Experience the Tempo Run Difference

what are tempo runs

Tempo runs are one of the most effective ways for runners to improve their speed and endurance. If you want to unlock your full potential as a runner, tempo runs should be a key part of your training regimen.

Tempo runs are faster than your normal easy runs but slower than your high-intensity interval workouts. The aim is to push into your “comfortably hard” zone for an extended period of time.

This helps make your body more efficient and stronger and increases your lactate threshold—the exercise intensity at which lactic acid starts to build up in your blood.

The ideal pace for a tempo run is around 15 to 30 seconds per mile slower than your current 5K race pace. If you don’t know your 5K pace, aim for a pace that feels “comfortably hard,” around a 6 or 7 on a scale of 1 to 10. You should still be able to talk in short sentences during your tempo run.

Start with just 10 to 15 minutes of tempo running, and build up slowly over weeks and months. There’s no need to jump into 30 minutes of tempo running right away. A good rule of thumb is to limit your tempo runs to no more than 10% of your total weekly mileage.

What are Tempo Runs and Why are they Effective?

What are Tempo Runs and Why are they Effective?

Tempo runs, also known as lactate threshold runs, are a key workout for improving your speed and endurance. During a tempo run, you run at a moderately hard pace for a sustained period of time. This helps boost your lactate threshold—the exercise intensity at which lactate starts to accumulate in your bloodstream.

  • Tempo runs increase your lactate threshold, allowing you to run faster and longer before fatigue sets in.
  • They improve your running economy, making you a more efficient runner. This means you can run at a lower percentage of your maximum heart rate.
  • Tempo runs enhance your endurance by pushing your body outside of its comfort zone in a controlled manner. Over time, your comfort zone expands, and runs that used to be challenging become easier.

To get started with tempo runs, determine your lactate threshold heart rate, which is about 85–90% of your max heart rate. Start with just 10–15 minutes at this pace and build up from there. A good rule of thumb is to increase your tempo run time by no more than 10% per week.

Try incorporating tempo runs into your routine 1-2 times a week, with easy or rest days in between, for the best results. The ideal tempo run distance depends on your current fitness level and goals. For most runners, 3-6 miles is a good range to aim for.

While tempo runs may be challenging, the benefits to your speed, endurance and efficiency are well worth it. Stay consistent and patient, and you’ll be flying at a faster pace in no time!

Related: Are Walk Breaks Okay for Runners?

How to Structure Your Tempo Runs

How to Structure Your Tempo Runs

Tempo runs are one of the best ways to improve your speed and endurance. To get the most out of your tempo runs, you need to structure them properly. Here are some tips to keep in mind:

Start Slow and Build Up

Don’t dive right into fast-paced tempo runs. Start by running at an easy, comfortable pace for 10–15 minutes to warm up your muscles. Then, gradually increase your speed over the next 10–15 minutes until you reach your target tempo pace. This helps prevent injury and prepares your body for the faster speed.

Find Your Target Pace

find your target pace for tempo runs

Your target tempo pace should be about 20–30 seconds per mile faster than your easy-run pace. For most runners, this works out to be in the range of 6 to 7 minutes per mile for 15–30 minutes of running. You want to run at a pace that is challenging but still sustainable to keep going.

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Run By Time, Not Distance

Focus on running for a certain period of time, not a certain distance. This helps you lock into your target pace and prevents you from speeding up or slowing down based on how far you have left to run. Aim for 15 to 30 minutes of tempo running, 2-3 times a week.

Include Recoveries

add recovery periods to structure tempo runs wisely

Include short recovery periods in your tempo run where you slow down to an easy jog. For example, run at your tempo pace for 10 minutes, recover for 2 minutes, then continue another 10 minutes at your tempo pace. These recoveries will make your tempo run more sustainable, so you can push your pace with your hard work.

Cool Down Properly

get yourself properly cool down to structure tempo runs wisely

Finish your tempo run with a 10-15 minute cooldown at an easy jogging pace. This helps your body safely transition back to a resting state and reduces the risk of injury from suddenly stopping after intense exercise. Be sure to stretch when you’re done as well.

Following these tips will help you structure effective tempo runs and gain more speed and endurance over time. The key is starting slowly, finding the right pace for you, and including recovery periods and a proper cooldown. With consistent practice, your tempo runs will get faster and faster!

Benefits of Tempo Runs for Runners

Tempo runs are one of the best ways for runners to improve their speed and endurance. By pushing yourself outside of your comfort zone for short periods of time, tempo runs provide several benefits:

Improved Speed and Endurance

Tempo runs teach your body to run faster and for longer periods of time. Start with just 10–15 minutes of running slightly faster than your normal easy pace. Over time, increase the speed and duration. You’ll notice your speed and endurance improving during normal runs.

Related: Tired of Short Runs? Learn How to Run More Miles

Stronger Muscles

tempo runs can build your muscles strong

When running at a tempo pace, your muscles have to work harder to propel you forward. This strengthens your leg, core, and hip muscles. Stronger running muscles reduce injury risk and allow you to run faster.

Mental Toughness

Tempo runs aren’t easy. They require mental discipline to push through discomfort. This mental toughness translates to your normal running and racing. You’ll be better equipped to overcome challenges and push through tough spots.

To utilize tempo runs effectively in your training:

  • Start with 15–20 minutes of tempo running, building up to 30–40 minutes for more experienced runners.
  • Run at a pace around 10 seconds per mile faster than your easy run pace. You should feel challenged but still be able to speak a few words.
  • Include tempo runs 1-2 times a week, with rest days in between for maximum benefit.
  • Find a flat route without interruptions to maintain an even tempo pace. Tracks and bike paths are great options.
  • Consider timing your tempo runs to measure your progress and improvement over time. With consistency, you’ll get faster and stronger!

More Efficient Form

To run at a tempo pace, you need to have an efficient running form. This includes landing softly on the midfoot, taking quick, light strides, and maintaining a slight forward lean. A tempo run helps reinforce proper running form, so you can run faster and longer.

While tempo running isn’t for beginners, but trust me adding tempo workouts to your routine twice a week can help you unlock your potential. The benefits of tempo runs are huge for any runner looking to get faster and stronger.

Pace and Heart Rate for Tempo Run

 maximum heart rate mhr for tempo  runs

A tempo run is meant to push you outside your comfort zone for an extended period of time. The pace should feel comfortably hard—you can still talk, but you’re working. For most runners, the tempo run zone falls between 70 to 85% of your maximum heart rate.

To determine your tempo run pace, you’ll first need to calculate your maximum heart rate. The basic formula is that you need to subtract 220 from your age.

Related: Demystifying Maximum Heart Rate Secret

So if you’re 30 years old, your maximum heart rate is around 190 beats per minute (bpm). Your tempo run zone would be 133 to 162 bpm (70 to 85% of 190).

In terms of pace, a good way to determine your tempo pace is by running a timed mile or 5K race. Take your time and multiply it by 0.70 and 0.85 to get your tempo run pace range. For example, if your 5K time is 25 minutes (8-minute mile pace), your tempo pace would be:

8 min/mile x 0.70 = 5 min 48 sec/mile 8 min/mile x 0.85 = 6 min 48 sec/mile

Your tempo run pace range would be 5:48 to 6:48 minutes per mile. Start on the slower end of this range and build up as your fitness improves.

Three Tempo Workouts you need to Try

Are you ready to add some tempo runs to your training? I have got three options for you. Try these workouts once or twice a week, with recovery days between each tempo run.

Steady-State Tempo

For this workout, aim to run at a comfortably hard pace for 15–25 minutes. This could be around 10–30 seconds per mile slower than your 5K race pace. The key is to find a pace you can sustain for the full time period.

Start conservatively and speed up gradually. This kind of steady, prolonged effort will boost your endurance and efficiency. Last but not least get a pair of good running shoes or you can just purchase mine favorite one’s those are 23% off.

Related: How to Train and Improve Your Average 5k Time

Short Intervals

This speed workout incorporates short intervals with recovery periods. After a solid warm-up, run 1-2 miles at your target 5K o 8k race pace, take one to two minutes of recovery, then repeat for 3-6 intervals.

For example, run 6 x 1 mile at a 7:15–7:30 pace with 90 seconds of jogging rest between each. These surges at race pace will get you accustomed to running fast when fatigued.

Related: Average 8k Time by Age

Tempo intervals

For the most advanced option, do longer intervals (2 to 3 miles each) at a tempo pace, slightly slower than your 10K race pace. Aim for 2 to 4 intervals with 2 to 3 minutes of jogging recovery between each.

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Start with just 2 x 2 miles and build up from there as your endurance improves. After a proper warm-up, run the first interval, recover, run the second interval, and cool down. This challenging session will push your limits and build strength for longer-distance racing.

Focus on maintaining a comfortably high speed and staying in control of your form. Tempo runs, when done right, can lead to huge breakthroughs in your performance and racing. Give these workouts a try, and you’ll be crushing your personal records in no time!


What pace should I run my tempo runs?
The tempo run pace will depend on your current fitness level and goals. As a general rule, aim for a pace that’s faster than your easy running pace but slower than your 5K race pace. For many runners, that works out to about 20 to 30 seconds per mile slower than your 5K pace. Start conservatively and speed up over time as your fitness improves.

How long should my tempo runs be?
Tempo runs are usually 15 to 30 minutes for most recreational runners. Start with just 10 to 15 minutes at your tempo pace and build up from there. Once or twice a month, extending your tempo run to 45 minutes can provide an added training stimulus.

How often should I do tempo runs?
For the best results, aim for 1 to 2 tempo runs each week, with at least one day of easy running in between. Start with just one weekly tempo run and build up frequency over time as your fitness improves. Be sure to keep the majority (about 70–80%) of your weekly running at an easy, comfortable pace.

My Thoughts

So it’s clear that tempo runs can really help you take your running to the next level. By strategically incorporating them into your training plan, you’ll boost your speed and endurance so you can meet your race goals.

Just remember to start conservatively as you get used to them, slowly increase duration and pace over time, and be smart about recovery. With some patience and consistency, you’ll be amazed at the gains these specialized workouts can produce.

Hopefully this guide has shown how valuable tempo efforts are and given you ideas on how to make them work for your unique needs.

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