Are Tempo Runs Supposed to Work Like This?

Part of my current Triathlon training involves seriously working on my running.  When I started in May 30 seconds of running would have doomed me for days, leaving me wheezing and out of breath and muscles twitching like crazy.  I am not exaggerating, it was that bad.  But this is now, I can run 40 minutes for 2.5 miles.  Granted I won’t come close to breaking a turtle’s speed record, but I have plans that I am working on to improve this, as I have mentioned previously.

Part of that plan is to do a tempo workout once a week.  A tempo run is basically a run that is 30 seconds slower than race pace.  If you think in terms of exertion on a 1-10 scale, race pace is a 8-9 while a normal run is closer to a 5-6.  A tempo run should be a 7 pace or just pass difficulty to carry on a conversation.   From what I have seen most people do something like a mile of regular pace, mile tempo pace and mile of regular pace for their workouts.  Well, I have only recently gone above 2 miles so I decided I would try mine on a shorter scale.  I figured a 1/4 mile at regular, 1/4 to 1/2 at tempo and then finish off at regular would work and give me some of the advantages.

This worked fine on the normal 1/2 mile circular course I like to use, but when I switched to my slightly hilly course it was a nightmare.  I ended up doing a minute to two minute medium intensity interval sets.  I honestly don’t think this was terrible, as my longest one lasted over 5 minutes and my rest was usually shorter than two minutes in between.  This really might not be a terrible modification to a traditional tempo run.

Of course it really was a result of the fact I could not find a comfortable pace. I usually start my run a little eager and go faster than my 16.30 pace, but quickly slow down and get into a sustainable pace.   I just was not easily hitting that yesterday and found myself all over the place.  I wanted to get to around 15.58 to around 16 flat, but was never able to get there comfortably.  I still worked through 2 miles trying to get as many medium intensity intervals in for as long as possible.

In the end, it did not feel like a bad or terrible workout, just not what I had planned.  Til next time…

BTW: If you are interested in the details they can be found here.



  1. trikatykid · · Reply

    I suggest you start with Fartleks before you get into Tempo runs. This is my suggestion, which is based on years of experience and a degree in Exercise Physiology, but by no means do I think you have to take my advice. In case you have never heard of a Fartlek (funny word, eh?) .. they are designed to help you increase your speed as well as improve your endurance, recovery from the “speed” burst and the ability to keep going.
    When I do fartleks with friends, we usually pick something in the distance and run ‘faster’ to that point. When I do fartleks by myself I sometimes go by time, sometimes go by things down the road (mailboxes, street lights, etc). I just pick up the pace for that time and then slowly back off to the original pace.
    During these types of runs, it’s better to focus on perfect form than going faster than your body can handle. You want to develop ‘neuromuscular adaptation’ – to get your muscles used to the motion, the activity, the workload.. and then recover. If you force the speed before your body is ready (understands the movement), well then that’s just counterproductive.
    So it’s my suggestion to work on fartleks before you do a tempo run. You can start with two fartleks and work your way up to 4 and then 6.. you can make them as long or as short as you want. This WILL increase your speed, your endurance, your recovery.. just be sure that you do a jog, not a walk, after each one.

    Hope this advice is useful to you! 🙂

    1. Actually it sounds like what I was doing was somewhat of a Fartlek. I like the idea and will try to incorporate them into my workouts. Your advice is always welcome, you have great knowledge when it comes to this stuff. I am still learning and trying to figure what works for me. Great advice.

      1. trikatykid · · Reply

        I have a 40-min run tonight and will be doing some fartlek – mine will total up to 5 minutes of “work”.. fartlek during long-ish runs was how I improved my running the most efficiently. good luck! 🙂

  2. You’re doing great. Just keep challenging yourself and you will get there. The thought of jogging or running makes me curl up in the fetal position. I’m committing to at least 1 bike route with hub..7 miles with the inclines it’s a killer workout. On my other off days, I’ll be getting 1 mile walks in with major inclines. Baby steps… we’ll get there. Stay strong.

    1. Could also look at the couch to 5k program. I started with that and if I could not do a workout I did the week over again. In 3-4 months I was able to improve to 2.5 miles (I want 3 this week). Its something to think about.

      1. I’ve semi-speed walked a 5K twice and have improved my speed at each mile marker. Last week I visited with my former trainer and he is big into the marathons and biking races. Even though he’s no longer my trainer, he still keeps me encouraged and challenged to keep going. He was the first person that taught me how to get my life back. I’ll always respect and thank him for that fact. So he’s on my butt right now about finding another 5 K to train towards. With the arthritis in my joints, the running is very hard on my knees and hips… so the walking and biking is a much better choice for me. I certainly don’t spend much time on the couch anymore and feel SO much better. Congrats on your progress… keep going!

  3. I have no degree in anything, but you might also consider your heart rate. Heart rate can tell you a lot about your exertion level. Set a goal to stay within Zone 3 for 1 min then Zone 2 for active recovery. Just a suggestion. I don’t know a lot about it, but I know it helps a lot of people. Do your research and good luck.

    1. Heart rate is a good indicator. I keep track of it as well and always wear a heart rate monitor. Have toyed a bit with heart rate zone workouts though.

  4. […] Yesterday I posted about my Monday run and how it ended up being a mess.  Well, blogger TrikatyKid in the comments reminded me of a funny running term I had heard before, and sparked my interest.  Currently I have been trying to gradually increase my speed and distance by setting up a running program with a couple of different elements.  I have found that the easy run and long run work outs have worked wonderfully, while Tempo and Interval workouts have proven a little difficult.  This is the nature of training.  There are times where  you need to trust your program and times when you need to admit things do not work and it is time to try something different. For me, I think the ‘different’ lies in  modifying my program and in a way simplifying it. […]

  5. jamiedmartinezsl · · Reply

    Reblogged this on Jamie Martinez Page.

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