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Secret Number 4 : Tempo Racing
Date: 17 Aug, 2001
Contact: Jon Ackland
Phone: 09-480-1422
Secret Number 4 : Tempo Racing

Something I have often noticed is athletes often hammer themselves in their warm up racing and this means they can only race a couple of times before they are toast, often before their peak race. This also limits the development of their speed. They blow up before they reach the speed they are capable of.

If you could race at only 70-80% effort instead of your usual 100% effort and raced a lot bringing in the hard races on top of that, imagine how fast you would go. With all that tempo speed already developed you could really turn on the afterburners.

The difficulty though is that tempo racing takes incredible self control. An athlete may do a 5k fun run race every week but instead of doing it at tempo, they have this overwhelming urge to go as hard as they can and beat their mates. The difficulty with this is they will blow up in 4-6 weeks.
But with controlled tempo racing this can be carried out in the first 6 weeks of your programme before you start out into the more taxing speed, which lasts for another 4-6 weeks. So if you could run 20min for 5k you might do your tempo racing at 24-25min for the same distance or about 15-20% slower but still faster than your cruising pace. Tempo training and tempo racing is a very under utilised aspect of speed work.

If you got your body used to quite a bit of tempo first and then added the really hard stuff on top, you would have a much better speed in the end. The thing people find most difficult about tempo racing is controlling their ego. Its really hard to go out there and not go your absolute fastest and let your fellow competitors go faster than you. The question is does that tiny event really count or does the big one your aiming for count.


Jon Ackland is an exercise consultant for Performance Lab, who has been training athletes (Novice to Elite) for 15 years. The author of a number of books including the best selling The Power to Perform, as well as The Performance Log, Precision Training and Spinning. .Jon is the director of Performance Lab where he tests and consults people of all levels helping them to train for sport, recreation and health. Ph 09 480-1422, Fax : 09 480-1423 e mail : plab@voyager.co.nz
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