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The tempo run is a tried-and-true classic that can often get overlooked in the presence of higher intensity intervals or more complex workouts that bring the promise of quicker results. But this tempo workout, from coach Taylor Thomas, offers the biggest bang for a runner’s buck when it comes to building the foundational aerobic and muscular strength for speed and endurance.
Thomas said: “Tempo is typically 80-90% of your lactate threshold, or a 7-8 out of 10 on the RPE (rate of perceived exertion) scale. After a solid warm-up of 10-20 minutes, at RPE 3-5/10, find a pace that’s comfortably hard. For many runners this is often in line with their half-marathon pace.”
When it comes to the main set—the tempo segment of this run—Thomas advises starting out with 15 to 20 minutes if you’re not used to running at tempo pace, but as you build fitness and efficiency (lower heartrate at a faster pace) you can extend this section up to one hour, depending on your goals and aerobic development.
He said: “Through the course of your training progression look to extend the duration of the tempo interval while watching for changes in efficiency (lower heart rate at a faster pace). This is where the tempo magic happens!”
He said the goal of this workout is to train your body to become more efficient at running at higher speeds: “Over time you’ll gain efficiency and strength, which will equate to speed and endurance.”
If you prefer, you can also break up the tempo segments into multiple intervals with rest in between to help dial in your pacing and build into longer and more sustained tempo workouts.
As always, wrap up the workout with a relaxed cool-down that brings your heart-rate and breathing rate down.
One-Hour Workout: Tempo Time
10-20 min. at an easy conversational pace, RPE 3-5/10. Build into the effort and allow your heart-rate to climb gradually.
15-20 min. at tempo pace, extending this as you get fitter/more efficient, up to 50-60 min.
5-10 min. easy jog, allowing your heart-rate to fall. Finish with a 5-min. walk if desired.
Taylor Thomas is the founder and head coach of Thomas Endurance Coaching. He’s a dedicated endurance athlete with over two decades of experience as a competitive athlete. His background includes both road and MTB racing, multi-sport disciplines, and ultra-distance running and cycling events.