Tempo Time

Reverend Randy, my cousin Wayne used to run in high school and he says the only way I am going to ever get any faster at a 5K is to go out to the local track and run like a hundred wind sprints a couple times a week or something. Is he right? Is this what I need to do? I really want to get a little faster.  D.T.

Friend, you tell your cousin to come talk to the me the next time you see him, because Wayne’s preaching false prophecy. Forget windsprints, whatever they are. Tempo runs are gonna be the way to go for you. I like to schedule them on Tuesdays. To make for Tempo Tuesdays, you know? Wanna give it a try?

I pray thee, send me good speed this day. Genesis 24:12

Think about your running speedometer as having three zones: slow, medium, and hard. For now we’re going to not touch the hard stuff, whether it’s liquor or intervals at the track. Maybe down the road, we’ll get there. But for starters, if you tend to do every training run at the same old easy and relaxed pace, you will build a lot more strength to go faster by making a healthy habit of tempo runs. Tempos are simply a matter of pushing your pace once a week up for an extended visit in the medium zone. 

You don’t have time? Get out of here. Ten minutes easy warm-up. Then ramp up to a comfortably hard pace and do all you can to hold that for fifteen or twenty minutes. You can use this simple calculator to plug in a recent race time and it will spit out exactly the pace you should be holding. Ideally you want to do tempos in the park on a closed circuit where you don’t have to worry about cars or pedestrians and can keep your head completely in the game. Treadmills are great for tempo runs! (Except when a pack of fashion-industry idiots is staging a magazine shoot at your gym and there’s 10 go-fers sitting around near your treadmill hungover from last night trying to look both bored and needed even though the actual shoot is all the way on the other side of the gym with another pack of 15 circling a model who never otherwise sets foot in the gym…)

Feel the burn? Sucking air? You’re going too fast! Throttle back a notch or two. Focus on your form; keep it tight but relaxed. Make consistent, easy contact with each footfall. Just don’t let yourself hammer too hard. This is strength work, not speed work. The point is to ride a safe distance from the edge rather than push yourself over it.

Done? Okay. Cool down for ten minutes. When you finish you should be tired by not wiped out. And filled with the running spirit.

But howsoever, said he, let me run. 2 Samuel 18:23