What is a Tempo Run? Why do we do them?

Coach Maleia Tumolo
August 6th, 2019

You show up to practice or looked at your training schedule to see that you have a tempo run to do? You are given some obscure number and told to run that pace for a set number of minutes. So, you set out on your run asking yourself, “What is a tempo run?”

A tempo run is defined as a workout done at or near your lactate threshold pace. This is the exercise intensity in which lactate begins to accumulate in your blood at a faster rate then it is removed. Tempo runs help you develop metabolic fitness and as a result your anaerobic or lactic threshold will improve, and you’ll run faster. Despite the complicated definition tempo runs are easy to implement. Here is the low down on Tempo Runs.

Tempo runs are longer distance run at 85-90% of your max heartrate. For most this would be just a bit slower than your 10K race pace. It should feel comfortably hard. Holding a conversation would be hard but you can speak a couple words at time. You should not fatigue quickly or have thoughts that you are dying while running. If you do feel this way during a tempo running, you are running too fast.
Most temp runs will last between 20-40 minutes. However, if you are new to running, I would suggest starting out running for 4-10 minutes at tempo pace then working your way up towards longer runs at that pace. While anyone can benefit from performing tempo run. Those training for longer distance races will benefit the most. For example, if you are training to run a 5k, an improvement in lactate threshold will only have a small benefit because 5ks are races well above that threshold pace. But for athletes training to race anything longer then a hour, Performing tempo runs will allow your body to adapt to the demand of the longer races since your performance is largely determined by your threshold pace.

The advantages of utilizing tempo runs are numerous. In addition to increasing your aerobic capacity and training you to run faster, tempo runs will also increase your mental and physical resistance to fatigue. Fatigue resistance is valuable for finishing a race strong and achieving your time goals! Tempo runs should be run once every 7 to 10 days as part of a regular training schedule during your peak training weeks and is one of the most critical components of any training program.