Does Tempo Runs Make You Faster?

Does Tempo Runs Make You Faster?

If you’re into running, you know speed is everything, whether chasing personal records or enjoying a leisurely jog. I’ve tried many training techniques to boost my pace, and tempo runs are one of my go-to. But do they really work? Let’s break it down and see if there’s real science behind the hype.

What is a Tempo Run?

You’ve heard of tempo runs. A tempo run is a type of interval training where you run at a moderate to fast pace for a sustained period, typically between 20-40 minutes. The goal is to maintain a consistent pace throughout the run, pushing yourself to the point where you’re working hard but still able to hold a conversation (albeit a breathless one), also known as threshold runs, if you take your running seriously. They’re a must in any runner’s playbook. Basically, you’re hitting a consistent pace, usually just under that point where your body starts screaming for oxygen. The idea is to boost your stamina and train your body to handle faster speeds for longer distances.

Physiology Behind Tempo Runs

To understand how tempo runs impact your speed, it’s essential to grasp their physiology. During these workouts, you train your body to operate more efficiently at higher intensities. By running at a pace just below your anaerobic threshold, you’re effectively challenging your cardiovascular system to adapt and become more efficient at utilizing oxygen.

Science Behind Tempo Runs

Tempo runs work by targeting the lactate threshold (LT), the point at which your body starts to accumulate lactic acid and fatigue sets in. Regularly pushing your LT can increase your anaerobic capacity, allowing you to run faster and longer before fatigue sets in. Additionally, tempo runs improve cardiovascular fitness, increase mitochondrial density, and enhance neuromuscular coordination.

How Tempo Runs Improve Speed

Tempo runs contribute to speed improvement in several ways. Firstly, they help build stamina by strengthening the cardiovascular system and improving oxygen delivery to working muscles. Additionally, tempo runs enhance your lactate threshold, the point at which your muscles start to fatigue due to lactate accumulation. You can sustain faster speeds for longer durations by pushing this threshold higher.

Incorporating Tempo Runs into Training

To reap the benefits of tempo runs, it’s crucial to incorporate them strategically into your training regimen. Aim to include one or two tempo sessions per week, spacing them out to allow for adequate recovery. Your tempo run should range from 20 to 60 minutes, depending on your fitness level and race goals.

Tips for Effective Tempo Running

Pay attention to proper warm-up and cool-down routines to maximize the effectiveness of your tempo runs. Begin with a dynamic warm-up to prepare your muscles for the intensity ahead, and conclude with a gentle cool-down to aid in recovery and reduce muscle soreness. When pacing your tempo runs, aim for a pace that feels comfortably hard—sustainable for the duration of the workout but challenging enough to elevate your heart rate.

Common Mistakes to Avoid

While tempo runs can be highly beneficial, they have pitfalls. One common mistake is running too fast during tempo sessions, leading to premature fatigue and hindering progress. It’s essential to find the right balance between intensity and sustainability. Additionally, neglecting adequate recovery between tempo sessions can increase the risk of overtraining and injury.

Tracking Progress and Adjustments

Monitoring your progress is key to optimizing your training efforts. Pay attention to metrics such as heart rate, pace, and perceived exertion to gauge improvements over time. Listen to your body and be willing to adjust your training plan as needed. If you find yourself struggling to maintain a tempo pace or experiencing excessive fatigue, consider dialing back the intensity or incorporating more recovery days into your schedule.

Alternatives to Tempo Runs

While tempo runs are an effective training tool, they’re not the only option for improving speed. Interval training, which involves alternating between periods of high-intensity effort and recovery, can also boost your pace and endurance. Similarly, fartlek runs, which incorporate bursts of speed at varying intensities, offer a dynamic approach to speed development.


To improve your running abilities, tempo runs are your secret weapon. Seriously, they’re like gold for boosting your speed and stamina. By pushing your aerobic limits and training your body to handle more lactate, you’re setting yourself up for some serious gains. Just make sure you’re smart about it—pace yourself, give yourself time to recover, and monitor your progress. Tempo runs might be the ticket to reaching those speed goals you’ve been chasing.


How often should I do tempo runs?

Aim to include one or two tempo sessions per week, spaced out to allow for adequate recovery.

Can beginners benefit from tempo runs?

Yes, beginners can benefit from incorporating tempo runs into their training, but it’s essential to start gradually and build up intensity over time.

What pace should I aim for during tempo runs?

Tempo pace should feel comfortably hard—challenging enough to elevate your heart rate but sustainable for the duration of the workout.

Are there any risks associated with tempo running?

Like any form of intense exercise, there is a risk of overtraining and injury if tempo runs are not incorporated thoughtfully into your training plan.

Can tempo runs help with weight loss?

While tempo runs can contribute to calorie expenditure and improve overall fitness, weight loss is best achieved through a combination of regular exercise and a balanced diet.

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