Get the most bang for your training buck with this effective workout.
Written by: Linzay Logan
You cross the finish line of your first race, you throw your arms up in excitement and relief and it hits you—you made it. You hobble through the line of volunteers handing out water and bananas and if your competitive nature is as strong as mine, your next thought is: I’m doing that again, but next time, faster.
Whether your goal is to best a PR in the 5K or marathon, tempo training is one of the best training techniques to make that faster time. Of course, a complete training program including long runs, strides and recovery runs will get you through your next race, but completing tempo runs are sure to get you to the finish line quicker.
Unlike speed drills that require quick short bursts of running that are also helpful in picking up speed, tempo runs involve holding a quick pace for a longer duration, allowing your body to experience a run that is more similar to your actual race. This makes your body become more familiar with what you are going to put it through come race day and allow you to possibly push through faster and stronger.
Simply, a tempo run is a 15-minute warmup, followed by a sustained run at your tempo pace for 30 minutes, followed by a 15 minute cooldown.
There are several methods to calculate your tempo pace and you are likely to hear several very strong opinions on different methods of tempo running from different runners and coaches. One simple method is to plug your race time into pace calculators at Websites such as McMillan Running Calculator. For those running longer distance races such as a half marathon or marathon you can calculate it yourself by subtracting 30 to 45 seconds from your expected race pace. For example, if your goal is to run a half-marathon at a 9:15 minute per mile pace, run your tempo run around a 8:40 pace. The quicker speed will feel tough, but if you run a little faster than is comfortable, your body will eventually get used to it and your tempo pace may even start feeling easier. For those training for a shorter race such as 5K or 10K, calculating tempo pace is much different. Mario Fraioli explains this further in this article on Competitor.com.
Try incorporating a tempo run into your training schedule once a week. Once this starts to feel easy and you become acclimated to it, the distance you run will begin to increase in the 30-minute tempo run. “Make sure you maintain a similar effort,” Fraioli recommends. Your tempo effort should remain the same throughout training, but as you become faster and fitter you’ll be able to run farther in 30 minutes, he explains. Track your progress so you can see how much faster you have become.