If you are looking to improve your running skills one of the best things you can do is to incorporate tempo runs into your training schedule. You may have come to a point in your running where you can't improve your speed or distance effectively even with sufficient nutrition and rest or your looking to improve in general then this will help. Tempo runs help to increase your speed and distance and also to sustain that increased speed over distance.
How Does it Work?
Tempo runs work by improving a critical aspect of your fitness: metabolic fitness. When you do cardiovascular exercise your muscles take oxygen to the muscles and each time you exercise your body is trained to deliver oxygen more effectively each time. However, just because oxygen is taken to the muscles doesn't mean it knows how to use it. This is where tempo runs come in.
By training with tempo runs you are increasing your lactate threshold. Lactate is a by-product of the metabolism and when left in the muscles it causes them to fatigue so by increasing the threshold at which this fatigue happens means you improve your muscles ability to not only deal with the lactate but to run further and faster.
How to Do a Tempo Run
Depending on what your running goals are depends when you should be doing your tempo runs. A runner training for a 5k will need to tempo runs or two to three miles; a runner training for a 10k will need to do a tempo run four to six miles; for a half-marathon between six to eight miles; for a full marathon between eight to ten.* For anything above 5k these should be done during the peak training weeks.
The pace for a tempo run should feel hard but should also feel like you can keep it up. If you need to walk during the breaks then you're running to hard and need to ease it up a bit. To begin with you could almost treat it as an interval session:
- 5x3 minutes at tempo pace, 1 minute jog
- 5x4 minutes at tempo pace, 1 minute jog
- 4x5 minutes at tempo pace, 90 second jog
- Build up to a 20 minute or 2-3 miles at tempo pace.
If you have been running for a while you should have no problem with going straight into a 2-3 mile steady tempo pace, longer if you are training for one of the longer races.
Don't forget that you'll also need some decent running shoes. Here are a couple of shoes that I have used in the past.
I have got some serious mileage out of these puppies. There are great for casual running with neutral and underpronation running patterns. They are surprisingly light and very breathable.
They come in different colors and also different sizes - remember that you'll need an extra half a shoe size for your running shoe as your foot expands when you run.
These are another great pair of running shoes that I've tried out in the past. These are even lighter than the Asics and have the micro-air technology. As you can see the heel is heavily cushioned so they are a great option for you heel-strikers. The way the shoe molds onto your foot causes you to shift your running pattern to a more natural stance so you're less inclined to strike your heel.
I've also got a great amount of mileage out of these. When I was using these I was running about 5k 3-5 times a week and they lasted for at least a year. Remember it's important to replace your shoes about every 300-400 miles so for the casual running/jogger that's normally every year.
If you have any tips to share for tempo runs leave them in the comments. Happy reading.