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Tempo Running - Reasons Why We Do It and Top Tempo Workouts Explained

What is tempo running?

So when exactly are you running at tempo pace?

Why should you run at tempo pace?

And what are the different running training possiblities at tempo pace?

Read this page and you'll know more...

Oh by the way, don't want to read? Then simply check out the tempo running video below:

What is Running at Tempo Pace?

Tempo pace is the pace you can maintain for approximately one hour. For many runners this is somewhat slower than 10K race speed.

It's a speed between easy pace and interval pace.

Hard to establish?

Your heart rate monitor can help you here: Zone 3 as defined via the Zoladz Method of Heart Rate monitor Training is your tempo pace zone.

Tempo Running Don't want to use a heart rate monitor?

Then go by feel.

Your tempo pace is a steady pace, hard but doable.

Feel like you need to slow down after a while?

Then you are running too fast.

You need to be able to hold your pace!

Experiment a little until you have found the right tempo pace for you.

Why Do We Run at Tempo Pace?

In one sentence : to increase our lactate treshold.

No, actually, the only good answer to that question is: to be able to run faster!

What does one have to do with the other?

Tempo pace is also known as lactate treshold pace.

If you run slower than tempo pace, your body will not build up lactic acid.

If you go faster than tempo pace, lactic acid will build up rapidly in your running muscles.

Too much lactic acid in your muscles and you will quickly have to stop because your legs get too heavy and you will need time to recover.

Wouldn't it be great if you could run fast and not build up so much of that lactic acid?

tempo running Well, run at tempo pace!

You are then right on the edge: some lactic acid will build up, but not too much to make it impossible to run.

At this pace your body is getting trained at dealing with lactic acid removal continuously. Over time your body will get better at that.

Your body will become more efficient at removing lactic acid from your running muscles.

And that is good. Because that means that the next time you run, you will not build up as much lactic acid in your running muscles as the last time you ran at that same pace.

And your body will be able to get rid of it faster.

So something like this:

tempo running

Tempo Pace Running Exercises

There are different exercises I do which involve tempo pace.

  • Short intervals (1 miles)
  • Do mile-intervals at tempo pace and jog in between for two or three minutes. Do about 4 to 6 mile-intervals.

    tempo running
  • Go longer
  • Longer intervals can be something like 4 x 10 minutes (5 minute jog in between), 3 x 15 minutes (5 minute jog in between) and, my favourite, 2 x 20 minutes (also with 5 minute jog in between).

    You could also do one longer prolonged effort of 30 minutes.

    Quite tough, variety is key here, but I personally feel that I get more out of a 2 x 20 minute tempo session. But hey, it is your party. Try them out and see what you like best!

  • Pyramids
  • I quite like longer pyramid-sessions. In preparing for my races I do sessions of 50, 70 or 90 minutes. These workouts are build up of 5- or 10-minute intervals of running in a certain heart rate zone.

    However, here you can also go by feel. Do what works best for you.

    Sample workouts I do or have done :

    50 Minute workout
    of 10-minute intervals in Zone 1 - 2 - 3 - 2 - 1

    70 Minute Workout
    of 10-minute intervals in Zone 1 - 2 - 3 - 2 - 3 - 2 - 1.

    90 Minute workout
    of 10-minute intervals in Zone 1 - 2 - 3 - 2 - 3 - 2 - 3 - 2 - 1.

    The 90 minute workout serves multiple purposes : it is a combination of long running and tough running.

    Famous running coach Jack Daniels uses an interesting workout which he calls the TLT.

    The TLT-session starts, after a warm-up, with a few tempo-intervals, then a long run and finishes with a tempo run (or tempo intervals).
    The thought behind the workout is twofold :

  • Do the long run with already tired legs

  • Do the last tempo session for mental toughness

  • Also when you are already tired you need to be able to go fast.

    One warning : it's a monster. So, not for the faint of heart!

    Important Things to Keep in Mind with Tempo Runs

    tempo running Warm-up & Cool-down
    Start your training with a warm-up.

    Consisting of easy running for about 10 minutes.

    You will want your body to be a little warm before you start running at faster than easy pace.

    A cooling down can be as simple as running the last five or ten minutes of your workout at a slow, easy pace and do some gentle stretching afterwards.

    Also see the following article about stretches:

    The Most Important Running Stretches

    Start short
    Whenever you start doing tempo runs, whether it is for the first time at all or for the first time again after a period of base-building my advice is: start with the short intervals. The first few tempo pace sessions can be very taxing.

    I have sometimes felt very discouraged after a tempo session. With the feeling that I could not run fast anymore. But after only a couple of weeks your tempo pace training will go better and better. So hang on in there.

    Start with the shorter intervals. And when you are feeling good, take it to the next level (10-, 15-, 20-minute intervals or one long prolonged effort).

    Avoid hills
    Your tempo run is supposed to be a run at a regular, constant speed. So it is best to avoid hills. Although a workout with tough hills can be a very good workout as well, your tempo run is best served with flat terrain. It is simply easier to control your speed and effort.

    Beware of the weather
    When it is hot outside, you are going to feel a difference. It's hard enough running at an easy pace when it is hot, but doing quality workouts like tempo workouts is even tougher. Adjust your pace down, when the sun is out at full force!

    Hard - Easy
    A tempo workout counts as a hard day. So the next day, schedule in an easy workout. This can be some cross-training, a recovery run or complete rest. Try to avoid another hard workout like a long run or interval session. It will be too taxing on your body and you run a much higher risk of injuries.

    Tempo running is a great method to get faster. I hope this page helped you in understanding tempo running and in getting the most out of this very useful running pace.

    Tempo workouts are just one component of running training. Make sure to check out the following page. It summarizes a range of different running workouts:

    Eight Different Running Workouts - Why and How You Need to Do These Workouts

    You can only get to peak performance when you train at all different running paces!

    > > Tempo Running


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