Workout Of The Week: Know Your Tempo

Photo: John Segesta

Something For Everyone

For nearly every athlete I coach, from the frequent 5K’er to the twice-a-year marathoner, there’s one type of tempo run I turn to throughout the course of a training cycle. In the eight to 12 weeks before a target event I’ll assign a tempo run in the range of four to six miles at 10K race pace plus 15-20 seconds per mile, which for many athletes equates to roughly half marathon race pace, or a touch quicker. For those athletes who don’t have access to a fancy GPS unit or measured mile markers, running for 20 to 60 minutes at half marathon effort will do the trick.

Even if an athlete is training specifically for 5K or 10K and will never race a half marathon, spending some time running at this not-too-intense — yet still aerobically demanding — pace does wonders to improve endurance and efficiency, develop a sense of race rhythm, and ease the transition into more intense race-pace and below-race-pace running that will occur later in the training cycle. Half marathoners and marathoners will reap all these same benefits, in addition to developing the confidence that comes from running close to their race pace for an extended amount of time. I typically have athletes follow this type of tempo run with a session of short hill sprints – 6 x 15-20 seconds at 90% effort with full recovery – to recruit fast-twitch fibers and promote proper mechanics. This is an optional addition to the workout, but a good way to kill two birds with one stone.

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