Have you gotten out the door yet to join our running challenge? This April, we’re going to explore the different kinds of workouts runners do, to show you that it doesn’t have to be just one long painful slog. As we head into the second week, let’s explore my least favorite variation (I promise it gets better from here), the tempo run.
Here’s the thing about a lot of classic runners’ workouts: people have different ideas about exactly how to define them. Last week when I proposed strides, there was a discussion in the comments about exactly what a stride is, and whether we’re all talking about the same workout or a few subtly different ones. My advice: we’re doing this for fun, so don’t worry too much about the details. If you find yourself on a team where your coach has a very specific idea of what a stride is, or what a tempo run should be exactly...well, listen to your coach. Duh.
So anyway, what is a tempo run? The basic idea is that you run for a while (like 10 minutes, maybe even several miles) at a pace that’s fast but not killer. The first question you have to answer for yourself is: how fast is that? A few pointers:
If you’re a new-ish runner, it’s possible that you’ve been running all of your runs so far at a tempo pace without realizing it. If you can’t imagine going faster than your easy runs, then they’re not so easy, are they? For you, this week’s challenge is to do a run that feels like a tempo run on one day, and a run that feels easier than that on a different day.
Once you have an idea of what pace you’re going to run, how do you do the workout? This is where coaches and training plans differ. Two popular approaches are:
Pick whichever you like, or whichever you’re more familiar with. The point is to have a run that’s easy, then hard, then easy again. This type of run challenges your body and mind in a different way than a regular easy run (more info on that in our guide), and it’s great to include in your schedule, say once every week or every couple of weeks.