"Chronic Hamstring Problems in Sprinters: Management and Recovery"

An article for Freelap by Jason S. Davis, states this about tempo and those with chronic hamstring pain:

Workouts to Enhance Recovery Performing low-intensity workouts between high-intensity speed training or competition such as tempo may seem like a good idea on the surface. However, I would question the rationale behind this approach, especially with an athlete suffering chronic pain. Firstly, the intensity is relative to the degree of effort, so a workout of 10 x 100m at 75% of top speed may feel like a low-intensity session one week, but performed following a high-intensity session can become moderate to high intensity regarding effort that is the real measure of intensity. For an athlete with chronic pain, rather than providing recovery these sessions gradually create more irritation as well as slowing the rate of neuromuscular output. I would recommend that for an athlete with chronic soreness, that more days of complete rest be implemented and resist the temptation for too much active recovery. The risk of too much low intensity is that the overall ability to produce high intensity may become reduced. The rationale behind recovery sessions and tempo are that it will increase blood flow to the area and provide a gentle stimulus to the muscles to stimulate recovery and beneficial cardiovascular changes to provide better recovery systems over time, more so than high-intensity sprint training and competition can. However, there is no strong evidence that recovery can be improved this way (other than restricting intensity) or that long term adaptations will occur to enhance recovery systems. I would suggest that the main effect on some athletes may be psychological.


I would disagree simply because he talks about 75% of top speed. How is he measuring this? He is saying it would turn into med/high intensity workout. Well the whole meaning of tempo is the 75% of the BEST you have on that day w/ it being on grass/flats.

Part of the issue is what, exactly, is your best performance for a day following a workout that is not the 1X100 you might be doing on day 1 of a championship meet? How does the day following 6X60 compare to 80+100+120 or 2X150? And if you go by 65-75% of best performance, you might actually be in the 80-90% for the actual day following a hard workout.

Also, as the author mentioned, there is little or no citation evidence of tempo following workout benefiting performance. I know that Charlie talked about heating and blood flow, but I’ve not seen citation evidence of that either, and I have searched for it. This is one paper talking about active recovery within a swimming workout where active recovery may reduce measured physiology markers such as blood lactate, but it makes performance worse:


The article makes 3 fundamental points that will be controversial to many people here.

  1. The way brain feedback influences performance during recovery from injury. My attempt to paraphrase, is the that the brain reduces the allowed level of running intensity during chronic long term injury beyond the apparent life of the the injury itself.
  2. Tempo is of no benefit at any time - including it`s use during injury recovery.
  3. Total rest from running during recovery is better than easy/tempo running. Although author supports leg strength lifting work such as deadlifts.

So whilst there are valid observations (above) about what level of tempo intensity should be adopted during recovery running, the above points are far more fundamental. The author proposes all of thees points as interlinked so to support his approach you need to agree with all the above points. Which is where many will disagree …

My feeling is that tempo running is important not so much for recover as it is for adding volume. My performance has always suffered when cutting out tempo running due to Achilles tendinopathy, and I think that’s because I was left with only about 1500m of running (including warmups) per week when doing so. I’m now experimenting with running in chest deep water for tempo and am using a nine-day microcycle of three high and two low (water running) intensity workout every nine days. This means I’m only running on land every third day. So far it seems to be working well, but we’ll have to see what the long-term results are.

Author of the article can quote a lack of studies proving the benefits of tempo - but many sucessful athletes from recreational to international have regularly used tempo.
The same way that many have used tempo for hamstring recovery. I particularly like the stepped model explained by a number of users of this forum. Starting at say 10x20m and stepping up to the normal say 10x100m.

Scientific proof of one conflicting training model (or even recovery modality) versus another is hard to validate - the opposite can often be supported by other studies or real life experience.

Do you build up to 10 mile runs in the fall as a way to build endurance for sprinting? A bunch of people with Bud Winter did that, and they were very successful. I could say the same thing about static stretching (holding stretches) and more modern “core training”, and for both of these there is to my knowledge no evidence that a peer review would accept suggesting that these are successful, although there are plenty of successful coaches that (still) believe in them.

Since the subject of the article is chronic hamstring pain, to suggest using tempo as a viable recovery technique you would need to supply evidence that recovery using tempo is improved over rest. Where is that evidence, and if there isn’t such evidence, why would a rational person do this?

Suggesting that extensive tempo has use in GPP building conditioning/work capacity is different from saying that doing it in late season will improve recovery.

Low intensity recovery work is suggested by many rational people on this board. Did they peer review - I have no idea. Tempo does not have to be running, pool and bike work are accepted methods that some will find less stressful.
The key point for me is how long a period of total rest should be adopted before beginning low intensity work. And I disagree with the extended period proposed in this article.
From limited personal experience I believe it is early return to speed work that impedes recovery - not low intensity work.

I did not mention the validity of 10 mile runs, static stretching or core work so why are you raising them ?
BTW I would not recommend 10 mile runs on the basis that the successful results are in a small minority of athletes. I guess there is a lack of sprinters interested in testing long endurance runs in order to develop a statistically significant comparison of 10 mile runs versus tempo.


I agree they are different situations and did not say otherwise. I also believe tempo is valid in both different situations.

Some very thoughtful responses here guys. I like it.

I thought the article had very little to do with what I know, have practiced, taught and been taught.

Just read the entire article. Some useful information there. Looked at the author’s profile and realised I used to study and gym with him.

I am not sure you will get the results with chest deep water the same way you will with shoulder height deep water. Chest deep water will still put a fair bit of load on your calves and feet. You really need to float and ideally have a belt so all your energy is not for floating but for running.

Sorry, you’re right, shoulder height is probably a better description of what I’m using. The water reaches roughly to my clavicles. I’m touching the floor but with minimal impact. I do high knees alternating with something akin to a straight leg running drill to ensure all the muscles involved in running above the knee are engaged.