Monday, February 23, 2015

Tempo Tuesday: Making improvements and breakthroughs in all tempo training

  Generally I talk about specific workouts in this space but today I'll talk about some more general tactics that you can use across all your tempo runs to make improvements in those workouts and by extension your general fitness and racing.  For me I put all steady running faster than regular training and longer than a  mile or two into the category of tempo training.  This could be something as short and fast as 2 miles at 5k pace or as long and slow as 27 miles at 80% of your goal marathon pace.  All are designed to improve your aerobic fitness, though in many different ways, and all can be improved using some of the same tactics.

  To me the most important thing about a tempo run in training, really any workout in training, is not how you run it the first time but how you run it better each successive time.  Good running is after all in its simplest state all about getting better.

  I have done a ton of work over the years and one thing I have seen in my running and others again and again is if you take your tempo run and just try and run it faster each time out at first you are able to do so but in general you are not running it better you are just running it harder and soon enough you are running as hard as you can and your not going much faster.  In short you stagnate.

  The key is to instead increase distance at the SAME PACE.  So you go out and do a 3 mile tempo run at 5:30 per mile.  The next time out you should aim for 4 miles on the same course at the same pace.  You will find that you are able to fairly quickly find yourself running twice the distance at the same pace and your effort when going by the original distance is much lower than when you started.

  After you have increased the distance a good bit say 50% to 100% longer than the original distance than you go back to the original distance and run it faster.  You will find the effort is not increased.  In fact often it is less.  Through cycles like this you can make very big gains and make them very consistently.

  However sometimes you will still stagnate.  In these cases there is one more trick to try.  In this case you run a fast finish.  So at one point I was trying to build up to an 8k to 10k tempo run on the track at 3:00 per K.  Thing was I was stuck at 5k to 6k.  I built up to that well. I was doing some other work but I was stuck.  So what to do?  I ran an 8k tempo run where I ran slower than I had been for the first 5k, in my case 16:00 so 3:12 per k. That is about 5 to 10% slower than goal pace and then I finished at or faster than my goal tempo pace, in this case I ran the last 3k in around 8:50.  So 2% or 3% faster than pace.  Even if it is dead on pace that is ok.

  The results?  Next time out I ran 8k in 23:56.  It isn't a sure fire thing but sometimes the reason you are stuck is you really lack the endurance to run the later part of the run at that past and this can specifically target that weakness.

  Finally sometimes the answer lies outside the specific workout.  If these two tricks don't work and you are still stuck it is time to work on other types of workouts to build up your abilities around your tempo run.  Most often either intervals at your tempo pace or 5% faster for the volume you wish to run for your tempo or as much as 50% more volume this can improve the muscular endurance and efficiency.  Second is to run a longer tempo at a slower pace to build the aerobic endurance and efficiency.

  Hopefully you can use this to get the most out of your tempo runs and reap the improvements you deserve for your hard work!


Dave said...

Only kind of related to tempos, but where are you at with trusting gps watches for reliability now? I think a few year ago you weren't too confident in the frequency with which they plot or their ability to hold a signal through foliage? The details are foggy but interested in your opinion before I fork over a wad of cash.

Nate Jenkins said...

Dave- I have a garmin, it is ok. My understanding is that if you add calibrated foot pod they are super accurate but with 100 inches of snow since I got mine I have not calibrated it on the track yet. I use it. I like it. I measure my tempo loops separately as well with either the computer, gmap pedometer, or my wheel, generally both. Along the way I got promotional versions of a few other gps watches that were really bad so I think at least in my experience brand matters.

Anonymous said...

Hi Nate

I just returned my GPS to REI last month after owning 3 different models of Garmins. The straw that broke the camel's back happened last August. I ran a race in 18:38 in a local 5k (I'm 51 years old and coming back from injuries).

My first split was 6:00. We then hit the woods and that split on my Garmin was 6:25 and then my third mile was at 5:58, not in the woods. The course was both accurate and flat (I helped to wheel it...3 times:):):)

I knew that my training was faster than the GPS had been indicating. On a track they are very accurate as my 2 mile repeats were measuring 2.01 miles. But in the woods, where I train a lot,...not very accurate as you have to add 20 to 25 seconds per mile. I've never tried the foot pod but may do that one day if I continue to hear good things.

Good luck in Boston!!!



tpd said...

Nate!, Big fan! I've been following your training blog for a years!...I remembered that you stop posting, and were getting a career have given me great advice, in the past....helped me get to 2:59.09...
Seeking an opinion: racing PGH on 5/3, so I am just about to go into the specific phase. I have been building volume over the last three months, Max 76, but average about 72, with two WO's a week. Tempo type intervals on Wed, and another session on Sun with a long run in there between 17-20. Target is 6:40 pace (or 2:55).
I have a 20 mile race this Saturday (Choice of 10, 15 and 20, actually), and my question should I work it? Course is 5 mile loops around a lake. It is a balance of some rolling hills. Should run the 15 at MP? Not sure that I am ready for that, plus that would wreak the training schedule....maybe the first loop at current PR pace (6:50), second at planning MP (6:40)....

I have no idea what would be best. 47, so I do need longer recovery between WO's and races...I still have 10weeks until my target race. Any insight, would be great. Good luck at Boston!!! WOW! Pumped that you are back!!!

Anonymous said...

Nate, i've read lots of different things online. What is tempo pace to you??? I've read some tempo paces that are really slow and seeing you running a 8k tempo in 2356 defintely isn't slow. Ive always used tempo pace as 20-25 secs slower than 5k pace. Thoughs?

Nate Jenkins said...

David- thanks for adding to the conversation!

TPD- I'm not a fan of using races as a workout. So my advice based on that would be to just race. That said if you are dead set on using it as a workout you should be able to get a better effort out of yourself than you would in a standard workout but it is also very early in the training phase so I would suggest running the 20 miles starting at marathon pb pace and trying to work down to marathon goal pace in the second half. GOOD LUCK! Make sure to recover after!!!!!!!

Anon- I lump all steady aerobic training that is faster than regular training pace under the umbrella of tempo running. For most people they say it has to be specific type of tempo to be a tempo run but from my point of view that is like saying that for you to be doing intervals it has to be 12x400m with 1min standing rests.
As to the specific workout you referenced that was a latic threshold tempo- roughly half marathon pace at the time. What is that 4:48? or so per mile, sorry generally work with K's, so if you take 20 seconds off that per mile and that is about 4:28 which would have been a bit faster than my date pace for 5k but right on my goal pace. Speed is all relative. An 8k in 23:56 is just about the fastest tempo of my life but to a guy like Bernard Lagat that would be a shitty slow one at altitude!

Anonymous said...

I like the Hansons Marathon Method for this reason. The Tempos progress from 6 to 10 miles.