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Tempo Runs

Tempo Runs

Ok so if I can run faster how do I train to be able to maintain this pace for longer?

Have you ever passed the 4km mile marker in your 5K race. Your legs are feeling heavy and non responsive. You’ve lost most of the power in your stride. It’s getting difficult to maintain your race rhythm and stride rate. You’re beginning to lose your mental focus?

We've all been there - if not in a 5k race then certainly in a 10k Olympic run. If you are an experienced Sprin or Olympic distance racer you have certainly felt those unpleasant sensations during the final miles of your races.

Why? – Because you’ve crossed that vague and imprecise barrier that is known as lactate turn point, lactate threshold or anaerobic threshold.

During running, or any other physical activity, one of the ways your body produces energy is through a process called glycolysis.

During this process a substance called lactic acid is produced. At low running speeds your body will process and use that lactic acid to produce even more energy.

When you increase your running intensity, more and more lactic acid is produced. Eventually, lactic acid is produced so fast that your body can no longer keep up. The lactic acid begins to build up. This point is your lactate turn point or lactate threshold.

Actually this is a bit of a generalization and needs more explanation later – but the concept is sufficient for now to explain the ideas behind tempo/threshold training.

Lactate turn point will vary from runner to runner. A fitter, more efficient runner will have a higher lactate threshold, as a percentage of their VO2 max, than a less fit runner. Improving LT will improve race performance.

So, what is the best way to improve LT?

In order to improve your LT, you must train your body to deal with and clear the accumulation of lactate acid or deal with the indirect influences of running at that pace. There are a number of systems that must be improved in order to improve LT. It is used by muscle cells to produce lots of energy. In order for this to work, your muscles cells must have access to a sufficient supply of oxygen and be able to use that oxygen.

What about tlim@vVO2 max you mentioned in the earlier parts?

How can you improve that ? Your lactate turn point (LT) is a large part of your tlim@vVO2 max. Improving your LT through lactate turn point or lactate threshold training will help improve your tlim@vVO2 max.

Is there one type of workout that’s best for improving your stamina?

Yep, there is! It’s tempo training or threshold runs. Tempo training has been around a long time. There really isn’t any one pace or distance that’s association with tempo training.

Tempo Training or Lactate Threshold Training - is there a difference?

Tempo running at the bottom of the lactate threshold spectrum and threshold training at the upper end. The more moderate pace of tempo running will allow you to complete longer training runs at a pace that still gets your glycolytic system operating at a high level. So you need both tempo training and lactate threshold training to reach your peak as a distance runner. Tempo training will improve your stamina and your ability to hold a quality pace for long distances while lactate threshold training will maximize lactate turn point improvement.

So what the pace then….?

Generally speaking, you will hit your lactate turn point at a running pace that is just slightly slower than your 10K pace. For most runners their 10K pace is about 2.5 percent faster than their lactate threshold and their 5K pace is about 5 percent faster.

Generally this is done at a pace that's at around 87%-92% of your Max Heart Rate or a pace that feels comfortably hard.

'Comfortably Hard' is a bit vague - which is why its useful to take your max heart rate HRmax and use it as a guide.

So whats the training ?

Thursday sessions are a mix of –

Continuous Tempo Runs - duration 20mins plus increasing over the winter near the lower end of the HR range to build stamina


Threshold Runs – longer repeats at threshold pace , gradually building the repeat distance to push up the LT (lactic threshold).