Talk to any runner training for a distance event and you’ll hear about tempo runs—they are often the cornerstones of many training programs. But what exactly is a tempo run?
The problem is, that’s a hard question to answer. Tempo runs are a very gray area. How fast do you go? How far? Do you just run “comfortably hard?” for a certain period of time?
The latter is certainly one way to do it. You’ve heard me advocate before to run some miles without that Garmin watching over you. If you fall into the category of preferring to run sans data feedback, then set aside a time (say 30 minutes) or stretch of miles (maybe three to four) and then run at that comfortably hard pace. You can actually gain plenty of benefit right there.
But perhaps the better idea is to use tempo runs for specific training paces. So say you are training for a half marathon—take a six- or seven-mile run and insert about three or four miles of 10k-paced running in there.
Training for a marathon? There are all kinds of ways to use tempo running in this scenario. Do a long run where you finish up the last few miles at half marathon pace. Or set aside a day every couple of weeks to do a progressive tempo run, one where you start at half marathon pace and drop each mile after by about 10 seconds.
The possibilities are endless with tempo running. What you’re after is training your body to run faster paced sustained miles. Play with different versions of tempo and see what works for you. The one thing I guarantee is that you will see a benefit. Good luck!
How often do you use tempo runs? Do you find them difficult? Do they help with your overall fitness? Have you been scared to try a tempo run?
(Amanda Loudin is a runner, coach, and freelance writer with 15 years experience in endurance events. As a runner, she’s in perpetual training mode, usually with a slate of about eight races per year on her plate. As a coach, she has helped runners achieve their goals in every distance from 5k to the marathon. She shares her passion for the sport on her blog, MissZippy1 , and daily on Twitter at @ misszippy1 .)