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TEMPO WORKOUTS: Tempo is a rather vague term that covers a wide range of training run effort levels. Essentially, a tempo workout is faster than comfortable training pace, but not quite a race level effort. In terms of heart rate that would be between 75 and 85% of maximum; a quick pace, but not all-out. Keep in mind though that appropriate pacing is relative to distance, so a tempo run at 85% of max for 10k may in fact be at your PR marathon pace.

At the upper end of the tempo run range you'll be close to, or running at, your lactate threshold [LT]/ anaerobic threshold [AT]. This is the effort level where you begin to feel the 'burn.' As fitness improves and your running becomes more efficient, your LT/AT should rise. In other words the effort level you can sustain for a certain amount of time should keep coming closer to your maximum. As you get into the race season, eventually your LT/AT level will plateau.

A tempo run should be at a steady pace, not stop-and-start like a track workout or interval training on trail or road. It's a pace that takes some concentration to hold the desired tempo. The value of a tempo run is to stress your physiology beyond a casual run without the physical and mental stress of a race day.

I find many new runners do most of their training runs at this pace, and that's not good as it puts too much stress on the body over the long-term. A bulk of run training at a moderate pace (~95%), combined with small doses of intensity at race pace or faster (~5%) works best to develop your speed potential.

I like tempo runs as part of a pre-season buildup to put some bounce back in your stride after a casual off-season, toughening up your physiology and psychology for race days to come. They also work well for ride-run brick workouts to simulate the stress of running hard after the ride on race days.

If you're a triathlete you know running is by far the toughest of the three discipline when it comes to stress on your body. Therefore runs require the most careful planning within the overall training and racing schedule. Too much run stress over a certain period of time and something may break. Run injuries don't always happen at the moment of greatest stress; they may manifest days or even weeks later when the body suddenly decides: no more!

Be conservative with difficult runs that include distance, speedwork, or tempo. Space easy run days between. If something hurts on a day when a difficult run workout is planned, take an easy or off run day instead. Running requires the most patience of the three disciplines. It's not that it takes a long time to get in run shape; it's that our bodies can only cope with so much run stress over a certain period of time before they break down. The adaptation process cannot be rushed.

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