By Eddie Suarez
This week we’re taking a look at Tempo Runs. A tempo run is also known as a lactate threshold run. Leaving a lot of the science out for brevity, that burning sensation you may feel in your legs is lactic acid building up in your muscles. This extra acid causes your muscles to fatigue and you and your performance both suffer.
The tempo run’s goal is to train your muscles to use or process more of the lactic acid by moving that threshold. This is done by holding a steady “comfortably hard” pace over an extended period of time. This pace should be 15 to 20 seconds a mile slower than your 10K pace or 30 to 40 seconds slower per mile than your 5K pace. If you have a heart rate monitor, then you want to be between at 80 to 90 percent of your maximum heart rate. If you don’t have a fancy GPS watch or Heart Rate Monitor device then use the talk test. The most you should be able to squeeze out are a couple of one to two syllable words. If you have no one to talk to, then go by perceived exertion and run at a pace that feels like an 8 on a scale of 1 to 10.
Start your workout with a 10 minute warmup. Then increase your pace and hold it for 20 to 90 minutes. The amount of time will depend on the race for which you’re training. A goal race of a 5K will have you running 20 to 30 minutes while a half-marathon will push you to 60 to 90 minutes. Focus on maintaining a steady pace that is “comfortably hard.” Varying your pace too much becomes another type of workout. As always, you want to cooldown for 10 minutes after completing the tempo run.
When done right, your aerobic capacity will improve, your muscles will become more efficient, and you’ll gain the confidence to hold a challenging pace over a long period of time. The higher you push your threshold, the better your muscles become at ridding themselves of the lactic acid. The result is muscles that can now get you to the finish line faster!