Tempo or Threshold Run Training Techniques

The Running Bug explains tempo or threshold run training, what the benefits are and how to do it.

You should use tempo or threshold training as part of your Running Training Plan

Tip: Great for 5k events or 10k race training.

Tempo or Threshold Run TrainingWhat is it?
Tempo or threshold runs are fast, continuous runs done in the middle of a regular mid/long distance run, lasting between 20 to 40 minutes.

The Benefits
Threshold or tempo running will help prepare your body for running at a faster pace for longer, as well as boosting what's known as your lactate threshold. This is the top end of your aerobic zone, the point before you go into anaerobic exercise (without oxygen). When you run anaerobically your legs can turn to jelly as lactic acid kicks into your system, and it's hard to keep going.

Training at threshold will increase your lactate tolerance, your capacity to exercise with high levels of lactate in the blood. Running at this pace will trigger adaptations in the blood, increase metabolic enzyme activity and improve muscle fibre recruitment. It uses carbohydrate for energy, and burns more calories than steady running.

Learn how to monitor your calorie intake in Calculate Your Calorie Needs.

How to do it
A typical tempo run includes a warm up of 10 minutes, 15 to 20 minutes at tempo pace, and 10 minutes cool down. The pace is between 10k and half marathon pace, at around 85 percent of maximum heart rate, or seven to eight out of 10 on a perceived rate of exertion - or more simply at 'comfortably hard' pace - you can talk, but only a few words.

Tempo runs are quality runs and ideal to fit into a busy working day at lunchtime. Try these tempo workouts:

  • Warm up for 15 minutes, then do 10 minutes at half marathon pace, five minutes jog, and 10 minutes at 10k pace. Or do three reps of 10 minutes at 10k pace with five minutes jogging between the reps.
  • A longer interval session such as continuous 800s will also improve lactate tolerance. Run 800m in the same minutes/seconds as your hours/minutes goal time for a marathon, so, if you're looking to run a 3:30 marathon, run your 800s in three minutes and 30 seconds. Start with six and aim to build up to 10. Make the recovery time the same as the time run at speed, ie for our example, 3:30.


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