Nathan Pennington Running in The Distance

Tempo Runs | How to Use Leverage For Top Results

Disclosure: This post may contain affiliate links, meaning I get a commission if you decide to make a purchase through my links, at no cost to you. Please read my disclosure for more information

[amazon table=”34612″]

Why Are tempo runs so vital for success? Welcome to I am glad you have made it here and hope this post will be of benefit to you/

How do you determine tempo run length?

This was a question I received from one of my readers.

tempo runs

How do you know how far you should go?

What paces to run at and for how long?

Tempo runs help us sustain pace for longer periods of time. In addition, it teaches you to deal with lactic acid more effectively.

Tempo runs are the reason those who run faster times than us are able to sustain pace.

Training methods

Tempo runs are highly aggressive runs that bring about significant benefits.

What heart rate do you need to be at during a tempo run?

Your heart rate should be between 167 to 175 beats per minute.

Carolyn Sharp, a NASA Exercise Physiologist and 2.46 marathoner said it best in Your Perfect Tempo

the result of determining proper tempo run length and training is less-acidic muscles so they keep on contracting, letting you run farther and faster.

How to determine tempo run length is largely based on what distance you are aiming to race at and your goal race pace.

You want to hold your heart rate at or around 88 to 90% of your maximum during a tempo run. This will produce a marvelous physiological adaptation. You will be able to clear lactic acid faster than it is building up.

This is why the Kenyans make it look so easy. They spend a high percentage of their weekly mileage run at higher heart rates.

Start by doing a shorter tempo run and gradually, over time, extending the length of your effort.

Like Rome, racing success doesn't happen overnight.

Delayed Gratification

Delayed gratification means leverage.

It means being patient and allowing the training adaptations to occur. The majority of runners are far too impatient. Results don't come overnight. It takes approximately 21 days or 3 weeks to adapt to any stress load.

Focus should be placed on extending the time spent running at your tempo effort. That being said, this should be a gradual process.

A workout I do a lot is 10x800m at a designated time with a recovery 200 meter jog in a certain time.

What I try to do as I get fitter is maintain the same effort during the repetitions. As time passes I lower the amount of rest I give myself between the sets.

No Breaks

Remember, there are no breaks in a race. So, learning to run at your goal pace with very little rest is great way to drop time in your next race.

Tempo Run Efforts

1. Start gradually.

Training adaptations from tempo runs happen over weeks, not after one or two workouts.

The body takes approximately 21 days to adapt to any stress that is placed upon it.

You hear about runners doing 6-12 mile ‘tempo runs'.

They have to build to that type of fitness. In addition, they got fitter over time. No one starts off at 6 to 12 mile tempo runs the first week.

Runners are already very driven people. People who have the fortitude to get into better shape are as well.

2. Be Patient.

If you start at tempo run effort and find the pace is too fast then back off. The goal is to finish the run. Be patient and allow for your fitness to come to you.

Patience is very hard to come by early on.

Regroup, then try again a few days later if you have to cut your run short. The body needs an additional 24-48 hours to recover from a previous run or workout.

Better to be cautious than try to push too hard, too early and get frustrated.

Heart Rate Training

3. Pay attention to your heart.

It is tricky early on in a training cycle to know if you are running too fast or too slow.

I have used a heart rate monitor in training since I was a freshman at Malone University.

Jack Hazen had his runners use them religiously and I found them to be a great tool, a necessity even when I was doing tempo runs and long runs.


They give you a better gauge of knowing if you are running too anaerobically or not.

If you are aiming to hit tempo pace and know where you want to hold your heart rate at knowing if you are going too quick can easily be gauged.

Wearing a heart rate monitor you can take the guesswork out of knowing if you are running too fast or too slow.

If you have an easy recovery run planned and you look down at your watch and see you are holding a 165 heart rate, you're running too fast.

Invest In A RunDreamAchieve Training Plan Today

The Results Come In The Rest

Great results come from the rest, not the workout itself and more importantly a rested and recovered body will always perform best.

Easy running is usually between 120-40 beats per minute.

If your maximal heart rate is, for example, 195, a tempo run would be between 165-70 beats per minute.

4. Consider running shorter tempo run repetitions.

It is taunting to think about doing a 6-10 mile tempo run, certainly, earlier on in your training cycle.

You start asking mental questions.

Can I hold that pace for that long? What if I don't finish the workout etc.

An easier method would be doing repetitions (early on as your transitioning into more specific training) is to form up workouts formed in minutes rather than miles.

It isn't as mentally draining thinking in terms of minutes rather than miles.

Physiological adaptations

What occurs in the body from doing tempo runs?

You are teaching your body's systems to run economically despite lactic acid building up. The tempo run teaches your body to adapt to handle being uncomfortable.

Furthermore, tempo runs creates a buffer to lactic acid accumulation Thus, causing you obtain the ability to go on at the same pace longer than your competition. Your success is going to come by way of leverage. Doing more with less.

One of the greatest things about running at tempo efforts is the fact that you teach your body to utilize fat as its main fuel source and not carbohydrate.

We have limited carbohydrate stores in the body. That being said, extensive fat storage capability. The goal to run faster is to use fat and conserve carbohydrate.

This is huge, especially in the half-marathon to marathon distances (and over). You cannot get this ability via just running easy miles.

Focus on recovery

Running easy does a few key things

  1. clears lactic acid from the legs
  2. builds capillary beds'
  3. increases mitochondria (the powerhouse of the cell) bringing more oxygen delivery to your working muscles.

So, how is tempo run length determined. Well, it is going to be based on just how fit you are. It is a gradual process.

To race faster you have to gradually extend the amount of time you spend at tempo effort.

There is a close proximity between lactate threshold training ( the point at which lactic acid begins to accumulate within the body) and tempo training (which can be at or slightly above LT effort.

View our coaching services if you want to work one-on-one. Seeking a new training schedule? Check out our affordable 5K to marathon training plans. Make sure to subscribe to the RunDreamAchieve YouTube Channel. I'll be making new videos each week to help you gain leverage over your training and racing.

For example, when you are trying handle 10K race pace, you are going to be dealing with a much more painful, higher lactic acid build up than if you were aiming to hold marathon pace for a designated running distance.

Closing Thoughts

They both teach you to deal with pain, discomfort and most importantly how to cope with that burn you feel when racing against someone else.

Lastly, running at faster paces for longer period of time will help teach your body to learn to call upon fat stores, rather the carbohydrates, as its main fuel usage while racing.

The less carbohydrates you have to use, the better because you can use them in the later stages of a longer race to pick up the pace when others are slowing.

I hope this post on tempo runs has been helpful to you. Make sure to subscribe to the RunDreamAchieve YouTube channel. I create new content there each week to help runners like you get to the next level in their training and racing


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.