What is a Tempo Run?

What exactly is a Tempo Run?  And why are Tempo Runs important?

A Tempo Run is a rate of performance at a steady pace.  In other words, you’re running almost as fast as you can for a defined amount of time.  Tempo runs help develop metabolic fitness; and as a result, your anaerobic (or lactic) threshold will improve – this is key for running faster. 

Tempo runs are typically run slightly slower than your 10k race pace – between 20-30 seconds depending on where you are at in your training and fitness level.  If you incorporate tempo runs into your weekly training schedule, your body will adapt to running that fast for that long.  Most important of all, tempo runs train your body (and mind) for race day pace.    

I prefer to run my tempo runs on a track – it’s a controlled environment and I’m able to see the benefits (and improvement) week over week.  If you don’t have access to a track – don’t worry!  Tempo runs can be done on any surface (e.g., road, trails, or treadmill).    Incorporate this tempo workout into your weekly schedule, and you’ll be running PR’s in no time:

Sample Workout
1-2 mile warm-up
Strength & Agility Drills, including butt kicks, high knees, windmill, and striders
3 miles at 10k pace + 20-30 seconds/mile (over the course of 4-5 weeks, work up to running 5 miles at tempo pace)
1-mile cool-down

Note: Similar to track workouts and hill repeats, tempo runs should only be incorporated once/week

Do you incorporate tempo runs into your weekly workouts?  What’s your favorite tempo workout?

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  1. I always neglect doing tempo runs- but they truly are so important! You have inspired me to do a tempo run for my workout this afternoon! Perfect preparation for a 5 mile race on Thursday! Thanks, Melody!

  2. I never really “got” what tempo runs really meant, even though I sort of knew. Do you know what I’m getting at? Either way, I’m glad you wrote this post – it definitely explained why it works, and how.

  3. I really like tempo runs – I prefer them to hard intervals!

  4. I really really really need to start doing tempo runs (shoot, and track workouts and hill repeats!). I want to be able to increase my speed a bit, but need to work on strength and core work first, I think.

  5. I like tempo runs a little too much sometimes. It’s the easy runs I need to work on! 🙂

  6. I believe in Tempo Runs! Just need to do them more. Believe it or not the one place I’ve never attempted one is on the track – I’ve done them on the WOD and on the treadmill. I think I am going to start doing them on the track this summer – you’ve inspired me! xxoo

  7. If you’ve never done a 10k, what’s a good way to estimate? The average pace of your recent training runs?

  8. sarah mc says

    I just joined our local running clinic and we ofcourse do tempo runs in our weekly schedule but I am really upset that they pick the hilliest course around for a tempo run. I know they make us stronger at the end but it would be nice if we could run on flat surfaces not on streets with street lights and we have to stop.

  9. When I’m training for a race I alternate my Wednesday runs between tempo runs and speed workouts. If I’m shooting for a pr, I do both in a week. Tempo runs are such a challenge for me but I LOVE the way I feel when it is over!!! They have pushed me and definitely made me faster!!

  10. I’m off to do a tempo run now as a matter of fact! I like using the treadmill for the same reasons. Controlled environment, and I can let the TM set my speed and tell me when I’ve hit the desired distance. Today’s tempo tuesday run is going to be 4 miles at an 8.5 speed (7:03 pace) plus warmup and cool down.

  11. Oooh! I like your sample, non-track tempo run workout…I think I might actually give it a try. I am (finally) ready to start incorporating these into my schedule again, but I HATE the track. I know…it’s a terrible thing to say, but it is true 🙂 Thank you for writing this post – Very excited to give this a try.

  12. I love tempo runs! I am sure to do one basically every week. I skipped last week because I was too exhausted and now I wish I hadn’t. I always do my tempos on the treadmill because there is no slacking and the TM forces you to stay on pace. When I run outside, I have a very difficult time running the correct pace.

    Cool picture by the way!

  13. Nathan Rout says

    I have only ever done tempo runs sporatically in the past. last year i was doing 50+km a week but most of it was long and slow (4.5min/km pace, im a 38min 10km runner) and found that my 10km times were slowing as a result, i was running as slow as 42-43min for a race. the last 3 months i have started doing more quality sessions, including tempo runs from 3x7min to 10km at close to 4min/km pace or under for the shorter tempos and found that my times are comming down again. after just 3-4weeks of this and i ran a 39.30 for 10km…….will be interesting to see my times after a full winter of this new training.

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