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Pick Up The Tempo

In the mid-1950s, singer and songwriter Little Richard made the crossover from rhythm and blues to rock ’n roll. He is reported to have made this statement about the differences between the music: “Played up-tempo, you call [the music] rock ’n roll; at a regular tempo, you call it rhythm and blues.” In these final weeks leading up to the RGJ Journal Jog, runners in training truly need to begin to rock ’n roll, to move beyond their regular pace and thereby raise their fitness levels. Most experts believe that the best way to do that is to add a tempo run to the workout week.

A tempo run is a moderately hard run—in other words, a run just above the line of an uncomfortable pace. One goal of such a pace is to hit one’s lactate threshold, or LT. The LT is the point at which the body begins to produce more lactic acid than it can buffer. A runner at the LT will begin to fatigue and slow down; but, if she or he fights through the lactic acid buildup, it’s possible to raise the LT and, therefore, increase the pace at which one can run. Another goal is to stretch the capabilities of the body’s cardiovascular system and metabolic fitness; and, according to exercise scientist Bill Pierce, the chair of the Heath and Exercise Science Department at South Carolina’s Furman University, “Tempo runs do just that by teaching your body to use oxygen for metabolism more efficiently.”

For those runners who are unfamiliar with a tempo run, there are some guidelines for a good tempo-run pace. First, they should try to achieve a heart rate that is 80-90 percent of their maximum heart rate (note: Polar Watches are excellent for measuring the heart rate). Second, they definitely should not be at race pace, but rather right below it. Finally, at the right tempo-run pace, runners should not be able to converse in anything more than simple sentences.

The best time for a tempo run in the workout week is after either a rest day or an easy day because runners need to put a fair amount of strength into their runs. Here’s the recommended sequence: start the run with a slow ten-minute warm-up, then follow that with at least twenty minutes of a challenging but manageable pace, and then switch to a ten-minute cool-down (which may be either a slow run or a walk). The purpose of the cool-down is to allow muscles to slowly return to a non-firing state and to allow the heart rate to recover.

So, with just three weeks to go, runners training for the Journal Jog should not be singing the blues. Rather, they should be rockin’ ’n rollin’ with a weekly tempo run. Through just twenty minutes of running at a comfortably hard pace, runners can get faster and more powerful before race day and then maintain a great race pace during the entire run.

Week 4 Training Plan:

Monday: Rest (Monday is the rest day since it follows the longest workout of the week)

Tuesday: Run 3.5 miles easy (if the entire distance is not yet do-able, run six minutes, walk one minutes, and then repeat until reaching 3 miles)

Wednesday: Run 3.5 miles with increasing tempo or join our group track workout

Thursday: Cross-train 45-60 minutes (cross training should be a non-impact cardio exercise such as cycling or work on an elliptical trainer)

Friday: Rest

Saturday: Run easy 3.5 miles

Sunday: Run (or run/walk) 4 miles easy

Group Runs

Wednesday: 6am Track workout from Hub Coffee on Riverside

Saturday: 8am RRC Sparks Store Run from 1276 Disc Dr Sparks

Sunday: 8am RRC Summit Store Run from Summit Sierra Mall

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