Training workouts (Tempo’s/ Lactate Threshold running)

Training workouts

Tempo’s/ Lactate Threshold running

Clubs employ a variety of training workouts in order to promote good running technique, fitness and speed. Perhaps the most common workouts are tempo runs, intervals, hill sessions and long runs.

Tempos are very popular workouts amongst runners of a variety of distances from 5 k to full marathons. They are also the most misunderstood. The purpose of a tempo run is to get the mind and body used to running at a speed that mimics the speed and sensation of a full blown race. On a basic scientific level it forces the body to run just below the lactate level – essentially running that fine line between racing and blowing up. If managed carefully repeated tempo runs will encourage the body to run at a faster “uncomfortable” speed. Be careful though – tempos are very stressful on the body so don’t run more than once a week or every two weeks. Good running guides recommend building up the duration of the tempo over time but no more than 30 – 45 minutes in total especially when racing distances for the first time. Running any longer will lead to injury, burnout and delayed recovery. Pick a route that is well lit, traffic free and free of any unnecessary obstacles like traffic lights, pedestrian crossings and so on.

So let’s start. Imagine you are going to run a 20 minute tempo run with a 15 minute warm up and 15 minute cooldown. Run 15 minutes a slow relaxed pace. A good rule of thumb is to be able to run at conversational pace. Don’t run your warm up too fast, you will need the energy for later. Stop and if needed do some light stretches. Begin the tempo portion of the run. Don’t fly too fast. Ease into the run. A 20 minute tempo can be very tough if you don’t find the correct pace. You may be running with clubmates but remember this is not a race. We are looking for consistency and a gradual improvement. There is little point in running a varying pace every week otherwise your body will not adapt and improvements will not occur. Tempo running is tough but it prepares your mind and body with the mental and physical tools required for racing.

In terms of pace a good rule of thumb when starting is try to run 15- 30 seconds faster than your conversational pace. Therefore if your easy conversational pace is 9.30 – 10 minute per mile run the tempo portion at 9 minute to 9.45 pace. Advanced runners will run at 10 mile or half marathon pace when training for longer distances and at 10K and 5 mile pace for shorter distances. This running will prove more challenging than you think so take it easy. All progress is positive and all improvements gradual but keep the mile splits even. After a while you will get to know your pace instinctively. When you are finished your 20 minute tempo stop and rest and jog/walk for 2 minutes. Then continue your cooldown with your club-mates for another 15 minutes. Do not skip the cooldown. It’s also probably a good idea for the geeks out there to note down the time, pace and mile splits of your tempo. This will allow you to track your improvement. Do not run two speed sessions on successive days. Ideally just run speed session a week and vary the type of speed session each time.


Article credit to Cathal Daly