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The tempo run is the most misunderstood type of workout. Let’s get it straight.
A lot of runners like to throw around the term “tempo run”, but the reality is very few actually know how and when to do them. While Joe Jogger will call any run done faster than his usual training pace a tempo run, some other weekend warriors will pack it in during a bad race and call it the same thing – evidence that the tempo run is one of the most widely misunderstood workouts among the moving masses.
Of course, neither of the above examples really represents a tempo run, and while the true meaning of the term depends on who you’re talking to, the workout can quite simply be described as comfortably hard running for a prolonged period of time, usually at a set pace over a predetermined distance or at a perceived effort for a predetermined amount of time.
Short distance specialists, marathon maniacs and everyone in between can benefit from incorporating tempo runs into their training schedule. The duration, intensity and frequency of the workout itself will depend on the event an athlete is training for, but extended efforts of 20 to 90 minutes in proper proportion to goal race pace will improve aerobic capacity, enhance efficiency and help develop the confidence to hold a challenging pace for a prolonged period of time.
Let’s take a look at different types of tempo runs and where each fits into a training program.