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Tempo Run: Definition, Pace and Benefits
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Tempo Run: Definition, Pace and Benefits

Isabel-Mayfield-health-reporter
Written by Isabel Mayfield | Medically reviewed by Medically reviewed by Rosmy Barrios, MD check
Published on November 10, 2022
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6 min

Looking for new ways to shake up your training routine? Tempo runs could be the answer.

tempo run
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If you feel as though you’ve hit a wall with your running, it’s important that you start looking for solutions to overcome the stagnation.

You might be feeling bored with your current running program, or maybe you’ve been tracking your mile time for a few months and find that it’s not getting any better.

Either way, tempo runs could be what you’re missing from your running routine.

In this article, you will learn the many benefits of tempo runs – including increased endurance and speed – as well as what exactly separates a tempo run from other training styles.

What Is a Tempo Run?

Simply put, a tempo run is a long run that is done at a moderately fast pace. A tempo run will look different for everyone depending on their current level of fitness as well as their training goals.

Tempo runs are done to improve your lactate threshold. When you improve your threshold pace, you are able to stay in an aerobic form of respiration for longer. This is great for anyone wanting to run longer distances or try their hand at a half-marathon.

This kind of running is most often done somewhere between 6 and 8 on a scale of difficulty and will last for at least 20 minutes to start. Your goal should be to eventually build your endurance to be able to last between 45 and 60 minutes.

What Types of Tempo Runs Exist?

There are a few different kinds of tempo runs that exist. In this article, we will be covering the two types that are the easiest to both understand and run.

By switching up your tempo run workout, you will be giving your body the chance to adapt to a more dynamic training plan. Not to mention that switching up your running style can help you stave off boredom in the long run.

Sustained tempo runs

A sustained tempo run is a form of tempo running where you maintain the same pace throughout your entire workout.

An example of a sustained tempo run would be a light jog to warm up your muscles, lasting between 5 and 10 minutes, followed by some dynamic stretching.

When your body muscles are ready, you would then reach your threshold pace and maintain it consistently for 20–30 minutes, with no breaks in between. This pace should be somewhere between 6–10 on a scale of difficulty and keep you in an aerobic training zone.

Afterward, you would jog for another 5–10 minutes to cool down and once again stretch to reduce soreness and improve recovery.

Tempo mile repeats

Tempo mile repeats are a more dynamic kind of tempo run done to improve your overall tempo pace. The goal for this kind of run is also to stay in an aerobic state. Short breaks between your intervals will kick up the level of difficulty a notch without making the switch to anaerobic respiration.

An example of a sustained tempo run would be a light jog to warm up your muscles, once again lasting between 5 and 10 minutes, followed by dynamic stretching to warm up and loosen your muscles.

You would then run for 10 minutes, somewhere between a 7 and 9 on the difficulty scale. This would be followed by a 2–3-minute jog allowing you to catch your breath and slow your heart rate down.

Repeat this process 3–5 times, followed by another 5–10-minute jog to cool down. Don’t forget to fit in a stretch session to reduce lactic acid buildup and improve recovery.

What Pace Is Recommended on a Tempo Run?

The speed at which you decide to set your tempo run pace will be based on your current level of fitness and cardiovascular health.

In this section, you can find out how to measure your level of output so you can find a pace that is perfect for you.

How to calculate your tempo?

One of the best ways for you to calculate your tempo is by using a heart rate monitor.

To use this method, you want to first figure out your maximum heart rate. You can do this by subtracting your age from the number 220.

Generally, you want to perform tempo runs somewhere between 70–80% of your maximum heart rate. Runs done at this pace will keep you just outside of anaerobic respiration.

This is the sweet spot where you can increase your running efficiency without causing your body to make the switch to an unsustainable exercise tempo.

Is It Really That Effective? 3 Benefits of Tempo Run

Tempo runs are recommended by many running coaches because of the benefits that they have for not only the body but also the mind. Whether you are looking to run a half-marathon or just want to improve your personal mile time, tempo runs can help you get there.

#1 Improves lactate threshold and running endurance

Your lactate threshold is the amount and intensity of exercise that you are able to sustain without making the switch from an aerobic state – which is when our muscles have all the oxygen they need – to an anaerobic state.

Anaerobic exercise isn’t sustainable. This is because we aren’t able to breathe in enough oxygen to keep our muscles oxygenated. The byproduct of muscle exertion done in an anaerobic state is lactic acid and a high amount of glycogen used.

Since tempo runs are done right on the brink of entering anaerobic respiration, they are one of the best ways for you to improve your lactate threshold.

#2 Builds mental strength

Tempo runs are meant to be done at a pace that is comfortably hard. Generally, when you are exercising at this level of exertion, your mind will convince you that you are too tired to continue long before your body is ready to give up.

Performing tempo runs is a great way to push your body and build mental toughness. This improvement in mental strength is especially good for anyone wanting to run a half-marathon, as it will give you the mental fortitude you need to finish the race.

#3 Improves running speed

When you increase your lactate threshold, this means your body will produce less lactic acid during a high-intensity run. When your muscles are functioning optimally and are free of built-up lactic acid, they are functioning optimally, allowing you to run at a faster pace.

FAQs

How to measure lactate threshold?

The best way for you to figure out your lactate threshold is in a lab. The test to figure out your specific threshold involves having a blood sample drawn at various times throughout an incremental exercise test.
For most of us, a test of this kind won’t be accessible or necessary.

There are ways for you to measure your lactate threshold on your own. Although they won’t be quite as accurate, they will provide you with a good starting measurement.

To do this, start with a 10-minute warm-up, and then begin running at the maximum pace that you can sustain for 30 minutes. Measure your heart rate 10 minutes into your run, and again at 30 minutes.

Add the two numbers together, and then divide them by two. The final number will be your lactate threshold.

How long should a tempo run be?

When you are starting out, your tempo runs should last no less than 20 minutes. As your endurance improves, you can stretch these runs out to last between 45 and 60 minutes.

How often should I do tempo runs?

Doing 1 or 2 tempo runs per week is perfect. This amount will help you improve your endurance and running efficiency.

Is it okay to run a tempo every day?

Generally, tempo workouts are too intense to be done every day. They are a run that is meant to increase your overall running ability, and doing them too often can be hard on the body. If you want to run every day, you should instead focus on base runs to avoid getting tired.

A Word From Our Coach

You might want to try threshold training like tempo running for a number of reasons.

Maybe you want to improve your half-marathon pace or just improve your overall running endurance. Either way, tempo runs will help you run faster and keep your speed up for longer periods.

It’s important to keep in mind that this kind of exercise is intense for the body. It isn’t meant to be done every day, not even by advanced runners.

Your number one priority with any kind of running routine will be for it to be sustainable and for you to show up consistently, try running 5 days a week. Make sure you continue to pencil in enough rest days for your body to fully recover to protect yourself from overuse injuries.

Bottom Line

In this article, we covered the many reasons why it’s a good idea for you to add tempo runs to your training schedule.

They can help improve your physical and mental endurance and set you up for success in any longer runs or races that you might want to take on.

Isabel-Mayfield-health-reporter
Written by
Isabel Mayfield is a certified yoga instructor with over 10 years of experience in the fitness industry. She is passionate about self-improvement and loves to help people improve their sense of self-worth through education and support in meeting their fitness goals.
Medically reviewed by Rosmy Barrios, MD
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