The tempo run, or threshold run, is the bread-and-butter of most training schedules. Running them at the proper effort is critical to extracting maximum benefit from the workout. From a pacing perspective, tempo runs are usually completed between 10-mile and half marathon race pace, depending on the distance of the workout.
What are the training benefits of a tempo run?
A tempo run is defined as the fastest pace you can run without generating more lactic acid than your body can utilize and reconvert back into energy.
Your body can only “clear” or reconvert a certain about of lactic acid back into energy before the lactate floods our system and contributes to fatigue. To race faster, you must teach your body to clear lactate more efficiently.
By running just below your lactate threshold you can begin to decrease (or improve, depending on how you look at it) the pace at which you begin to produce too much lactic acid for your body to manage. This will enable you to run faster and longer before you produce more lactate than your body can clear, thus enabling you to run faster.
However, running too fast or too slow for a tempo run diminishes the benefits because you’ll either produce too much lactate quickly by running too fast, OR you’ll not produce enough lactate because you’re running too slow and not challenging your body. Therefore, it’s critical that you learn how to feel the pace of a tempo run.
What does a tempo run feel like?
A tempo run should feel like a “hard, but controlled effort”. You should be able to maintain your tempo run pace for 30 to 45 minutes. Again, you can use your breathing rhythm to monitor your effort.
Tempo runs should typically be performed while breathing at a 2:2 ratio (two steps: one with your left, one with your right, while breathing in; two steps: one with your left, one with your right, while breathing out). A 2:2 breathing rhythm enables you take about 45 breaths per minute.
The Talk Test
Like with steady state runs, you can use the same “talk test” to determine if you’re running in the correct effort range. During a tempo run, you should be able to say one or two sentences out loud, but you forget speaking in full paragraphs or articulating complete thoughts. Try this talk test during your next tempo run and see if you’re in the correct effort range.