Intensive Tempo

Hello Charlie I spoken to several coaches/athletes on the forum about the value of intensive tempo and I know you have touched on this topic in the key concept manual. I would like to get your thoughts on intensive tempo work in GPP and the value it may have for a lower level sprinter.

Sample Week:
Mon/Fri: Speed
Wed: Intensive tempo 6x200>6x180>6x150’s etc
Tue/Thur: Ext tempo
Sat: Regeneration

Could be used briefly as a lead in to SE but other than that, I don’t like it as I’ve said many times before.
Despite story after story of athletes who’ve been trashed doing it, it keeps coming back.

Yes, I understand in the Key Concepts manual you mention to keep it around 4 weeks tops. Correct me if I am wrong but I think intensive could be useful for the following reasons:

1: Intensive tempo is a great technique tool.

2: Allows the athlete to get some upright running early in gpp.

3: Athletes who will be indoors from Nov-April it allows them to get some longer work done before being shut indoors for many months.

If I was to use intensive tempo late GPP would you recommend to drop a speed day or could the setup below fit the bill?


Sorry for off tracking a bit, but if you were aiming to do your GPP on grass, wouldnt you naturally be forced to do the intensive tempo on the track?
And at what stage of the GPP do you add in the intensive tempo?

I would do the intensive tempo on the track, starting at week 3 or 4. I don’t see a problem performing intensive tempo from week 1 but it may be easier with a three week ext tempo period.

1: Intensive tempo would not be a good technique tool IMO because it’s too slow to get fully up into a good running position, is too long to give adequate opportunities for correction and is executed in a state of incomplete recovery (see GPP download for technique work in the early stages)
2: See point 1.
3: As you point out, these are done on the track so you have extended the volume of track work in the year, magnifying the chances for lower leg stress injuries as the indoor period goes on.


Would you not classify the Bolt workouts that PJ posted earlier this year intensive tempo?


6x180 in 20.5 w/ 6 minutes rest


2x [300, 180, 150]

6min break is significant. I’d call that controlled speed work. Guess it depends how you define things. We did 6 x 150 with a 250 slow walkaround (maybe 4min br) as easy speed work at times, either to replace a faster planned session or as a means of recovery.
It would also depend on the timing in the week. Often intensive tempo occurs between speed sessions rather than in place of one of them- that may be where the difficulty lies.
Does anyone know what bookends Bolt’s sessions as above? (Day before and after)

Those were two consecutive days. With the 6x180 session before the 2x[300, 180, 150] session. There is a thread with the times, but the 2nd session was something like 35, 19, 16 with moderate rest periods.

I just got some info on a Mon session this week after Paris where the break between the first two 150s was 2 min and then spread out from there but not very far (I think the pace was 17sec but I accidently erased the message), anyway, apparently all were feeling it, including Bolt.
(Would the first two 150s be like a split run 300?)
If the sessions are back to back this way, how should we classify them? After the output in Paris, would a normal output speed session even be an option so soon?
I also remember a discussion about the 300,180,150 session being normally one set but two sets as a stimulus towards a meet. How far out? Are weights still being done? If so, when?
Gerrard Mach had similar sessions for 400m (classified as split runs) but broken up by start work and plyos/weights on the days between.
In any event, it would be good to follow a week’s work to see how it is laid out into the London meet.

Most of my intensive tempo work may be done on grass. The 8x60m hills on week 7 wouldn’t be considered intensive work?

Isnt it difficult to run a bend on the inside field?

Do you know what the total volume in that workout on monday was?

Do 80-120yds…

Get a bigger field.

If intensive tempo was to be done on Saturday (with speed work on M-W-F), the surface would be an aspect to consider in my opinion. Although such a set up with hill work is quite stressful, the latter multiplies, if intensive tempo is to be done on track.

Also, if the 8x60s on a hill are to be done with full recovery, they would probably count as SE. Others?

I also remember a discussion about the 300,180,150 session being normally one set but two sets as a stimulus towards a meet. How far out? Are weights still being done? If so, when?

Very good questions. Wouldn’t you think that two sets during this period would be a bit too much?

Charlie, if we had to stick with two sets so close to major meets, and considering from the given times Bolt was doing them in something like just under 90% would you consider doing two sets something like;

  • 300m - accel. 30m hold this pace to 240m mark with a strong finish over the last 60m. The same approach would be applied to 180m and 150m rather than run all 6 reps at around 90% so close to competition?


I am having a problem grasping what exactly is intensive tempo then. There are a lot of programs that have significant volumes of “controlled speed work” throughout the year and I have always considered it intensive tempo. There is an issue with vernacular here since intensive tempo can be everything from the example workouts (6x180 with 6 minutes rest @ about 90%) to 6x200 @ 90% with 2-3 minutes. The latter example is much less controlled because of the fatigue generated and likely breakdown in form, but not much is different than a bit extended rest periods and the first is certainly nothing close to >95%. The same would go for the 2x(300, 180, 150). Even if you want to say it is going from a volume perspective, it is the day after a “controlled speed session” and still below the 95% guidelines we’ve seen–pretty much around 85-90%, albeit with good rests.

I have seen terrible things from intensive tempo, but also good things. It is all about how it is implemented. I think there has to be some clarification I guess because it seems like there are a LOT of successful programs–the programs of the 3 fastest men in the world right now-- (and Charlie’s too apparently?) that has significant work below 95% of one’s best, but above 80 to 85% as well. I guess the key here would be to do the work with significant recoveries versus short recoveries and count it as a high intensity day versus a recovery or easy day. Thoughts?

I guess my feeling would be to use work above 80% as part of a speed day, whatever you want to call it. Another issue is- intensive tempo or split-run? Is 3 x (3 x 200 with 2min break) with 7 min between intensive tempo or 3 fast split-run 600s??
Regardless, we need to look at what is done.

RB34 and I have been discussing this in private the past few days.

My thinking is that there is definitely different interpretations of not only intensive tempo but the word tempo in general depending on what coach/camp we might be discussing.

In the context of the discussion that has transpired thus far, I think it’s clear that any way you slice it- intensive tempo characterizes runs in the middle intensity zone +75 and <95

As a result, as I conveyed to RB34, there’s no question in my mind that if it is to be rationalized in the training it must be performed on a high intensive day.

From a physiological standpoint, this type of work is very similar to special endurance in terms of the adaptive reserves it pulls from; so plan accordingly.