Home Motivation Dealing with Tempo Runs: Some Priceless Lessons

Dealing with Tempo Runs: Some Priceless Lessons

by Tanya Agarwal

There are runs that run me out – Tempo runs do that to me! (Read here about ‘tempo’ runs). They are integral to a good training plan. Can’t do without them. They start haunting, taunting and unsettling my mind as soon as I see the weekly run plan.

Over the last 5 years I have tried many ways to handle tempo runs. Some or none might work for you. But perspectives help (if you are open to knowing them).

We run with our watches, excel sheets and plans…If the numbers don’t show up as per plans. there comes in a lot of mental pressure. The brain starts playing the ‘I failed’ game. To Begin with….

That two words I say out loud are  “Don’t quit”

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For me a bad training run is when I stop in the middle of the run. This has happened to me. I have quit during my tempos at least 5 times in the last 5 years. I remember while chasing a 5 pace tempo run of 7km, I gave up at the 4 km because I saw my pace fall and did not have the mind strength to talk myself into finishing it.

How I have practically been learning to deal Strongly with Tempo Runs:

I’ve had to change my mindset. The First thing I have had to understand is that – Tempo runs are done by intensity and not  by pace. My mentor – Alfredo Miranda explains it with an example:

Let’s say you need to do a Tempo of 7km at an average pace of 5mins per km (If that’s what your plan says)

  • Start at 5min/km.
  • If you can keep that pace….keep going.
  • But let’s say you start feeling weak and tired at the 4th km, it is getting too hard for you to hold that pace and you are not able to hold it for the next 3km -Then this is the time to slow down.
  • Change your pace from 5min/km to 5.15min/km for the next 2kms. See how long you can hold this pace.
  • Let’s say this pace also starts feeling hard, then it’s time to slow down to 5.30min/km and finish the 7thkm.
  • And transition to an easy cool down (without stopping)

Now let’s calculate the Average pace for the 7k tempo.

4*5:00 + 2*5:15 + 1*5.30 = 36 minutes. The average pace per km is 5:08.

Which is definitely not bad at all (actually fantastic). You kept the intensity going, even though the pace fell. It was never easy for you and that is what makes a tempo run successful. It is critical to sustain the intensity, not the pace.

In the example, the target was set for 5 mins/km. We finished at 5:08. The coming next week the target can be 5:04 or try the 5:00 mins/km again.

“The idea is to do a Tempo at a high intensity, to make it tough yet doable. At no point of time during a tempo you should have a – I can’t complete this- thought” – Alfredo Miranda

We don’t listen to our legs, our muscles and our metabolism. They do have a lot to say:

Legs – “We managed to keep a pace of 5:08 for 7km, without stopping. We are now stronger than before the run. 24 hours of recovery and we will be ready for next. And for sure, next week we can improve it.”

Metabolism – “We managed to provide energy for 36 minutes constantly. We have learnt a little bit more on how to handle fats and carbs in a more efficient way. Next week for sure we can provide even more energy at the same heart rate.”

Post Tempo Run, Ask Myself and Dig Deep

(To understand why the pace during the tempo was falling)

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  • Was it the bad sleep last night? Overall what’s the quality of my sleep?
  • Was it a hectic day before the run? Lifestyle mismatch? Am I pushing myself too hard against some overall tough days?
  • Was it just poor intake of food yesterday? Overall how’s my grip on my nutrition?
  • Am I psyching myself out too much? Overthinking this ( this is horrible, AVOID)?

Most Importantly – While you beat yourself over a bad training run the whole day, or many days, don’t forget to appreciate yourself for all the training runs that you managed to execute beautifully. Keep yourself collected and going – forward, because as the best say  – “There is no such thing as a bad run”!

Remind myself/ REPEAT to Myself

One bad training run doesn’t spoil your training. Few bad training runs don’t spoil your training. Many bad training runs don’t spoil your training.

And that’s why they always say – Running is a MENTAL sport!


  • Tanya Agarwal
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    Welcome to Wellthyfit.com! Wellthyfit is my ‘writing venture’ on health and wellness and a constant reminder that health is our only everlasting wealth! Who am I - you can read here. But at the core of it all, I’m a mom who loves to run!

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Anamika October 14, 2019 - 1:00 pm

Loved the simple but positive perspective.
You said it , a bad run doesn’t ruin the training.
Keep going!

Tanya Agarwal October 14, 2019 - 8:16 pm

Mind games and running!!!! 🙂

Manish Upadhyay October 14, 2019 - 9:16 pm

There is no such thing as a bad run”!
Wonderful line , it will definitely help me to keep running even pace is not as planned .


Manpreet Grover October 17, 2019 - 3:51 pm

Nice one again Tanya ! and No training run spoils your training

Tanya Agarwal October 30, 2019 - 11:10 am

Thanks !!!! Happy Running

Ramakrishnan Sankaran October 17, 2019 - 4:39 pm

Tanya ji lesson learnt on Tempo runs is very practical and significant, i always advise my co-runners during tempo not to abandon the group while doing so. Thnx

Tanya Agarwal October 30, 2019 - 11:10 am

All the best


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