Tempo Runs Versus Lactate Threshold Intervals…What’s The Difference?

Tempo Runs are steady runs at lactate threshold pace that last 20 minutes or more.  You should be able to maintain this pace for up to an hour in a race.  In order to maintain a steady rhythm, it is recommended that tempo runs are done in mild weather conditions on flat even terrain; the goal is to maintain an even intensity of effort for a long period of time.  Hills, uneven footing and poor weather conditions all interfere.  A tempo run should be sandwiched between a good warm up and a cool down.  Because they involve running at lactate threshold pace for a longer, concentrated period of time, tempo runs are a better use of training time than lactate threshold runs.

Lactate Threshold or “Cruise” Intervals are repeated runs at lactate threshold pace that last anywhere from 3 – 15 minutes and are broken up by short recovery periods.   The brief recovery periods, which usually last about a minute, allow blood lactate levels to remain fairly constant and extend the training session a bit longer than a tempo run.  Lactate threshold intervals can be anywhere from 800 meters to 2 miles in length and should also be sandwiched between a warm-up and cool down.  The advantage of lactate threshold intervals is that they provide a break from the demands of the longer tempo run while still allowing an opportunity to benefit from a full lactate threshold session.  They are easier to do.  Like tempo runs, these should be done on a flat, even surface in mild weather conditions.