Tempo Training For Sprinters Assignment

This is a 3 part series guest blogged by Jim Hiserman.

Read What is Extensive Tempo Training Part 1 and Part 2 as a primer before reading this article.

Jim Hiserman is the author of 3 books:

For many Sprint/ Hurdle coaches the Late Fall / Early Winter period marks the transition from Extensive Tempo to Intensive Tempo training on Metabolic Training Days. Basic Preparation Periods aim to lay the foundations for both the Speed and Special Endurance Bio-Motor Abilities. Where Speed is the base for Speed (and Speed Endurance), Extensive and Intensive Tempo build the platform for the Special Endurance I, II and Specific Endurance work to be performed in the Competitive Season.

It must be noted that the sprint mechanics used during Extensive and Intensive Tempo training are different to those used at Race Velocity.

Therefore, both of these methods should be used in conjunction with SPEED training methodswhere race-speed mechanics are developed. (Alternating Neural Training Days of Speed/Strength/Power training with Metabolic Training Days aimed at Energy System / Endurance Training).

After answering questions regarding Extensive Tempo training methods in my last post I was contacted by coaches asking the following questions:

Q1) What is the main role of Intensive Tempo training in the late Preparation Training Period of Sprinters/ Hurdlers?

Intensive Tempo is the next step up on the Intensity Ladder from Extensive Tempo (behind Speed, Speed Endurance, Special Endurance I,II and Specific Endurance). Thus, Intensive Tempo training serves to bridge the gap between Extensive Tempo and Special Endurance I,II training.

Extensive Tempo is employed in the first half, or more, of the Preparation Period to produce high levels of Aerobic Capacity and Aerobic Power at Intensities of 65-75-79%. Development of high levels of both Aerobic Capacity and Aerobic Power best prepare athletes to handle the higher intensity Intensive Tempo work that is aimed at development of Anaerobic Capacity or Lactic Acid Capacity.

Intensive Tempo training methods involve use of runs that last 15 seconds up to 90 seconds at intensities between 80-89% OR 75-94% depending on whether you adhere to either the Winckler Energy System Training Chart or the British Sprint Training Methods Classification by Khmel and Lester (Click here for the PDF). Regardless, percentages are best calculated by using each athlete’s 300-325 or 350m Time Trial effort as the 100% value. Calculations using the most recent time trial over a distance taking at least 40 seconds to run at full effort provides coaches with a 100% value from which to calculate each athlete’s 80-89% goal times. These goal times, based on current fitness level/ ability are termed Relative Intensity as the times are relative to each individual’s fitness / ability level.

Photo credits: Simone Proietti

Q2) How do you decide the starting volumes for Intensive Tempo sessions when making the transition from Extensive to Intensive Tempo?

Whereas total volumes of Extensive Tempo training start around 1,000-1200m and can reach 3,000 – 4,000m over 6-8 weeks of Preparation Period Training, Intensive Tempo should start with total volumes per session of 800-1000m and can reach 1800 to 2800m prior to transitioning to Special Endurance I, II training methods in the Pre-Comp/ Competition Period. True 100-200/ 110HH, 100H type sprinters should aim for volumes starting around 800m and progress no further than 1800-2000m. 400 and 400 Hurdle types should aim for volumes starting around 1,000m and progress no further than 2800m.

Q3) What are good examples of Intensive Tempo Workouts for 100/200 sprint types? For 400 and 400 Hurdle types?

An example of a starting workout for 100/200 sprint types at the beginning of Intensive Tempo training work could involve 4-5 x 200m w/3’ at 85-89% whereas 400m and 400 hurdlers might begin with a session of 5-6 x 300m w/5’ at 80%-89%.

Another way of utilizing Intensive Tempo could involve the use of the Clyde Hart Speedmaker Workout where athletes would run 2-3 sets of 4 Speedmakers where athletes accelerate hard over 60m and then relax the next 40m before jogging 50m before the next Speedmaker. These are usually run in sets of 4.

Intensive Tempo Training’s primary aim is the development of high levels of Anaerobic Capacity that will enable athletes to progress to both Special Endurance I work, that develops Anerobic Power, and Special Endurance II work that develops Lactic Acid Tolerance. These training methods, sitting highest on the Long Speed Endurance Intensity Ladder, are best prepared for through 4-6 weeks of Intensive Tempo that followed 4-6 weeks of Extensive Tempo. Use of this progression will give athletes the best chance for successful development of high level Lactic Acid Tolerance adaptations.

About the Author

Jim Hiserman is the author of 3 books:

His other published articles on this site include:

  1. A Total Sprint-Training Program for Maximum Strength & Power, Core Strength, and Maximum Sprint Speed (5 Part series)
    1. A Total Sprint-Training Program for Maximum Strength & Power, Core Strength, and Maximum Sprint Speed
    2. A Sprint & Hurdles Program Design Overview
    3. Training for Development of Maximum Speed
    4. Basic and Advanced Technical Models, including Proper Execution of Key Drills
    5. Speed throughout the Training Year
  2. 400 Meter Training: Greater Strength = Faster Times (3 Part Series)
    1. 400 Meter Training: Greater Strength = Faster Times (Part 1)
    2. 400 Meter Training: Greater Strength = Faster Times (Part 2)
    3. 400 Meter Training: Greater Strength = Faster Times (Part 3)
  3. 400 Meter Training- Blending Short-to-Long and Long-to-Short Methods (2 part series)
    1. 400 Meter Training- Blending Short-to-Long and Long-to-Short Methods (Part 1)
    2. 400 Meter Training- Blending Short-to-Long and Long-to-Short Methods (Part 2)
  4. Speed Training: Developing a Sound Philosophy
  5. How to Improve Acceleration (2 part series)
    1. How to Improve Acceleration Part 3 (Part 1)
    2. How to Improve Acceleration Part 4 (Part 2)
  6. Summer Sprint Training: Important Variables to Consider
  7. 400 meter Hurdle Training (3 Part series)
    1. 400 meter Hurdle Training: Identifying Potential Athletes (Part 1)
    2. 400 meter Hurdle Training: The 3 Group Types (Part 2)
    3. 400 meter Hurdle Training: Sprint Performance Factors (Part 3)

Filed Under: Coaching, Track & Field, TrainingTagged With: Jim Hiserman

If you’re serious about running your best (while avoiding the classic training rut trap), you need to opt for a well-rounded running program. That means doing a variety of running workouts of different speeds, distances, and intensities.

And here is the good news.

In today’s article, I’m going to break down the seven most basic running sessions,

So, are you excited? Then here we go.

But first things first, before we get into the heart of the matter, let’s first briefly discuss some of the reasons training variety is so important.

The Many Benefits Of Training Variety

Sticking to the same speed and distance over and over again is the recipe for boredom and plateaus. This is a classic mistake you need to avoid if you’re serious about reaching your running goals.

A lot of runners log nearly all of their runs at generally the same distance and same intensity, usually around 60 to 70 percent of max effort.

But here is the sad truth. If you do the same workout day in day out, then you’re doing your fitness a great disservice.

Sticking to the same running routine over and over can keep you from getting faster, and stronger.

Imagine reading your favorite book or watching your favorite TV show. Now, picture doing the same thing over and over again—after a few days, the entertainment value will vanish. In fact, you’ll start to dread what was once a gratifying activity.

You Need Variety, Period

By adding a bit of variety into your running routine, you’ll make things interesting, challenge yourself, and hopefully, become a better runner in the process. Not to mention the possibility of reducing the risk of injury.

A good training base is built on a variety of workouts—that’s what’s known as well-rounded running training.

The full range of workouts teaches your body different lessons. To strengthen your cardiovascular system and muscles to endure the rigors of running, you’ll need a multi-pace, varied, training approach. That might seem like a lot to handle, but in today’s post, you’ll learn the basics you need to proceed without much second-guessing.

Here are the building blocks of a well-rounded running program

  1. Easy runs
  2. Tempo runs
  3. Interval runs
  4. Pyramid runs
  5. Hill runs
  6. Fartlek runs
  7. Long runs

These are the running workouts that will cover the whole range of training workouts you need to do as a runner. Each workout has a unique set of traits and benefits that contribute to the whole of your running performance and growth.

1. The Recovery Run

Recovery runs are short workouts done at a relatively easy pace.

How far and/or easy you go depends mainly on your fitness level, training goals, and schedule, but as a good rule of thumb, these are easier and shorter than any other run.

According to conventional wisdom, recovery runs might help you speed up recovery from the last previous hard training workout.

That said, there is no scientific evidence supporting this claim. But it’s something worth doing, especially if you run more than three times per week.

Further, recovery runs can help build proper form, increase endurance, build mileage, and develop training routine.

Sample Workout

The ideal time to perform a recovery workout is after a hard session, such as interval workouts, hill reps,  or long runs

Start your recovery run at an easy pace, then run while staying within 60 to 70 percent of maximum effort.

The exact distance depends on many factors, including your fitness level, training goals, and personal preferences.

But, as a general rule, recovery runs are usually between 3 to 5 miles in distance, lasting for roughly 20 to 40 minutes each session.

The Pace

As the name implies, easy runs are performed at a relatively leisurely pace. No need to push the pace nor do more than you can handle.

One way to measure your pace is to check if you can comfortably carry on a conversation without much huffing and puffing.

If you can’t keep a conversation going, speaking in full sentences, then you’re doing it wrong. Slow down and catch your breath.

More specifically, the typical easy run pace is 90 to 120 seconds per mile slower than your current 5K race pace.

In other words, you should feel relaxed and easy the entire time despite lingering fatigue from your former quality workout from the previous day.

Otherwise, you’re doing it wrong.

2. The Tempo Run

Tempo runs are sustained workouts at a challenging, but controlled pace, lasting typically for no more than 45 minutes.

Often known as the threshold run, tempo running increases lactate threshold, the point at which the human body produces the optimum amount of lactate that it can clear from the muscles and bloodstream.

These, in other words, are run at the fastest you can run aerobically. And since you’re training at or as close to your threshold pace, your body becomes more efficient at handling and removing lactate, which in turn, can help you sustain a faster pace for longer.

As a beginner, start with tempo runs of roughly 10 minutes, then work it up to 20 to 30 minutes.

The Pace

The ideal tempo run pace is often called comfortably hard. This is a pace that’s faster than moderate training but not too challenging.

Most experts recommend sticking to 80 to 90 percent of max heart rate during tempo running. That’s slightly slower than your 10K race pace, or at least 30 seconds per mile slower than your current 5k pace.

In other words, it’s the speed you can keep without breathing so hard that you have to slow down.

Sample Workout

Start your run with a 10-minute warm-up jog, then gradually increase speed until you’re running at tempo pace. Sustain that pace for 15 to 30 minutes, depending on your fitness level and training goals.

Finish your workout with a decent cool-down. Stretch afterward.

3. The Interval Workout

When it comes to speedwork training, interval training is the way to go.

Interval running, in general, consists of repeated short bouts of fast running separated by low-intensity recovery jogs or breaks.

More specifically, interval training involves running—or sprinting—for a set distance, repeated for a set number of times, at the same pace. Typical interval distance can be as short as 100 meters and stretching for as far as a mile, depending on the runner’s fitness level and training (or racing) goals.

Next, the all-out effort is followed by a period of recovery.

Research shows that interval training increases endurance burns mad calories, and improve running economy, builds form, improves stride rate, strengthens fast-twitch muscles, and revs up fitness quickly.

What’s more, these workouts are also ideal for breaking off from a training rut and boosting your motivation for running.

Be Careful

Just keep in mind that interval training is an advanced form of training.

Interval runs are hard on your joints and muscles since you’re practically pounding them with up to 6 to 8 times of your body weight with every foot strike.

So, if you are a beginner, make sure first to build a solid form before you give this training a shot. Otherwise, you’re asking for trouble in the form of premature fatigue, injury, or even a painful burnout.

I highly recommend that you perform them on a track or along a set loop.


Make sure to run the all-out-effort portions of your workout at a controlled, 92 to 98 percent maximum effort.

If you can keep a conversation going, you’re going too slow. Ramp up the speed.

Sample Workout

After a thorough dynamic warm-up, perform 8 to 10 400m repeats, following each rep by a 3-minute walk/jog recovery period.

Last up, finish the session with a 5-minute slow jog as cool down. Do not stop running on the spot.

You can also use time instead of distance to keep track of the length of your all-out-effort. The rule is, as long as you can measure the distance, you’re good to go.

4. The Ladder Run

This is a less known variation of the above interval workout.

Ladder workouts involve climbing up, down, or both all in a single workout. Next, the runner slows down and recover fully in between each interval.

If you are bored with the classic intervals, then the ladder variation is an excellent way to challenge yourself and mix things up.

Sample Workout

This is a 6-4-2-1-2-4-6 pyramid run workout.

Begin by performing a 10-minute dynamic warm-up.

Then, do the following:

  • Run for 6 minutes at your current 5K pace. Recover for three minutes.
  • Run for 4 minutes at 85 to 90 percent of maximum effort. Recover for two minutes.
  • Run for 2 minutes at 90 percent of max effort. Recover for one minute.
  • Run for 1 minute at maximum effort. Recover for one minute.
  • Run for 2 minutes at 90 percent of max effort. Recover for one minute.
  • Run for 4 minutes at 85 to 90 percent of maximum effort. Recover for 2 minutes.
  • Run for 6 minutes at your current 5K pace.

Last up, finish your workout with a 5-minute slow jog as cool down.

The recovery break between each rep is any jog for at least half the duration of the preceding pickup. That’s the golden rule.

Please keep in mind that this is a demanding workout that tests both your speed and endurance. So be careful. And remember to stay within your fitness level the entire time.

5. The Fartlek Workout

Swedish for “speed-play,” fartlek training is one of my favorite workouts in this list.

This training method is about playing around with varying distances and speeds in a single workout.

In other words, fartlek training involves intermixing fast running intervals with low-to-moderate efforts while varying the distance, duration, and speed of each interval.

Fartlek is an excellent introduction to the world of speedwork training, and it’s ideal for beginners looking to get a taste before taking the full plunge.

What’s more, you can also use fartlek training as a less-structured alternative to classic intervals sessions, such as the ones listed above.

Sample Workout

After a 10-minute slow jog as warm up, then on a random basis, pick an object in the distance, whether it’s a street corner, a stationary car, a tree, or a signpost, then run to it as hard as you can until you pass it while keeping good form.

Next,  slow down, and recover by jogging /walking to the next landmark, then sight the next object and repeat for at least 20 to 30 minutes.

Finish the workout with a decent cooldown.

The Pace

You can sprint, or run at a tempo pace to reach the object.

But all in all, there are no rules. You get to dictate how fast, or slow you can go.

6. The Hill Workout

Still looking for more intensity? Then Hill runs are exactly what you need.

Once you’ve developed enough cardio power and stamina, hills are the next frontier.

Basically, hill runs are repeated short or long bursts of intense effort up a hill.

Uphill running builds explosive strength and power, which can help you improve your speed and running economy.

Not only that, uphill runs boost aerobic power, improve your pain tolerance, build proper form, and increase your fatigue resistance and endurance.

Further, the downhill portion targets your quads like nothing else, and increase strength and endurance in your joints and tendons.

The Pace

Ideally, your hill reps should be hard to sustain, especially near the top.

To do that, focus on short strides and push as fast as you can while keeping good form.

And whatever you do, keep moving.

Sample Workout

First, find a proper hill that features a stable, moderate gradient of 4 to 7 percent that can take up 30 to 45 seconds to run up at a challenging effort.

Then, after a 10-minute jog on a flat surface, perform 8 to 10 30-second hill repeats at hard effort with 90-seconds jogging recovery between reps.

Last up, cool down for 5 minutes. Then stretch afterward.

7. The long Run Workout

The long runs, as the name implies, is a sustained and long run effort at an easy and steady pace.

Long runs are, without a doubt, one of the most important sessions of the week, especially if you are serious about ramping up your endurance level, or training for an endurance event.

In short, long runs develop endurance, improve form, increase lung power, and help you get both mentally and physically strong for any distance.

Even if you are not a “serious racer,” adding at least one long session into your training program will keep your aerobic and fitness capacity sharp and up to the task. And you do want that, don’t you?

Sample Workout

Long run distance varies from one runner to the next, depending mostly on your fitness skill, and training plans, and racing goals.

Here is how to proceed on your next long run:

Run for one hour or longer at a pace that allows you to effortlessly hold a conversation. If you’re panting for breath, walk until you’re breathing easily. Then take up running again.

You should feel moderately fatigued at the end of your session. If you’re completely exhausted, you’re doing it wrong. Leave something in the tank.

Just as a rule of thumb, do not increase your long run length—duration, distance, or both—by no more than 10 to 15 percent per week.

Putting it All Together

Hopefully, by now you have a basic understanding of the many elements that make a well-rounded running routine.  Now let’s put this into action and take a quick look at how a typical running schedule should look like.

Let’s assume you’re a recreational runner looking to improve your running fitness. Maybe you’re thinking of participating in a 5K or are serious about taking your running to the next level.

Just keep in mind that the choice of workout structure and intensity depends on your conditioning level and training goals.

Here is a Weekly Training Schedule Sample to get you started on the right foot.

  • Monday – Speed Workout – 8 X 200m with a 30-second recovery period.
  • Tuesday – Recovery run – 30 minutes at a conversational pace.
  • Wednesday – Hill reps – 10 X 30-seconds uphills with one-minute recovery periods.
  • Thursday – Fartlek Workout – 30 minutes of unstructured speed work.
  • Friday – Rest
  • Saturday – long run– 10-mile at a relaxed
  • Sunday—Rest or Cross-train

Rome Was Not Built Overnight, Neither Is Your Running Program

Just don’t get me wrong. I’m not suggesting that you have to start a well-rounded and challenging and elite-like running training program next week, with a lot of sprints, hill work and long distance running. That’s another recipe for disaster

What I’m trying to do here is sell you on the importance of variety. Add it gradually to your training program. And if you like where you’re heading, then there is more of it once your body has adapted to the new training load.

Keep Track

Before you jump in and give the workouts a shot, you should keep tabs on your training and progress in your workout log.

Inside of it, note some of the following:

  • Running duration
  • Running distance
  • Running intensity
  • Recovery length between intervals
  • How you felt both during and after training
  • Your training load, which is intensity and volume.
  • Pains, aches, and nagging injuries
  • Motivation level

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