Triathlon Magazine Canada - - GEAR - BY LUCY SMITH

TEMPO RUN­NING IS a cor­ner­stone of train­ing for run­ners and triath­letes: it teaches con­trol, pac­ing, pa­tience and how to em­brace the dis­com­fort of rac­ing, all the while boosting fit­ness. Prob­a­bly more than any other work­out, the tempo run can be used to prac­tice pos­i­tive race day psy­chol­ogy and op­ti­mal prepa­ra­tion. It’s also a valu­able tool which pre­pares you how to pace off the bike, which is why nail­ing tempo runs is im­por­tant for ev­ery triath­lete.

The tempo run must be done just be­low lac­tate thresh­old. You should not start at a faster pace than you fin­ish (you know, where you start en­thu­si­as­ti­cally too fast for your fit­ness only to blow up later). You need to plan your pac­ing and ex­e­cute that plan.

Tempo runs are of­ten also called “anaer­o­bic thresh­old (AT)” or “lac­tate-thresh­old” runs. The term was first made pop­u­lar by Jack Daniels, PHD., in his book Daniels’ Run­ning For­mula (Hu­man Ki­net­ics): “A tempo run is noth­ing more than 20 min­utes of steady run­ning at thresh­old pace.” Thresh­old pace is the ef­fort level just be­low which the body’s abil­ity to clear lac­tate, a by-prod­uct of car­bo­hy­drate me­tab­o­lism, can no longer keep up with lac­tate pro­duc­tion. There­fore, once you feel the “burn” as the lac­tic acid builds in your mus­cles, you aren’t at tempo. If you start at 5-km pace and slow after 10 min­utes, you aren’t run­ning steady or at tempo. The pace of the tempo run will vary with the dis­tance you are train­ing for and the time out there. For most peo­ple this is about 25 to 30 sec­onds per mile slower than their cur­rent 5-km race pace.

An­other gauge of tempo (an im­por­tant one for ath­letes try­ing to tune into per­ceived ef­fort) is to look at ef­fort. If an easy run is 50 to 60 per cent of your max ef­fort, then a tempo run is 80 to 90 per cent. Tempo runs should be a con­scious, steady ef­fort, with the em­pha­sis on con­scious – staying re­laxed while work­ing hard, keep­ing form and breath­ing well. You should fin­ish a tempo run feel­ing there is some re­serve. If you are com­pletely spent and gasp­ing for oxy­gen, like after a race, then you haven’t done it prop­erly (most likely you went out too hard) and you will have mist­imed not only the work­out, but your week, as you will not re­cover in time be­fore the next key ses­sions.

If you are in triathlon train­ing, you will not be ta­pered for these ses­sions. While train­ing fa­tigue will be a fac­tor, the ben­e­fits of tempo runs are huge: in a race you never get off the bike feel­ing fresh-legged, even if you are well pre­pared. The tempo, ba­si­cally, gives triath­letes a huge fit­ness and men­tal boost be­cause it gets you used to per­form­ing near aer­o­bic thresh­old, and in­creases glyco­gen stor­age ca­pac­ity and al­lows you to men­tally adapt to the dis­com­fort of rac­ing.

Re­mem­ber, the one real re­quire­ment of tempo run­ning is that you stick to a steady, spe­cific, planned pace. Tempo run­ning can be used to boost gen­eral fit­ness in the early sea­son, and to pre­pare for spe­cific paces dur­ing race sea­son with less cost to the body than run­ning in­ter­vals.

Whether you fo­cus on tempo run­ning as a stand-alone work­out or to learn to run goal pace off the bike, keep the in­ten­tion of the work­out clearly in your mind: the fo­cus is on pre­par­ing the body for the feel and phys­i­cal stress of faster run­ning on top of the spe­cific fo­cus on build­ing fit­ness.

Here are a few coach­ing tips to help ex­e­cute great tempo runs on their own or off the bike in a tran­si­tion work­out: • Tempo runs shouldn’t kill you, they are not a race or a time-trial, the pace and breath­ing is sim­i­lar to a race pace, but when you fin­ish you should feel that you could go a lit­tle longer if you had to. A tempo pace is dis­tinctly dif­fer­ent from warm-up pace or long-run pace, in that you have to con­cen­trate more on what makes you run fast. The trick is to feel fast and quick, but very in con­trol. • As you go through your train­ing ses­sions, al­low your­self to think ahead to race day. Prac­tice the way you want to feel dur­ing the run. Hav­ing in­ter­nal­ized good run habits, a pos­i­tive emo­tional mind-set will have great ben­e­fit dur­ing the last leg of the race. Be ready for the ef­fort of run­ning off the bike. In the last 10 min­utes of your bike be­fore a brick run, start think­ing about run­ning well and get­ting men­tally pre­pared. • For tran­si­tion run­ning: as soon as pos­si­ble off the bike try and hit your nat­u­ral run ca­dence and pace. Re­lax and try to run nat­u­rally, check­ing that you are not tense or tight any­where. Keep your leg speed up as you tire and stay tall. Check your run ca­dence and shoot for 90 to 95 steps per minute. Tempo runs are great times to run fast and think like a run­ner. Be ef­fi­cient and keep your body mov­ing for­ward flu­idly with min­i­mal side-to-side move­ment, bound­ing or shoul­der rolling. “En­ergy flows where at­ten­tion goes.” Pay­ing at­ten­tion to what you are do­ing and do it well. A strong heel lift? Visu­al­ize your heels lift­ing. See your­self mov­ing well across the ground. Tempo run­ning is an ex­cel­lent op­por­tu­nity to be­come a bet­ter racer while in­creas­ing your abil­ity to run at a faster pace. A harder sus­tained ef­fort in train­ing al­lows you to work through dis­com­fort while re­main­ing pos­i­tive.

Lucy Smith is a many-time na­tional run­ning and triathlon cham­pion and a coach with Life­s­port.

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