Tempo run session: How to hit your ‘sweetspot’ run pace

Don’t miss out on this often-neglected training area with a simple bang-for-your-buck session, says Joel Enoch

What are the benefits of running

Too many triathletes suffer from ‘fuzzy grey middle’ syndrome. I’m not being rude about mid-sections here, I just mean triathletes have a well-recognised tendency to carry out their training at average intensity. They don’t work long and slow enough to improve aerobic fitness, or fast enough to work on speed, or hard enough to work on threshold – they train in the fuzzy grey middle area!

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In cycling this intensity should be limited, as benefits to performance are compromised; higher-intensity ‘sweetspot’ work is more effective.

It seems that the benefits occur at a slightly lower intensity for runners than cyclists, i.e. tempo. A study published last year reported that regular structured tempo sessions were one of the two biggest predictors of run performance in elite runners (alongside slow running). A weekly tempo run session can reap numerous benefits, including the fact it helps the body deal with lactate effectively and without the stress caused by harder threshold sessions.

What is tempo?

Tempo is defined as a relatively high but sustainable pace. I suggest running just below your current half-marathon pace. Even if you can run these reps faster, don’t.

The session

Warm-up

10mins easy

20secs vigorous; 40secs easy

Main Set

4 x [9mins @ tempo pace; 1min easy]

Cool-down

5-10mins easy

5-10mins stretch or foam roller

Adapt for beginners

Reduce the time of each rep for a shorter session. Also, don’t over work, the pace should feel sustainable, even for reps longer than 9mins.

Adapt for Ironman

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Keep intensity and rest interval the same, increase the time of each rep. You can safely aim for between 40-70mins of work at tempo within a session.