Friday, September 01, 2006

Turbo Charging with TEMPO RUN - Revisit


A tempo run is most commonly defined as a 20 to 25-minute run conducted at a specific intensity and pace targeted at zapping the runner's anaerobic threshold system. If a runner has developed a solid aerobic base, the tempo run (conducted at least once a week over a span of four to six weeks) will bring all the good stuff online, opening up an athlete's ability to run at fast paces for long periods of time while improving efficiency and mechanics and injecting a massive boost of confidence. After a month or so of implementing tempo runs in your training, racing becomes something you not only want to do, but something you must do. For those with ambitions of running well at road distances from the 5K to the marathon, the tempo run is an indispensable weapon that is deliciously effective and easy to use.

Simply put, smart tempo training develops your lactic acid system. The terms "anaerobic threshold" or "lactate threshold" refer to what's called the "point of deflection" (POD). If you take a VO2max test at an exercise physiology lab, invariably you'll get to look at a post- workout chart that shows at exactly what pace and heart rate your personal POD exists. At the POD, your muscles have crossed the line where lactic acid can be removed expediently, and the accumulation signals a point where heart rate spikes dramatically and muscles turn sludgy, and you face an inevitable slow down. By training in your threshold zone, which correlates with being at or near your POD, you'll begin to improve upon your ability to hold a pace close to your VO2max for longer and longer periods of time. With a broad aerobic foundation , the body's threshold can be trained to handle high intensities of effort for long periods of time, maximizing your gifts.

9 KEYS for an Effective Tempo Run

1) Develop an aerobic base. The aerobic base is the price of admission to the golden riches that tempo training can provide. At minimum, an aerobic base is comprised of three months of daily (or almost daily) running at an easy-to-medium pace. Base training strengthens the musculoskeletal system and creates the cardiovascular piping that every competitive distance runner requires.

2) Decipher your target intensity or pace. This is an objective that is ideally worked out with the assistance of a good running coach or exercise physiology lab, but you can do it on your own as well. Tempo pace generally equals a pace 25 seconds per mile slower than your 5K race pace. Race a 5K on a flat, fast course and wear a heart-rate monitor. Race hard and hit the finish line with an all-out sprint. After you cross the finish line, check your heart rate (you'll be at your max heart rate). This will give you a reasonable understanding of what pace to conduct your tempo runs: either at 25 seconds per mile slower than 5K race pace or at about 90 percent of your max heart rate.

3) Don't skimp on the warmup. Warm up for a tempo workout the same way you would before a race. About 20 minutes of easy jogging and six to 10 light sprints is a decent warmup.

4) Run at tempo pace for 20 minutes. Simply start running at the target pace or heart rate and hold it for 20 minutes. As you become more conditioned, you can lengthen it to 25 minutes, but tempo training adheres to the idea that a little bit goes a long way. A 20-minute tempo run once a week may not sound like much, but it is. And that's the beauty of it.

5) Use a proper course. Effective tempo training requires that you zero in on your intensity level, or heart rate, for the duration of the workout. Thus, conduct your tempo training on a flat road, trail or track. A measured course is best so that you can monitor your pace and improvement.

6) Avoid the temptation to run too fast. As tempo training begins to take effect, and you get stronger and more comfortable with the effort, you'll be tempted to try and beat your previous effort. Wrong! Improvements made from tempo training result from specific bouts at a specific intensity. When your 5K PR improves, then it's time to ratchet up the tempo pace, but not before.

7) Work with a good coach. Working with a good running coach will take the guesswork out of how and when to do your tempo runs. A good coach will also keep on your butt about not letting your tempo runs turn into races.

8) Use proper footwear. Some runners do their tempo workouts in racing flats. If you're light and not prone to injuries, this can be okay. But generally speaking, use lightweight trainers for tempo workouts to reduce the risk of straining an Achilles tendon or suffering a calf cramp.

9) Don't skimp on the cooldown either. When you start messing around with filling the legs with lactic acid, it becomes imperative for your long-term training to follow your tempo runs with extremely light and easy jogging or walking, 20 minutes at least. The light and active recovery will enhance your digestion of the workout.

A complete training program will include long runs, medium runs, recovery runs, tempo runs and speed training. One of the nice things about tempo training is that it will unleash large improvements in your basic race speed without the risk that pure speed training involves. Many beginners would be well advised to just forget about the speed training until they've let tempo training and base training take them as far along as possible. Which you may find is a long, long way.

DO says " I did Intervals at Queenstown Stadium last night, didn't like the feeling after the sessions at all!! I will go back to doing longer Tempo runs next time when the guys doing Intervals. So i thought that it is good idea to revisit the purposes and techniques of Tempo RUN! "


peter said...

hi DO! thanks for the very detailed information on tempo run!
will definitely tried out soon... c u at safra MF!

Anonymous said...

thanks for the article.
my running training is very unsystematic. perhaps i can join u guys for run.

speedygeoff said...

I have experimented with tempo runs only recently and they work! This is after having been a competitive athlete for 44 years!


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