The tempo session

Published 19th January 2021 by mymo

Tempo, threshold, fartlek, VO2 max, easy, steady… what does it all mean? Tempo running is your key to building endurance over distance and a great way to mix up your workouts if things are getting a little stale. Here’s our guide to how and why tempo running should fit into your week.

What is it?

We could get technical and explain where exactly tempo running sits between your easy running and maximum heart rate using percentages and science, but that’s not what we’re here for. Tempo running should simply be the pace that sits somewhere between steady (a little faster than easy) and all-out hard effort. You might hear tempo running referred to as Lactate Threshold. Roughly, it should be around 20-30 seconds slower per mile than your all-our 5k pace. You can judge a tempo run reasonably well on feel, so don’t be a slave to your watch. Be mindful that your pace will vary depending on how tired you are, your current level of fitness and where it sits in your week of training. It’s handy to keep track of these training paces however and note where you see progress and where you might need to back off. 

Tempo trains your body to run faster, for longer, builds fitness and makes race pace feel closer to grasp. Good tempo running challenges you without breaking you. 

How do I do it?

It’s important to recognise that if you’ve never done tempo running before, it’s challenging to jump straight in. With any good workout, you’re always advised to get going and iron out any stiffness and creaks with a good gentle warm up of around 15 minutes. Start by trying a progressive run where you chip away into tempo pace for the last 5 minutes of a 20 minute block, taking time to cool down afterwards too. As you learn your pace- and what you can hang on to- build up to blocks of 30 minutes, and play around with dropping them into your longer runs, especially if you’re training for a half marathon or beyond. The most important thing to remember with tempo is that you should be able to hang on to it in a really controlled way.

How often should I do it?

This really depends on what you’re training for, and where you are within your training cycle. Many coaches advise dropping a tempo run in once a week but again this will vary in length depending on what you’re training for. Be playful with tempo but keep it regular, escaping your comfort zone will always leave you feeling better afterwards! Try setting a particular day every week where you do some of your run at tempo pace, before making that a set tempo day and you’ll see how quickly it becomes a good habit. 

However, you fit tempo running into your training, make sure you are doing it in the right shoes. Tempo runs often favour lighter, lower drop shoes that perhaps have a racier feel to them. Get personalised recommendations via the app as you complete your gait assessment with mymo.


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