The tempo run has been THE workout in my training system. I attribute much of our teams’ success to this one workout! Tempo runs occur weekly for 8 to 10 weeks, beginning around the sixth week of the 23–24-week season cycle. You may see this workout done in a variety of ways; two-mile intervals, one-mile intervals, or 1200-meter runs. I prefer 1000 meters. 1k is a very manageable distance both physically and mentally. As a result, it can be done in a fairly confined area making it easy for the coach to monitor. I would have runners start with 3-4 of these with 1 minute to 1:30 minute rests. The ideal rest is 1 minute. Eventually top runners complete 8-10 of these.
Pace for the Tempo Runs
This is where they science comes in. Dr. Jack Daniels, Running Formula explains the science behind the tempo run. I adapted his key charts into one page for ease of use. The chart shows how to pick out the correct paces for most runs including these intervals. The tempo run is about 24-30 seconds over 5k race pace. The rest between each interval is short to prevent full recovery. That is the desired training effect as explained by Dr. Daniels. These workouts are usually done on Monday.
Purpose of the workout
The purpose of the tempo run is to increase the anaerobic or lactate threshold for runners. That is the crucial barrier between when a runner goes from aerobic running to anaerobic (without oxygen) running. Done at correct paces as indicated in the chart, this workout results in runners who are able to race faster and longer but still not become depleted. This workout usually proceeds race pace speed work and allows those workouts to be done at faster paces with less rest and more volume.
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