When I had my once-ago blip of being a run instructor, back up until as late as last spring, we followed a pretty standard training program. Long slow runs. Speed work. Hills. And, of course, tempo training.
While my BIG race goal is still, now, 8 months away, there are a group of folks who currently are on the mad dash towards first-marathon-dom for early June, which means they are generally doing the type of training I feel like I should be doing, but for which I don’t push myself too hard with… because… well… 8 months away, y’know?
Last night they were doing quote… tempos…. unquote.
Now, tempo training –better known perhaps as threshold training — as I’ve understood it is meant to be a run that is comfortable but tough. You push yourself to go into a running zone that forces your body to adjust to better using the chemical by-products of metabolism. As you exercise, lactic acid builds up in your muscles. Our bodies work just hard enough to clean this out of our muscles, but our bodies are not wasteful. They work JUST hard enough. Just. So, with a tempo run, the idea is to push that boundary, forcing that just-hard-enough-bar a little higher, so that muscle fatigue happens at a higher boundary. You push the threshold. You’re not training your lungs or anything more broadly fitness-related so much as you’re confusing your body with regards to how it handles the waste products of your exercise.
Better waste handling = less tired muscles.
Less tired muscles = longer, faster runs.
We did a fast…ish run last night. We called it a tempo run, but I think we were confusing fast with tempo… or at least it felt that way. So… yeah. Tempos are great, but they gotta be right or they’re not tempos.
It wasn’t a bad run. It was a pleasant, fast-ish run in some awesome weather. But it was more like quasi-not-quite-tempo. Just saying.