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Back to Basics: Tempo Run

In the world of running, there are some basic terms for basic elements of training. One such term you might run into often is tempo run, and believe it or not, it doesn't mean running to the beat of your favorite JT song.

The tempo run is an essential part of any race training routine, and is simply an approximately 20 to 40 minute run at a hard, but controlled pace. Tempo runs have many aliases, and you might have heard them referred to as lactate-threshold, LT, or threshold runs. But a tempo run by any other name would still be just as sweet.

On second thought, "sweet" might not be the most appropriate term for a tempo run since they can be fairly taxing. On a more technical level, you are physiologically hovering just below your anaerobic threshold. That is the greatest effort your body can put forth without building up lactic acid, the muscular waste product that causes discomfort and fatigue, aka heavy leg sensation. So a tempo run is taxing, but you shouldn't be out of breath while running it. The goal of this type of practice run is to improve your race pace and help improve your overall efficiency.

To see how to figure out your tempo just

Here are a few ways from Runner's World to figure out how to find your tempo for a tempo run.

  • Recent Race: Add 30 to 40 seconds to your current 5-K pace or 15 to 20 seconds to your 10-K pace.
  • Heart Rate: 85 to 90 percent of your maximum heart rate.
  • Perceived Exertion: An 8 on a 1-to-10 scale (a comfortable effort would be a 5; racing would be close to a 10).
  • Talk Test: A question like "Pace OK?" should be possible, but conversation won't be.


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