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Runningfastr - Issue #2: September 2021

Runningfastr - Issue #2: September 2021
By Matt • Issue #2 • View online
Welcome to the September issue of the runningfastr newsletter.
I thank you for your readership and hope that you enjoy this and many future issues.
If you enjoy this newsletter please consider hitting the Like button at the end and sharing with your running buddies. The website content and newsletter are all FREE and my only remittance is an endorsement of above-average content from my fellow runners.
If there are any suggestions for content you would like to see covered on the website or in this newsletter please let me know here.

In this Issue:
  1. What Makes a Good Tempo Run
  2. Signs of Overtraining
  3. Training Example: Treadmill Sessions
  4. Regular Feature: Your Favourite Runs
  5. Running Shoe Jargon
  6. The Small Print
What Makes a Good Tempo Run
There was an interesting comment posted on the website this week about tempo runs and I thought it would be useful to dig a little deeper into what they are and the benefits they can have on your training.
What is a Tempo Run
You may well of heard the phrase, ‘hard, but controlled effort’, in relation to a tempo run. This sounds a little vague, so what does this actually mean? Essentially a tempo run is done at a hard but sustainable pace for between 20-45 minutes. The tempo run itself tends to be the filling in a warm up/down sandwich, e.g., 5 minute gentle running to warm-up, 30 minute tempo run, 5 minute warm-down running.
Benefits of a Tempo Run
Your body relies on three energy systems to get you moving. ATP-PC for short and explosive bursts (think weight lifting), glycolytic for intermittent hard intervals, and aerobic for endurance exercises. For distance running, we are heavily reliant on the aerobic system to support us and during intense sessions, your body will be busy clearing the lactate from your blood and muscles and processing it to be used as fuel. The lactate threshold is the point where the intensity of your exercise causes this lactate to accumulate at a faster rate than it can be removed.
Once the crossover happens performance will inevitably drop off as your body will be forced to rely on other, less efficient, energy systems and the accumulation of lactate will hinder your muscles’ ability to contract.
Tempo runs are targeted towards increasing your lactate threshold as it is this threshold that determines the upper limits of your efforts in training and on race day. By increasing your lactate threshold, you can run faster and farther with less fatigue.
Length & Pace of Tempo Runs
Two questions that get asked a lot on the website are: how long should the tempo run be? And what pace should I run it at?
As mentioned they typically last between 20-45 minutes but my approach was to tweak the length depending on what I was training for. When training towards the 16 minute 5k my tempo runs would be no longer than 25-30 minutes. If I was targeting a 10k race somewhere then I would look to increase this to about 40 minutes.
As for the pace, again this depends on your training goals and pace. As a general rule, I would look to run tempo runs at roughly 30 seconds slower than my target race pace for a 5k event and roughly 15-20 slower for a 10k. For example, my 16 minute 5k race pace was 5:10 per mile so my tempo runs were:
  1. 5 minute warm-up running
  2. 20 minute tempo run at 5:40 per mile
  3. 5 minute warm-down running
If someone was following the 60 minute 10k training plan that has a target race pace of 9:39 per mile then something like the following would make sense:
  1. 5 minute warm-up running
  2. 40 minute tempo run at 10:00 per mile.
  3. 5 minute warm-down running
You can adjust the warm/up down lengths to suit and check out the training plans on the website for 5k and 10k as they have the race and tempo run paces you need to incorporate these into your training.
Signs Of Overtraining
One of the hardest things about following a training plan is often not the training itself, but it is acknowledging the signs of overtraining and knowing when you need to take a step back and allow for adequate rest and recovery.
When you are training well and it feels like you are making progress it can be very difficult to ease off because you don’t want to lose the momentum that you’ve built up over the previous few weeks. If you are anything like me (and I hope you’re not), the thought of reducing your training can sometimes fill your head with thoughts of getting slow, getting fat, losing fitness; generally undoing all the good work that you have done so far. And then, there’s the prospect of missing out on all those endorphins!
It took a few years’ experience, and a handful of over-use injuries, before I realised that rest and recovery should be treated with the same respect as any of your other sessions, be it your speed work or tempo runs. One of the primary reasons why I think the training plans on work, and why they worked for me, was that the speed sessions facilitate your training at an intense level that is tailored to your target time. The speed sessions are crucial and in order to get the most out of the sessions it is important that you are rested and able to give it your all on the days that you need to. This means paying attention to some of these tell-tale signs of overtraining.
What are Key Signs of Overtraining
Little Niggles
At the onset of a little niggle, it can be very tempting to just try and get through one more session. It’s easy to tell yourself that you’ll rest tomorrow but all too often, tomorrow never comes. If you have a niggle then listen to your body and rest it. You don’t need to not do exercise; try some cross-training to keep your fitness levels up.
Feeling Run-down
If you are feeling like it’s taking an unusual amount of time to get your legs going and/ or your legs are feeling heavy then it could be a sign that you are overdoing it. Ask yourself: Am I eating the right foods? Am I getting enough glycogen and resting enough between sessions? Regular exercise can make significant demands on your energy systems, which are needed to repair muscles and help with recovery. If you aren’t supporting this process nutritionally then you are leaving yourself susceptible to colds and feelings of exhaustion. I have lost count of the number of times where I have done a particularly tough training session and then picked up a cold within a day or so. It’s because I wasn’t supporting my training nutritionally and therefore my immune system wasn’t functioning at 100%.
Feeling like this is one of the classic signs of overtraining and perhaps an indicator that you need to take a couple of days off running and give yourself and your legs some time to freshen up.
Feeling Unusually Down in the Dumps
As any runner knows, post exercise endorphins are a wonderful thing. Highly addictive, the need for an injection of “runners-high” has got me out the door in all sorts of horrible weather and no matter what the elements, I’ve never returned home feeling worse than when I left the house. But to borrow a phrase from an industry that deals in endorphin inducement of more nefarious means, when the fun stops, stop. If you are not enjoying your training and it’s becoming a bit of a chore, or you are losing motivation then this is a good time to stop and re-focus or take a break from things. Maybe you need to train for a different event or distance? Maybe you need to let yourself go for a week and gorge on Toblerone? Or maybe you just want to forget about running for a while? If this is the case, then it’s a good time to switch off and come back and re-focus when you are ready. Throughout the training plans you should feel energized and committed, it shouldn’t feel like a chore.
Adequate rest and recovery are not only required for your physical well-being but also psychological. It’s so easy for groundhog-day training to set in and so taking a break when your body tells you and don’t ignore the warning signs of overtraining.
So, How often Do I Need to Take a Break?
The training plans on have factored in a cyclic recovery week, so after every 3 weeks of training, it’s advisable to reduce your intensity for a week to allow your body and mind to recover. In addition, it is worth considering a complete break after a few rotations of the plan to allow you to recover fully and re-focus your efforts if you need to.
Assuming you are pursuing the right plan for your current ability (i.e., you can run a km at the target race pace to being with) then it is entirely possible that you can reach your PB target within 8-12 weeks of starting it. If, after a few rotations, you feel like you are plateauing and not improving then this is maybe a good time to take a step back and re-focus.
Training Session: Treadmill Workouts
Each month I’ll detail a particular training session that I think can have a real positive impact on you training. This month, I’ve taken the Treadmill Workouts sessions from the website:
Benefits of Treadmill Workouts
Treadmill workouts can be a great tool to use in your training plan. Any decent treadmill will give you a range of options like increasing the gradient and quick-set speed variations which can really help your training regardless of whether you are a plodder or a speed-merchant.
While many people are put off by the thought of treadmill workouts, either due to self-consciousness, inaccessibility or the sheer monotony of the task at hand, I find that the controlled structure that you can apply to your training with them really worthwhile. There’s also a weird sort of accountability with treadmill session in that, if you are out running and it’s hurting and you want to stop, you can - it’s easy to slow down and start walking. If you are on the treadmill you have to press the big red button and see the digital evidence of weakness!
The stubbornness and determination that is developed in not wanting to hit that button can only be good for you.
Example Treadmill Workouts
Try and use a treadmill that has a quick-set speed change option. For example, one where you can set two speeds and quickly alternate between the two speed intervals without having to use the fiddly up and down arrows. This can be rather hazardous when you are running like the clappers, dripping with sweat, and needing to change speeds!
Before doing any of the speed sessions it is advised that you follow the appropriate warm up routine that works for you: ten minute jog and a stretch if that is your thing. It is also strongly advised that as part of your warm-up run you briefly get up to a speed that is close to the pace that you will use during the session. There is no point jogging for a few minutes at 10 minute per mile pace only to go straight into a 6 minute per mile speed-session.
Most treadmills provide distance/ speed measurements in Km per hour and so I have tried to use the same where possible.
This is an old favourite and is nice and simple and will serve you well if you are following a 5k training plan.
  1. Use the quick-set speed interval change options to set both a Run Pace and a Recovery Pace. For example, Run Pace = 13 kmph, and a Recovery Pace = 7 kmph.
  2. Run for 2 minutes at your Run Pace.
  3. Switch to Recovery Pace for 1 minute.
Repeat x 8
This should be a tough session if you are new to treadmill workouts so adjust the speeds so you are challenged but can still complete the session. After a few completions you can play with the run and recovery speeds to keep challenging yourself.
Another treadmill session that uses the quick-set speed interval change options and I found this really useful when training for longer distance events such as a 10k or half-marathon. It can still be incorporated into 5k training though as it’s great for building strength and endurance.
  1. Use the quick-set speed interval option to set a Run Pace and a Recovery Pace. For example, Run pace = 12 kmph, and a recovery of 7 kmph.
  2. Run for 1km at your Run Pace.
  3. Switch to Recovery Pace for 200 meters.
*It’s a good idea to memorise before the session when the quick-set speed interval changes need to be made. For example, after completion of the first rep your Run Pace interval should begin again at 1.2km, 2.4km, 3.6km, etc.
Repeat x 4 if you are following a 5k training plan
Repeat x 6 if you are following a 10k training plan.
The 2k treadmill workouts are more beneficial for 10k and half-marathon training plans and are largely as per the 1k Interval session above. Your Run Pace for the 2k Interval session should be slightly lower than what you would use for the 1k interval session and you may want a longer recovery but you should be able to keep the same Recovery Pace. For example:
  1. Run Pace = 11 kmph, and a Recovery Pace of 7 kmph.
  2. Run for 2km at your Run Pace.
  3. Switch to Recovery Pace and run for 200-400 meters.
Repeat x 4 if you are following a 10 training plan
Regular Feature: Favourite Run
In this section, we post a comment or submission from one of the newsletter subscribers or website visitors over the past month. In August’s newsletter I wrote a small piece describing my favourite place to run, you can read it here if you missed it, and we asked you to submit your entries and we would look to include our favourite in the next newsletter.
This month we have picked Leanne from Buckinghamshire who told us about her favourite place to run:
My favourite place has to be the woods in my little part of Buckinghamshire (England). I run twice a week always going the same way round and I find jogging there so peaceful and tranquil that it’s become my bit of calm before the storm of home/kids/work lol.
Thank you for your entry, Leanne. Let us know you favourite run here and we’ll print another one next month.
Running Shoe Jargon
Knowing that it was getting close to the point where I would soon need to be replacing the old faithful pair of running shoes, I anticipated I would do my usual trick of browsing the interweb for various brands and models to see what was out there…before buying the same pair of shoe’s as last time.
During my new shoe flirtations, it was clear that while browsing the usual websites I had absolutely no idea what half the reviews were on about and it became nigh on impossible to glean any sort of knowledge as to what each shoe has to offer or how it may differ from my current wheels.
Has anybody else had this problem?
Whichever shoe or brand name I looked into, the manufacturer reviews seemed to be made up entirely of incoherent descriptions and acronyms that are completely impossible to understand.
Everun treatments, Guide Rails, Clutch Counters…it went on.
On some Asics models a USP was the LIGHT AHAR SPONGE which apparently is a “rubber outsole material with high abrasion-resistant qualities….” and not, to me eternal disappointment, an Alan Partridge inspired healthy cake range.
So, for your delectation, I have listed some of my favourite entries below. A sort of Hall of Fame for running shoe linguistical diarrhoea (with accompanying translations). Enjoy.
Impact Guidance System®: “design philosophy that employs linked componentry….”
Translation: The front of the shoe is connected to the back of the shoe (which is useful).
Clutch Counter: “Exoskeletaleel counter provides improved support and creates improved heel fitting environment”.
Counting clutches? Exoskeletal?
Translation: They should fit.
Guidance Line® and Guidance Trusstic System Technology®: “integrates Guidance construction for enhanced gait efficiency while providing midfoot structural integrity”. 
Guidance lines? Trusstics?
Translation: They have decent support.
Light AHAR Sponge: “A blown AHAR rubber outsole material with high abrasion-resistant qualities for added durability”.
Translation: They’ll last longer than most.
SpEva & SuperSpEva: “…balloon-like polymers quickly recover their shape to be ready to absorb the impact”
Translation: They are bouncy.
Early Stage Meta-Rocker:” … Specifically designed with a low heel-toe differential and a sculpted outsole like a rocking chair, to encourage a guided gait cycle
Translation: They are quite round under foot.
“DNA LOFT Cushioning:” … extends throughout the midsole for an even smoother transition from heel to toe
DNA Loft?
Translation: They have decent padding from back to front.
“BioMoGo DNA:” … an adaptive midsole material that blends BioMoGo and Brooks DNA to create dynamic cushioning.
Translation: They have decent cushioning.
The Small Print
Before embarking on any new training/exercise regimen or nutritional plan you should always consult your physician or other healthcare provider.
Any training plans/advice heeded to in this newsletter or on are done so at your own risk.
Images Used
Images issued via a CC BY 2.0 license.
  1. “Mumbai Marathon -011” by through my eyes only is licensed with CC BY 2.0. To view a copy of this license, visit
  2. “Young blonde woman running on a treadmill in the gym” by shixart1985 is licensed with CC BY 2.0. To view a copy of this license, visit
  3. “Worn Out” by cogdogblog is licensed under CC BY 2.0
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By Matt

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