When it comes to getting stronger, it’s hard to argue with the powers of HIIT. Because it’s a combination of strength, endurance, and heart-pumping cardio exercises, you’d be hard-pressed to find another form of exercise that gives you a full-body workout in such a short period of time.
Now that we’re in the thick of marathon season, there’s one particular workout utilized in most HIIT routines that’s catching our attention: the tempo run. We hear the term all the time, but what does it actually mean, and how does it help you become a stronger, faster runner?
How the tempo run works—and why it’s so effective.
Mid-run, have you ever thought to yourself, I’m going to run as fast as I can to that streetlamp, then I’ll let myself slow down? If so, you were practicing a tempo run without even knowing it. The point of these runs, according to HIIT expert and 12-Minute Athlete founder Krista Stryker, is to build up your endurance. “Running at a sustained pace for a short period of time gives you the ability to hold a challenging pace for a longer period of time,” she explains. “During a tempo run, you alternate between easier, slower jogging and a pace that’s comfortably hard—or about 80 percent of your maximum effort.”
OrangeTheory’s Brent Frayser recommends practicing tempo runs one to two times per week. “Biologically, this type of exercise taps into your lactate threshold, which is the point when your body begins to fatigue,” he explains, while Krista adds, “In simplified terms, you’ll be able to run faster for longer periods of time.”
In other words, tempo runs are a great way to increase your speed without it being too painful. It’s a lot easier to sprint for two minutes than 30.
How to recover from tempo runs.
Like all workouts, tempo runs definitely require adequate recovery—especially because running isn’t always easy on the joints or muscles. “Definitely make sure to take at least one or two days off a week to let your body recover,” suggests Krista. “Also, moderately paced exercise like walking, hiking, etc., as well as yoga and foam rolling can help with recovery.”
Brent’s suggestion is a little different: He thinks the “easy” run is key. “I’d say the best recovery tactic post-tempo run is a recovery or ‘easy’ run within 24 hours of the workout,” he says. “Despite the slow pace, you’ll be starting out these runs in a fatigued state, which will enhance your key workout (the tempo run) without warranting further recovery.”
So whether on the treadmill at your gym our out in the crisp, fresh air this fall, make sure to give tempo runs a try.
Want to learn more about HIIT? Read up on the game-changing 20-minute workout you need to know about, and as the weather cools down, here’s a HIIT workout you can do without leaving your apartment.