Tempo Runs Can Spice Up Your Running Routine

Tracks are a great surface for speed work

If your current training schedule includes too much of the same old thing--same course, same pace, same distance--it's time for a change.

Otherwise, your repetitive stride pattern will tighten the muscles and joints and make you more susceptible to injury, while your pokey gait simply trains you to run slowly. You risk fatigue, heavy legs and probably the onset of terminal boredom.

The tempo run is a wonderful change of pace for a number of reasons. Make one run per week a faster workout to elevate your fitness, add variety, develop your concentration and get you out of that go-slow rut.

  • Most experts advise that you run tempo workouts at a slightly slower speed than your current 10K race pace -- say, 10 to 20 seconds slower per mile. This shouldn't feel like an all-out effort, but you'll definitely be running harder than on your steady-run days.
  • If you use a heart-rate monitor, aim to hit 90 percent of your maximum heart rate. Begin and end the workout with 10 minutes of easy running. The middle 25 minutes is where you want to enter your tempo zone.
  • Tempo running requires greater focus than other runs, where you can let your mind wander and lose yourself in random thoughts. To sustain a fast-but-controlled pace for up to 25 minutes, you have to concentrate on running smoothly and crisply, maintaining good form, not letting your pace waver. In other words, you have to monitor your body, not let it revert to auto pilot.

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