Cardio – especially running – can get real boring real fast. When you break it down, you’re literally just moving your legs in the exact same motion for 20, 30, or 60 minutes at a time.
Some people love doing this day in and day out, but there are plenty of other cardio options out there. Tempo training is like running, but more focused and with specific goals in mind.
It sounds cool – what is it?
Tempo training is cardio with varying levels of speed and intensity.
The most common form of tempo training is fast, slow, fast, slow, etc. This means that you start your run at a fast page – a little bit higher than your usual “jogging” pace – for about 45 seconds.
After 45 seconds, you slow down to a little bit lower than your usual jogging pace for 45 seconds. This allows you to catch your breath and recover from the fast segment. After those 45 seconds are up, you switch back to fast, and you repeat this process until you’re done with your run.
Why it rocks mentally
Normal running is a constant battle. Even if you’re tired, you have to keep going. This is why marathoners are so impressive – almost anyone who’s relatively in shape can run a few miles, but 26.2? Most could never even dream of it.
Tempo training allows you to run, but it takes a different kind of willpower. Instead of the constant battle to maintain one pace, you can switch back and forth between fast and slow. Sure, you’ll have to push yourself harder on the fast parts, but, at the same time, you’ll have the slow parts to look forward to as well.
Benefits of Tempo Training
Aside from the mental differentiation, there are a three main ways that doing tempo training will help you get more fit.
Ever bike up a steep, long hill only to find that your legs are burning at the end of it?
You can blame lactic acid for that. When muscles are exerted, they release lactic acid, which gives you the burning sensation. It can feel good after a workout – it’s basically a reminder of how hard you just pushed yourself – but during your workout it can be a serious hindrance.
Tempo training releases lactic acid on every “fast” section that you do. A normal sprinter would just stop after a sprint, but since you keep running, your muscles are forced to get rid of lactic acid on the fly.
Doing this over and over again will train your muscles to do it more effectively. Eventually, you’ll get to the point where you can do a fast section and not feel any burning from it. (At that point, you need to push yourself even harder!)
Anaerobic exercise / Vo2 max
Your vo2 max is the maximum amount of oxygen that your body can utilize at any one time. The higher your vo2 max, the harder you can push yourself.
Anaerobic exercise builds up your vo2 max. While you won’t be doing hard sprints during your tempo runs, you will be incorporating both anaerobic (during your fast portions) and aerobic (during your slow portion) exercise to work on this aspect of your fitness level.
You get faster
Running 10 minute miles over and over won’t make you a faster sprinter.
Doing intense tempo runs will.
How to get started & warnings
The next time you go for a run, instead of going at a steady pace, try to alternate going a little bit faster for 45 – 60 seconds, then a little bit slower for 45 – 60 seconds, repeated over and over until you can’t go any further.
There are no scary warnings about tempo training – it’s similar to regular running – just don’t overdo it. Chances are, if you’ve been jogging exclusively without any sprinting, your body won’t be used to the increased exertion. You might get tired sooner in your run.
Don’t give up, though. Tempo training is a free, easy way to work on multiple aspects of your fitness and willpower all in one go.