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Tempo running for Speed Training

Canadian National athlete completing a 2 x 600m breakdown at Riverdale Park August 2016

 

Tempo for Speed Training

Tempo running is defined as running performed at 65 – 75% percent of one’s maximum speed. What is important on how to perform tempo is you want the last rep of your runs to be the same speed as the first runs. For example, if you are not able to complete 10 repetitions of 100 meters at an even speed, start with a shorter distance and improve that distance over a few weeks. You might also try slowing the overall speed down. To improve the quality of your tempo running monitor by hand timing your runs and making sure you are consistent with short breaks.

 

FACTS regarding tempo running for speed training

1. A wide range of people with varied ages and skills will be able to benefit from tempo for speed training. There are also many ways to perform tempo versus just the running version which you can see in the GPP (General Preparation Phase) download. Examples are pool tempo (see Project Jane download), bike tempo (bike workout download) and indoor matt running (basement tempo download).

 

2. If you are a speed and power athlete who has not been performing tempo runs 2 to 3 x per week, adding in these cardiovascular building runs into your training will facilitate improved capillary density which indirectly increases blood flow which improves recovery. (Note: you will need to take something out of your current training plan to add more into it)

 

3. 75% of top speed is the upper limit, in the same conditions as your best time for the distance. Adjust the effort level to suit conditions - long grass, short grass, smooth, bumpy ground etc. It’s a preferred practice to do all tempo on grass if possible in flats not spikes – this means you adjust pace downwards.

4. Tempo aids in recovery and the ability to stay warm between reps and sets. It can have an indirect role in speed development by increasing the muscles’ ability to generate more heat.

5. Typically the session volume would be as follows

100 – 200 meter specialist – 2000 meter per session 3 x per week

400 meter specialist - 3000 meter per session 3 x per week

800 meter specialist – 4000 meters per session 3 x per week

 

6.Upper limit is 75% effort levels over distances of 100 – 400 m per repetition. Although the volume of each session would adhere to the above guidelines the length of each rep would result in different training effects.

 

7. Above 200m distances could produce too much lactate for sprinters of early training age or trained inappropriately to handle. You need to gradually build up the distances and intensities so that lactic is not a problem along the way.

 

8. SPRINTING AND TEMPO running can coexist fine in any training program as the tempo running is so low in intensity that it does not effect the CNS (Central Nervous System) and because the total volume of tempo work is small. (2000 m per session)

 

9. AEROBIC TRAINING interferes with speed and strength development when the volume gets out of hand. In small quantities it’s fine and even enhances the speed and power development through recovery.

 

10. Different types of tempo for different purposes

Tempo performed in The General Preparation Phase of training (GPP) will be different than all other phases of training, which include SPP and pre competition and competitive season training.

Two different types of tempo performed during GPP

 

EXTENSIVE TEMPO

Extensive tempo are low intensity with incomplete recovery. Performing tempo in this way serves to flush out the system of impurities like lactic acid and promotes CNS recovery and promotes cardio fitness. FACT = extensive tempo can replace continuous runs even for the 800m+ distances.

Examples of Extensive tempo would be Big and Small Circuits or repeat 100’s.

 Big Circuit (big Tempo Circuit ) add 00’s

1+1+1

1+1+2+1

1+2+2+1

1+2+1+1

1+1+1

walk 50m between reps

walk 100m between sets

(we used a football field length wise, marked 25 m, walked back and performed the runs in this way)

INTENSIVE TEMPO

More intense runs than extensive tempo and not recovery work but used in the early stages of a speed development program and definitely not during the competitive phase of the season. This type of tempo is only used during GPP as it creates lactic acid and might be confused with what coach Charlie Francis discusses as medium work. The breaks are still short. In GPP intensive tempo is done for foundation of overall fitness.

Examples of Intensive tempo would be 7 to 10 x 300 with 4 to 5 min rest reducing recovery length over time or 600 breakdowns x 1 or 2 .

NOTES

Here’s an interesting note from Coach Charlie Francis in Forums from 2002 to 2004 “In later stages 100 meter sprinter Ben Johnson (born Dec 30 1961) did not go past 300 m in tempo. (Ben told the author that he performed 300’s and further distances from 1977 to 1983) but he did sessions of 10 x 300 in 45 to 48 seconds with a 100 m walk recovery. Earlier still he did 600 m breakdowns (6,5,4,3, 2,1) with walk equal to distance recoveries for tempo work in early season.

 

An example of how the author performed tempo running year around during competition was to do varied tempo distances 2 to 3 x per week alternating with Speed and Power work performed 2 to 3 x per week. Typically speed and power work together on Mondays, Wednesday and Fridays. Tempo and recovery work we would do Tuesdays and Thursdays and Saturdays. A tremendous amount of variability might exist from individual to individual and day to day in terms of how much volume performed. It would depend on how the adaptation happens daily and cumulatively over each training block annually.

INTENSIVE tempo performed during other parts of a season such as pre comp and comp when quality needs to be first and rest intervals long and complete will create the opposite effect for an athlete as I have discussed above. For further reading go to Amazon and look at the Key Concept Books series of books and Speed Trap. For an extensive overview check out the charliefrancis.com site for the Vancouver Seminar 1 and 2 series.

There is more to discuss about tempo but this blog will give your more than what you need to experiment as a beginner or elite athlete. 

I am always around to answer questions. Curious minds learn more. 

best,

Angé

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Bike Tempo and Pool Tempo for Speed Training

I may have some days from now on when I have no time to get running tempos in at all....

Forum Member Question

I wonder if doing bike tempos can have negative effect on sprinting mechanics.

Coach Ange’s Answer

I am not able to think of any good reason bike or pool tempo would have a negative effect on sprinting mechanics. Avoiding tempo in a program may make it a challenge to perform routine, quality speed work as a key benefit to performing low intensity exercise promotes circulation which helps keep muscles loose and limber. Utilizing bike and pool tempo ensure an adequate volume of low intensity work gets performed in an annual plan. Bike, pool and tempo substitutes are used for variety in training, limited facility access, poor weather, and travel distance to training as well as avoiding excess pounding of running. We have used the bike and pool for tempo with success when I was a 100m hurdler on the National team. We continued to use tempo training of each variety with Professional athlete in the tennis, NHL and NFL.

 

Tempo is used to flush muscles of lactates produced by high intensity work and to ready the muscles for speed training and other high intensity work. Performing low intensity work such as tempo assists in vascularizing the muscles, which facilitates greater blood flow. Greater blood flow facilitates a higher rate of access of fluid in and out of the muscles so you are increasing the circulation.

 

Extensive Tempo = Slower, recovery based tempo used primarily during the competition phase as you want to make sure none of the non speed day training competes with the energy systems needed for performing quality speed work. Use the guideline of running 75% your max effort but never forget the last set needs to be performed at the same speed and quality of the first set no matter the volume of total runs. ( 75% max effort of what distance, under what circumstance and with what kind of conditions / wearing flats or spikes for max effort) When performing extensive tempo during competition season be conservative if you are unsure of speeds)

An example of an Extensive Tempo session performed during competition phase might be 1 or 2 sets of 10 x 100 meter for 100/200m National level sprinters with consistent rest breaks and up to but not more than 5 minutes rest between sets. I might never do bike or pool tempo with an athlete during comp season especially if they had not ever done it before. Pool can be unexpectedly tiring and then becomes something other than low intensity.

 

Intensive Tempo = Faster/ harder tempo where by you are using the quality of the runs to rule recovery while controlling breaks and trying to keep them as short as possible but never to compromise quality. This type of tempo is used extensively during GPP (General Preparation Phase) as well as the fall and spring training.

An example of an Intensive Tempo session performed in the General Preparation Phase for a 400mh National level sprinter would be 600 breakdown x 1 building quickly to 2 sets with last 100 meter of each run up graded hill. Rest intervals might be 4-5 minutes after first 600, 4m after 500, 3.5m after 400, 3m rest after 300, 2.5m rest after 200 and 2 minutes or less before the last 100 meter run up hill. Take 20 minutes before you perform next 600m breakdowns.

Forum Member Question

With bike, one is not able to extend his fully, because the position of hips is fixed and range of motion of the legs are limited, resulting in "sitting back" posture.

Coach Ange’s Answer

The main goal of tempo is to facilitate more work of high intensity especially as it pertains to speed work. While running tempo facilitates other mechanical strengths for runners, performing alternative tempo methods is useful for a variety of reasons mentioned above. (Injury prevention, time saved for travel to facilities etc.)

As a general rule for training finding ways to accomplish your athletic goals in a variety of ways will ensure consistent training with little or few injuries. There is an ideal way and then there is a compromise. Don’t make the mistake of believing the compromise won’t be as good or better than what some insist is the only way.

Forum Member Question

Will this carry over to one's actual sprinting or sprinting drills?

Coach Ange’s Answer

Yes, tempo performed as a low intensity exercise facilitates high intensity work and all other types of low intensity work. The more fitness you have the greater your ability to grab onto all other variables of your training. I was taught this idea early on in my training, as athlete and maintaining fitness became a main goal as the premise for all other work I needed to get done.

Guidelines for tempo speed = 75% of your maximum effort or overall speed may seem vague for people trying to understand how exactly to perform tempo runs. You want to be able to finish the last run of any chosen volume of work the same way you began the run. Timing yourself might help but routinely it’s better to have your coach time the runs. Be mindful not to run too fast on the first rep or first few reps. Speed can be added but you cant take it away. Be conservative until you have experience of what a tempo circuit feels like in a week or two of training. A coach can time the runs and have the athlete raise their hand at the beginning and end of each run. Over time you will see the pattern and speed of the runs. A coach needs to learn to watch for mechanical breakdown of an athlete and stop work right away. Even if you are in the pool or on the bike when quality begins to diminish your estimation of workload has been over done. Stop when you see degradation of any kind.

 

Forum Member Question

…or are these too unsimilar to have any carry-over effect biomechanically?

Coach Ange’s Answer

Biomechanics won’t be successfully maintained if the foundation of fitness has not been in place and stays in place throughout the season. Fitness is usually best attained using a variety of methods of training. A person will be able to accomplish greater volumes of meaningful work of all kinds when the work is varied and spread across the spectrum of both low and high intensity work.

Forum Member Question.

I've read also that treadmill tempos can have negative effect on sprinting mechanics because of longer ground contact time due to the belt moving forward.

Coach Ange’s Answer

Tempo on treadmill will never match the tempo on grass but it can be successfully used as an alternative the same way basement, pool and bike tempo can be utilized. Speed work done on treadmills is not recommended and might be where you are referring to ground contact times.

Tempo performed badly any place should not ever be continued or repeated.

Providing alternatives for tempo is not to say you want 100% of tempo performed as an alternative. Having said that if it’s the only way you can sustain successful training due to lessening pounding from foot or ankle issues then that is what you need to you do to get the job done.

Forum Member Question 

I wonder what I should do.....bike or treadmill.

 

Coach Ange's Answer

How about you try both and follow the videos that are based on real results are record your experiences.

 

Forum Member Comments Questions 

Bike - possibility of causing sitting back.

Treadmill - possibly cause longer ground contact time, but more movement specific (mechanically).

Coach Ange's Answer

Use the treadmill as a tool to perform tempo. If possible use the tempo to come on and off and mix exercises in between for another type of tempo we use which mixes exercises like sit ups and push ups and low intensity exercises which can enhance the type of work you wish to get done in lieu of running.

Final Comments from Coach Ange

Bike, pool and basement tempo each provide excellent alternatives to tempo runs which facilitate speed training in athletics. 

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Actively Regenerate your speed Training

One of the simplest and most attainable ways to immediately gain improvement in your speed training is to begin practicing daily rituals of active regeneration.

 

The definition of regeneration in the Merriam-Weber online dictionary says “to change radically and for the better, to generate or produce anew” and my favorite is “to produce again chemically sometimes in a physically changed form”.

 

I found the definition of regeneration helpful when trying to best describe the implications of routine generation for your existing speed-training program if you add small amounts each day.

 

A priority trick you must learn is to install various methods of regeneration into your existing plan, as is, if you want to see improvement.

 

The simplest methods of active regeneration are repeatable at home and are not expensive. The best way to practice and benefit most from active regeneration is to remember small amounts performed routinely on a schedule works best.

 

Here are some great ideas to get your started.

  1. Get some mason jars, fill 3 up on your kitchen counter and make sure you drink that amount of water every day. If you are travelling for training or comp buy a few days supply of bottled water ahead of time for the trip and take them with you don’t get dehydrated (if you are flying, buy some as soon as you land)
  2. Epson salt baths, as soon after your speed training has been completed as possible, to begin the cycle of your body healing
  3. Epson salt baths done before bed might also help you sleep.
  4. If you have not yet tried contrast showers, today might be a good day to start. If you have concerns about health always check with your medical doctor. Begin your shower as hot as you are able to tolerate it and follow with cold. Alternate 3 minutes of hot with 1 minute of cold ensuring your head is getting wet. Repeat so this water circuit takes 12 minutes and always end in cold. The first time you perform this will be hard. The more you do it the more you will enjoy it.
  5. Clean up your diet. If you are going to training hungry and tired or finishing training too early as you need to eat, something in your diet is not working well. Craving sugar and fat both indicate issues as well. Athletes put extreme demands on themselves both physically and mentally. For this reason the room for error is amplified.
  6. Exercise on your off days on a stationary bike for tempo or in a pool. Water has incredible healing properties. Bike training can ease joints and help accelerate circulation to speed up the rate at which you recover.

 

Speed Training taxes the body in an intense way. Achieving balance between work and rest in speed training takes time to learn. Learning to rest and recovery actively, even a little bit each day, will help you consistently make gains and actively regenerate your speed training.

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