Tempo Tuesday & Why You Should Run Them

Tempo Tuesday & Why You Should Run Them

It’s Tempo Tuesday! My training plan calls for a tempo run every Tuesday & I’m looking forward to crushing them all like I did this morning -> I love putting in a solid workout before most people are even getting out of bed… it makes me feel like a bad a$$ 🙂img_8391

The tempo run is one of the most critical components of any training program. They teach your body how to run at a faster pace for an extended period of time. They’re also crucial in developing the toughness & mental concentration needed to race well, especially at long distances. Incorporating more tempo runs into your training will give you a greater familiarity with increased paced. Overall, tempo running improves a vital physiological variable for running success -> our metabolic fitness.

The term “tempo run” generates all sorts of ideas. A lot of runners throw the term around but use it incorrectly. Some use the term for any run that’s done faster than normal pace while others use it for when they finish the last few miles of a run faster.. but that’s wrong! A tempo run is a faster, steady paced workout that you run at your lactate threshold (LT) pace.

Your LT pace is how fast you can run before the lactate (lactic acid) level in your muscles & blood rapidly increase and the best physiological predictor of distance running performance. The more trained you become by increasing your LT, or the point at which the body fatigues at a certain pace, the higher you’ll be able to push your “threshold”.tempo versus threshold 460

Tempo runs are done at an intensity range at which lactate is just starting to accumulate. By running at your current LT pace, you improve your LT pace, which in turn leads to improved racing performance! Funny how the body works, huh? For most runners, this is 30 to 35 seconds slower than your 5k race pace or 15 to 20 seconds slower than your 10k race pace. The tempo run can also be measured by perceived effort, with “comfortably hard” being the most common description. You should be able to talk but not be able to carry on a conversation. Another way to measure your tempo pace is by heart race. Tempo runs should be done at 85-90% max heart rate.

Back in college I took an exercise physiology class where we did a lab that measured lactate threshold. Looking back, I wish I had paid more attention. All I remember is the person who was being tested had some contraption hooked up to his face while the speed on the treadmill was increased every few minutes and certain info was documented. Too bad I’m not in that class now & can’t be tested now!


dug this picture up -> this is what was being used to test

How I do tempo runs:

When I do tempo runs, I do a warm-up, usually about 2 miles, before I start counting the 15-40 minute portion of running at tempo pace. The amount of time running at tempo pace is based on how far into my training I am. Last week I did 15 minutes, this morning I did 20 because I was feeling good (it was supposed to be 15 minutes though according to my training plan- oops!). I like the 2 mile warm up because I’m not really ‘warmed up’ after just one mile. Honestly, I don’t really feel in the groove until after 3 miles. After the determined amount of time of running at tempo pace, I cool down for 1 mile then stretch.

Things to remember:

  • Warm up appropriately before pounding the pavement since you’re going to be running comfortably hard.
  • These runs are designed to be difficult in order to challenge the body but it is not a 100% effort.
  • Don’t forget to stretch & re-fuel after.
  • Take recovery seriously -> make sure you take it easy the day or two after to give your body time to recover.

Regular tempo run workouts are a key component of successful long distance running because it’s important to train your body to hold a speed that’s out of your comfort zone to work on getting faster at longer distances.


Do you incorporate tempo runs into your training?




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9 thoughts on “Tempo Tuesday & Why You Should Run Them”

  • Great post, Jackie. Love the idea of “Tempo Tuesday”. I wrote a similar post when I started doing tempo runs for 5K training. I was surprised how beneficial they were! I have yet to incorporate them into marathon training. Do you have any tips for that?

    • Thanks Rebekah! They are so beneficial! I would say my biggest tip is looking at your marathon training schedule and planning out when you want to run them. Last year I used a running coach and got my training schedule from him which had tempo runs for every Tuesday. This training cycle, I’ve created my own training based off my coaches last year but have stuck with the ‘tempo Tuesday’ so I will be running them every Tuesday. Hope this helps!

  • Just found your blog through Alison’s, this is such a helpful article. Can’t wait to read more on your running tips– I have always been a sprint athlete but I am running my first marathon in November so I am trying to learn as much as possible. Will definitely be incorporating some tempo runs into my plan!

    • Thank you Colby! Congrats on decided to run your first marathon 🙂 What one is it?! Good luck with your training! There is literally no better feeling than crossing that finish line. Definitely incorporate tempo runs! I also like to run hills & yasso 800’s so you will see some posts on that in the future!!

  • This is super informative!!! Thank you! I have been running since I was about 10!!! And now I’m 42 (did I just admit that???) 😉 Anyway, I’m rebuilding my running life because 2 years ago I suddenly started having seizures and was consequently diagnosed with epilepsy. It’s so debilitating and has destroyed my mind and body…the pain is beyond anything I have ever known…I have broken toes on both feet in two separate seizure episodes). But I’m still committed to racing again one day and I love to learn about the science of running and hearing these wonderful success stories of people who love to run! Thank you for this insight! In time I will be running my own Tempo Tuesdays! Sorry for that long rant…lol…I fully intended to express my gratitude and then I veered off the trail there! Oops!!

    • Hi Linda! A life long relationship with running- I love it! I was more of a soccer player growing up and didn’t get into long distance running (or running in general) until a few years ago. I’m sorry to hear about your epilepsy diagnosis but glad to see you are trying to rebuild your running life. I can only imagine what you go through. However, it’s AMAZING that you are committed to racing again and that’s what it’s all about! I have faith that you will be running your own Tempo Tuesdays again 🙂 Thanks for stopping by & taking the time to comment!

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