TEMPO RUNS

SKINS Head Running Coach, Joshua, discusses Tempo Runs, or 'Training the Lactate Threshold.'

The concept of tempo runs is not a new phenomenon in endurance running. The lactate threshold is one of the key defining factors in endurance performance. All of us at some stage would have heard people describe what thresholds, tempos, ‘up-tempo efforts’, anaerobic thresholds and steady-state runs are and how they are good for you. There are many confusing terminologies used to describe the lactate threshold concept and seemingly many different ways to train it. The graph below taken from Midgley et al. (2007) is an example of a lactate curve and the methods of training boil down to the same principle of shifting this curve to the right. In simpler terms, you can run faster for the same blood lactate output, or the same pace becomes ‘less fatiguing’.

Figure 1.1 above is taken from Midgley et al. (2007) paper titled: Training for Long-Distance Running Performance.
Figure 1.1 above is taken from Midgley et al. (2007) paper titled: Training for Long-Distance Running Performance.

The above information clarifies that this is an area we should be looking to train in order to improve. The inclusion of these style runs is highly fatiguing, and if not run correctly, you will go beyond the point described as LTP above. This means you are then moving away from respiring purely aerobically and adding an anaerobic (without oxygen) component. We leave the anaerobic gains for your intervals or speed sessions; this one is supposed to be a purely aerobic session!

TRAINING YOUR LACTATE THRESHOLD

When looking at training your lactate threshold, many elite athletes would get this tested in a big fancy laboratory at one of the top sporting universities. Some elite athletes even have their coaches/physiologists test their blood lactate during sessions; however, it’s a lot harder to get these constant updates back in the real world! An easy way to check your threshold values is to use the very well-respected Jack Daniels VDOT formula, which uses current race performances to predict roughly where your threshold is. You can then use this value to plan what your pace should roughly be for these workouts. It’s important to remember these values don’t consider things such as weather, terrain or underfoot surface, so use the value as a guide as to where your pacing should roughly be and give yourself a buffer depending on these factors.

Planning a threshold workout depends on your experience as a runner and your relative training age for how long you would run. Generally, we make sure most workouts for anyone doing 10k’s last 20-30mins in duration, Half-Marathon roughly 25-35/40mins and Marathon up to 90mins. These workouts will have differing intensities due to the relative power of each workout being different. In addition, the recoveries between reps are changeable based on the distance you are training for. What’s essential to understand is that it’s not a one-size-fits-all approach with the inclusion of threshold/tempo running into your schedule, and there is no one session everyone has to complete. The main factors come back to ensuring that you hit the right intensity, complete workouts based on your racing goals and factor in your training history when designing the sessions.

EXAMPLE SESSIONS

15mins tempo // 5mins jog recovery // 8x30secs on 45secs float

In the 15-minute rep maintain a good comfortable pace. Racing in this rep as this will negatively impact the second half of your session. The 30sec reps should be 5km pace with the ‘float’ recovery being Half Marathon style effort so you are not completely slowing down in the float and it feels more like a Fartlek Session.

2x10mins tempo (3mins jog rec) // 5mins tempo (2mins jog rec) // 2x30secs on 30secs off

Tempo effort should be around what you could sustain for 60mins race effort. Keep the recovery as a jog, this way you keep the heart rate elevated and replicate race conditions a little more. The strides at the end focus on running fast on tired legs.