Tempo Running Vs. Steady-State Running

Tempo running and steady-state running improve endurance.
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Whether you run for competition or just for fun, endurance, effort and speed are the most important components of your run. When you're running a long or unknown distance, use the tempo running technique. It allows you to maintain a relatively stable pace throughout your run, regardless of the distance. Shorter distance runs -- like a 5k or 10k -- benefit more from steady-state running -- although this slow-and-steady pace can really work for any type of distance.

Tempo Running

According to "Running Times," the original definition of a tempo run originated from Jack Daniels’ Running Formula. According to the formula, tempo running is “20 minutes of steady running at threshold pace.” Threshold pace should be comfortably hard -- a pace you could maintain for up to an hour. During a run, the body breaks down carbohydrates for energy. As these carbohydrates are metabolized, lactate is produced as a byproduct. Up to a certain point, the body can clear lactate as quickly as it’s produced. Tempo running involves running at an effort level just below the point where the body can no longer keep up with the lactate production. At this effort level, lactate does not accumulate -- and the body can withstand a longer workout.

Tempo Running Pace

Each runner’s tempo running pace varies according to his fitness level. As a general rule, the proper tempo running pace is roughly 25 to 30 seconds per mile slower than your current 5k race pace. For more advanced runners, the tempo running pace would be somewhere between the current 15k and half-marathon pace. If you’re using a heart rate monitor, tempo running should keep your heart rate relatively consistent at 90 percent of your maximum heart rate.

Steady-State Running

Similar to tempo running, steady-state running also takes the lactate threshold into consideration. But with the steady-state run, your effort level should be significantly lower than the point where the body can no longer keep up with lactate production. While steady-state running, your fatigue should occur from the duration of the run -- not from your speed.

Steady-State Pace

The McMillan Running website suggests that a steady-state run pace is somewhere between your current 30k and half-marathon pace. You should be able to run at this pace for 25 to 75 minutes. If you’re using your heart rate to monitor your pace, a steady-state run should maintain a relatively consistent heart rate between 83 and 87 percent of your maximum heart rate.

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