Four Fast Tempo Workouts for Runners

You’ll be spending time at a comfortably hard pace no matter which option you choose.


Jenny Hadfield |

You’ll be spending time at a comfortably hard pace no matter which option you choose. – By Jenny Hadfield

Ewald Sadie
Ewald Sadie

Tempo workouts are one of my favourites because you run at an effort that feels strong and you feel stronger and fitter after they end.

The purpose of a tempo workout is to run at a sustained effort to build “speed endurance” – that is, the ability to hold a challenging pace over a longer period of time.

Here are four fun tempo workouts geared to raising the roof on your threshold. I refer to the intensity of the workout via colour, using yellow, orange, and red zones to denote easy, moderately challenging, and hard. Tempo effort is best described as comfortably hard: It’s somewhere between the top of your orange zone and bottom of your red zone.

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High-Five Tempo Workout

This is a great workout for those who are new to running tempos because it breaks the tempo portion down into shorter segments. But don’t let that fool you – this is a challenging workout.

  • Warm up by walking for three minutes.
  • Run at an easy, yellow-zone effort for five minutes.
  • Repeat four times: Run at tempo effort for five minutes, followed by two minutes of easy jogging.
  • Run at an easy, yellow-zone effort for five minutes.
  • Cool down by walking for three minutes.

TOTAL TIME: 44 minutes

Break It in Two Tempo Workout

This builds your stamina to run at this effort for longer, 10-minute segments.

  • Warm up by walking for three minutes.
  • Run at an easy, yellow-zone effort for five minutes.
  • Run at tempo effort for 10 minutes, followed by three minutes of easy jogging. Repeat.
  • Run at an easy, yellow-zone effort for five minutes.
  • Cool down by walking for three minutes.

TOTAL TIME: 39 minutes

The Classic Tempo Workout

This is the most traditional of these tempo workouts, with a warmup period, a solid block of time spent at tempo effort, and a cooldown period.

  • Warm up by walking for three minutes.
  • Run at an easy, yellow-zone effort for 10 minutes.
  • Run at tempo effort for 20 to 30 minutes. (Start with 20 the first time you do this workout, then gradually ramp up as you become more experienced.)
  • Run at an easy, yellow-zone effort for 10 minutes.
  • Cool down by walking for three minutes.

TOTAL TIME 46 to 56 minutes

The Hilly Tempo Workout

This workout teaches you how to run tempo effort on a hilly course to gain strength and stamina. Run this on a hilly route or use a hill program on a treadmill. The key is to keep your effort no greater than tempo effort on the uphills and no less than on the downhills, which means slowing on the ups and pushing on the downs.

  • Warm up by walking for three minutes.
  • Run at an easy, yellow-zone effort for 10 minutes.
  • Run at tempo effort for 20 to 30 minutes, adjusting your pace as you climb and descend. (Start with 20 the first time you do this workout, then gradually ramp up as you become more experienced.)
  • Run at an easy, yellow-zone effort for 10 minutes.
  • Cool down by walking for three minutes.

TOTAL TIME:46 to 56 minutes

RELATED: Six Hill-Training Secrets All Runners Should Know

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