted or running out of energy near the finish line when things become more difficult. This tempo exercise is great for mastering the skill of gradually building up velocity as the workout progresses.

Speed training can be integrated into any running routine using tempo runs. Whether you’re commencing your fitness journey or aiming to beat a personal best, tempo runs should be incorporated into any exercise plan.

The straightforwardness of a tempo run along with its tremendous impact renders it very enticing.


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