All runners, regardless of their favorite distance, can benefit from incorporating a tempo run or two into their weekly regimen. And yet, coaches say that tempo runs are widely misunderstood and many runners don’t understand how to perform them correctly.
According to Runner’s World, a tempo run is a faster-paced workout at a “comfortably hard” pace, and is also known as a lactate-threshold, LT, or threshold run. The lactate- threshold is the point at which the body fatigues (the top end of your aerobic zone), so by training at this higher intensity, you increase your tolerance and thereby are able to extend your threshold. Ultimately, this means you can run faster for a longer period before fatigue sets in.
To determine your tempo run pace, Runner’s World recommends using one of four methods.
Tempo Run Methods
- Recent Race: Add 30 to 40 seconds to your current 5K pace or 15 to 20 seconds to your 10K pace.
- Heart Rate: 85 to 90 percent of your maximum heart rate.
- Perceived Exertion: An 8 on a 1-to-10 scale (a comfortable effort would be a 5; racing would be close to a 10).
- Talk Test: A question like “Pace okay?” should be possible, but conversation won’t be.
In addition to increasing your lactate-threshold, a tempo run offers several physical and psychological benefits.
Tempo Run Benefits
- Improved cardiovascular endurance
- Greater familiarity with increased pace
- Mental toughness
- Increased confidence
Check with a local running club, a running coach or online for recommendations as to how to best integrate tempo runs to meet your specific goals and improve your race times.