For each runner, the purpose of running might be different. Some might want to run for health reasons or to challenge themselves physically, but at one time or another, the question of how to run faster and farther crosses every runner’s mind. No matter how hard a runner tries, at some point everyone will reach a plateau, where it is not possible to run any faster or farther.
To achieve more distance, most runners begin training harder, but many get injured by doing so. For those who want to increase their speed, they usually force themselves to run faster across the same distance until their body cannot handle it. This is called overtraining. These runners then take a break before repeating the same cycle all over again, resulting in very slow progress or, in some cases, no progress at all.
Before talking about training methods which can prevent injuries and inspire progress, we would like to introduce all runners to the term “Lactate Threshold” (LT). Lactate Threshold is the level in which the body can still exercise while turning lactic acid back into energy as soon as it is produced. Lactic acid is one of the most important sources of energy in our bodies and it is not a source of bodily fatigue as commonly believed. Research has shown that LT can be used to assess one’s training even better than the VO2 Max Test. For runners who train regularly, their VO2 Max level does not change often. Therefore, in order to achieve more speed and distance, a runner’s LT must be increased by training as intensely as the individual’s threshold allows. This type of training is called “Tempo”.
Tempo is a type of training which is more intense than normal aerobics training and it is done over a shorter distance. This training can increase a runner’s Lactate Threshold better than just doing normal aerobics training. A study done by Eystein Enoksen (The Norwegian School of Sports Science) divided runners into two groups, with the first group running at a higher intensity across a short distance (50 kilometers/week) and with the second group running at a lower intensity across a longer distance (70 kilometers). The result of the study showed that the first group of runners had significantly higher lactate thresholds.
Figuring out the intensity during Tempo training is one of most common questions a runner has. Even though the tempo can be different for every runner, the level of intensity required can be determined by the following methods:
(*Pace is the average speed for a one kilometer run. For example, Pace 6 means taking 6 minutes to run one kilometer)
There are many different training programs available and each runner needs a program that is uniquely suited to their own style and fitness goals. Do not forget that you have to run faster than normal and that you need to do tempo training no more than twice a week. You must give your body time to recover. By doing so, you can prevent injuries and avoid problems that can stem from overtraining. Keep in mind that rest is also a very necessary part of any training method.
M.D., Faculty of Medicine, Siriraj Hospital, Mahidol University, 2007.