Too slow for tempo?

I’m an 800m runner (I run 400m and 1500m as well, not particularly well though). I’ve been trying to find ways of making tempo more challenging without making it more intense. A month or so ago I was pretty much as high as I wanted to go as far as total volume. I experimented with longer reps and found 150’s worked well, but anything longer than that was a little too close to what I do on the track. Not to mention the only grass I have availabe is soccer and football fields.

What I am doing now is a combining of tempo runs and low-intensity bodyweight exercises. I have read Charlie mention something similar using push-ups and situps between reps. I am doing all sorts of different exercises. .A lot of Dan Pfaff/Loren Seagraves stuff, plus a lot of CF core exercises. I’m not just doing the exercises blindly, I choose them based on my needs, so that’s not a problem. Basically I’ll run 100m, do a few exercises, run back, and repeat. There’s no actual rest, the exercises are recovery from the runs, and the runs are recovery from the exercises. I get about 5000m in, the workouts take an hour. I’ve found that my times are much slower than they have been doing the runs separately. Previously I was at 17-18 for 100m now I’m around 21-22 seconds. I don’t feel overly tired at all. I’m feeling better after these workouts than doing the running then the exercises. Is this too slow to be of much benefit, for someone capable of 11 sec for 100m.

One possible benefit I thought of is that it widens the gap between my track work and tempo. Also the runs being so slow will make them more aerobic in nature.

What are your times for 400, 800 and 1500 ?
And what other aerobic work do you do ?

That will give an idea of where your strengths and weaknesses are.

From your post you don`t seem to do the aerobic work expected of an 800/1500 runner.

11 sec 100 for a 800/1500 guy is pretty impressive especially at 230lbs :D! What do you run 800/1500 in?

My understanding of tempo (and the way I have my athletes do it) is that it is going to be hard but not in the 400m sense. You should stay away from lactic. If you are getting it from the runs they are too fast. It’s uses are general conditioning and recovery. I use PU/SU circuits like you describe and they are great for general conditioning.

I think you need to ask why is this in your training programme? Does 5000m of tempo add something or is it taking away? Does it need to be more difficult? Does it help you recover or improve your general conditioning or both and which one do you need most at this point in the season?

I’m not going to provide answers because I don’t know that much about middle distance training. Just trying to make you think. Hope it helps.

The slowest work i did working for 800m training was 70sec 400m speed.
150’s are way to small a distance for success in 800m training.
Try upping up to 400m work, same pace as your 17-18sec 100m efforts as your tempo days. i got up to 20x400 in 70sec, no lactic. general was 10x400m. off season work only though… were abouts in the season are you now??

I haven’t ran any mileage in months. I do this type of workout foremost because I enjoy it. It’s my thought that my aerobic system won’t distinguish between a long conntinuous run or a tempo/general strength workout of the same intensity/duration. My resting pulse has actually decreased compared to back when I did more continuous runs.

I had been doing lots of 400’s on the track, but am backing down now at this point.
The most I got up to was 10 @ 65-70 with 2 minutes rest. My last session was 6x150? ( middle of the curve from lane 8, is that 150?) in 17-18 with walkback recovery. I’m mainly using these tempo days as general/aerobic conditioning. I can easily recover though because most of the workload is shifted away from the drive muscles.

MY PR’s are 800m in 1:54 and 4:25 for 1500m.

I’ve done a few races this summer, but my next “race” is a try-out for my college’s team, at the end of August. I’ll make the team no problem, but I want to see what I can do and have an impressive showing. After that it’ll be a few weeks before actual practice begins, and I’ll start my GPP. From the way I perfomed those 150’s I am perhaps considering specializing in 400m. I hadn’t really done much specific 400m work in a while, and I can definitely feel the improvement in strength and power I’ve made since last year. I felt like an actual sprinter as opposed to a distance runner trying to sprint.

What I was really trying to ask is doing tempo around 50% going to have any negative effects.

if you are training for an 800m, steer away from those 1hr runs and crap, do what you are doing with the tempo instead, its much better. So long as its used as a recovery day between hard sessions and not as a session in itself. What are your “sessions”?

On what type of surface are you going your tempo runs? Don’t forget that if you’re doing them on grass with flats, you need to add about 1-2 seconds (depending on surface conditions) to your best 100m time. So your 50% may actually closer to 60%, all thing being equal.

I do most of my tempo on grass in the 19-20s range, and find that is the perfect pace for me in terms of recovery. I used to do them in 17-18s, but found that it felt more like a workout than recovery after 20 reps.

Good Luck!!

I do them barefoot on grass. One of the biggest benefits I’ve seen is in my lower leg/foot strength. I used to have terrible pain everywhere arch, heel, shin, achilles, now I have none, absolurely zero. For that alone I feel tempo is superior.

Typically I’ll do two track workouts a week. Early in the season I would do one 800m and one 1500m. I would do some acceleration work before these workouts. I started with 300’s for 1500m and 100’s and 150’s. I lengthened the runs until I was at 600m for 1500m pace and 300’s for 800m pace. Now I’ve dropped the 1500m work and added a 400m pace workout (preceded by a longer [ as in more reps] accel workout, than the slower stuff, and some introductory MaxV work. I rarely take days off, and I’ll do tempo two days in a row between workouts. I had terrible soreness in my hams from my first 400m workout, but felt fine running tempo the next day.

Also I failed to consider how gentle I accelerate/decelerate, because there is still a touch of dew on the grass even at 9AM. I appreciate all the input.

consider increasing your shorter efforts speed. ie, your doing 600m at race pace for 1500m, consider doing them faster than that, say 1k pace. your doing 300’s at 800m race pace, they should be flat stick. for an 800m is speed with endurance, not just endurance. never stay too far away from full speed work. Seb coe recomends for (top) level 800m guys to run, 200m - 22.6 400m - 46.5 and be able to run a decient 1500m. Seems your speed is ok, yet 1500m is pretty ordinary!!!
of your best 200m double and add 4sec, should be 400m time
of your 400m time, add 4sec then double, should be 800m time
then you know your strengths and weakness, now you know what to aim for in trianing!!!

Ever heard of Peter Snell and Arthur Lyddiard ?

Please not this argument. The 800m can be approached either way. It depends on the athlete, their goals, their strengths, weaknesses, etc…

Tempo provides plenty of aerobic development. Especially when doing a high volume.


For an 800/1500 runner it is a valid argument and does not go away.

Depends whether the runner wants to be a 400 type or an 800/1500 type.
If you look at Coe`s training he did nothing like tempo. His aerobic development was based on steady state runs and higher level aerobic capacity runs (efforts at 3k/5k pace for say 800m). His sustained speed came from multi pace theory of running 200/300 efforts. Flat out speed from 100s.

I have never heard of a single top middle distannce guy running tempo as described in CFTS - can you name any compared to the Coe or Lyddiard ends of the spectrum ?

Tempo is proven as regeneration and medium level aerobic development for sprinters - I would not suggest anything else.
But it does not hit the mark for middle distance runners.

i went to the australian institute of sport where they go on a lot about running long efforts, 2k, 5k, 10k, 1hr, 1.5hr. it, compared to doing tempo runs, (not easy tempo like sprinters do-talking 400’s) was totally usless for me. i got slower, was run into the ground, joints got sore. Doing hard 400’s tempo, produced sore muscles but darn excelant results. The local roadrunners group also do the longer is better crap. i never got close to running fast (5k) doing that. as soon as i went to 400 work for aerobic instead, within 2mnths my 5k improved 2min!!! Training for 800m, i could run 10k in 31.5min.
i had the best season ever, the next season was misdirected but still just as good, then i went to the institute of sport and it was all down hill… still training for 800m, my 10k slowed to around 36min. Let alone my fast speed.
Nobody at the australian institute of sport whilst i was there ran any good for an 800m, 1 guy ran alright, but he was disapointed as he thought he too should have been running faster compared to the last yr…
Only 1 guy ran good ie, Oly qualifing time from there, but he had his own coach, and he ran a lot of training like i used to, 200’s, 400’s ect. he did his long runs, but like i used to, keeped it like once per wk or so.
I have never come axcross personally anybody who has done anygood basing there training on long long runs, on any distance.
Seb coe used long runs, but it was only like 1/4 of his training during off season and it seemed to work for him. Peter snell, worked for him.
NOt saying dont give it a go, try it, if it dont show results like you expect after 6mnths, stop wasting time. Tempo workouts will produce better results from my experience. As i have said, nobody i seen done any good doing long long efforts, on any distance.

Having a number of kids over the years on my track teams go up to 800 while training with our sprinters, the longest they would run during the week was around 500-600m(this after working up from maybe 2-3 300m over many weeks) maybe twice while the other days involved ext. tempo volumes of around 3500m to 4000m performed just as CF reccomends them, complete with the core and mb work. Once to twice a week the would perform true speed work 20-60m sprints.
The primary difference between what my 100m and 800m people would do in practice was 1) the tempo volumes for the 100m people ranged from 2000m to 2400m while the 800m people, as mentioned earlier, would go from 3500 to 4000m and 2) the special endurance work for the 100m people might go out to between 200-300m whereas the 800 people would run between 200m to 600m fast, 2-3x.
With this CF influenced approach our fastest boy ran 1:54.5 open and a 4x4 split of 49.7 and our fastest girl ran 2:16.78 open and a 4x4 split of 58.6.
What I most like about this approach besides pretty good results is that 1) I believe that their legs stay fresher throughout the season-not just at the end where most everyone will taper 2)their speed is better and sharper throughout the season due of course mostly to the fact that they are actually performing true speed sessions and not distance runners standard “speed” sessions which are of course intensive tempo workouts and there is true active recovery sessions built in to program 3)The kids know that there are relatively easy days built in so they can relax and not try to bust it every day-great for your head knowing they get to relax a bit from high intensity and stress and 4)we are able to avoid many nagging injuries that plague so many involved in constant int. tempo work by not having to push it. I think of in terms of going to the bank if you make a withdrawal every day(hard-high cns stress activities) the days you want to get the most money out of the bank(race day) the money just won’t be there. The better and more effective that your cns days are the better for the body the capacity to hold the money-without these days there would be no room for the money. The recovery days are the deposit days. If there are no or little deposit days, on the race day there is nothing to get out. Pretty elementary or maybe an oversimplification but I llke it.


2 mins off a 5K time and a time of 31 mins for 10k is damm good, this is working !

What was your 400m tempo protocol ? Was it at 65-70% of max speed (as per CFTS), what recovery and how many reps ? Did you ever do any heart rate percentage checks.

The fact this approach was not used by the Coe or Lyddiard ends of the spectrum does not mean it is invalid (as I questioned). Maybe I have just never seen anyone quote it before ! Also, if it is a CF approach (from sprinting) it may be that endurance guys have never picked up on it before.

During the off season, i worked a base like this, figured a good 5klm time, that i could not currently do, yet was achievable say 15min, divided by 400m efforts = 72sec. I rounded that down to 70s. each effort had to be 70s. 1sec faster then i had 1sec up my sleave for the next one. If the pace slowed say a 72s and i was struggling, then the next effort was to maintain 70sec pace untill i slowed, at which point i stopped… so, 3.5reps or 5.5 reps or 6reps and 300mtrs was normal. Recovery was same as effort, so a 70s effort = 70s recovery. This was also very looked at, recovery was not 75 or 80, it was 70. you can recover a lot in 10sec, hence taking away from what you are trying to achieve, exhaustion. Generally i worked up to 12.5reps which is 5k. but once i did 20…
This is a very aerobic seasion, is very goal orientated and pace you gain is 2nd to none.
as the season gets closer, you can drop reps and increase speed, keeping away from lactic acid.
the other 400m work also done, was flat stick 400m. max recovery. Just like charlie was saying for his 250’s or 300’s, but done for 400m or 500m or 600m. Typically 4x300m or 3x400m or 2x500m or 1x600m.
i could never understand doing long runs why i was not getting faster quick. i was putting in the klms yet was still fairly slow. Not untill i devised this plan of models such as charlies or the guy who trained the australian record holder for 800m, which is like 30yrs+ old and world record at the time did i realise where i was going wrong.

You could argue that (for stuff like 1500m training) the reason why Lydiard style training ‘works’ is not because the LSD work makes you faster but because it builds up your work capacity through autumn and winter. Then when you come to spring and approach race season, because you have a good work capacity you can do shedloads of high intensity work and that is what makes you fast. LSD is not training to go fast, it’s training to be able to train properly. Certainly if you only do LSD work, you will not go fast.


The argument for the base period of the Lyddiard approach is that high mileage at a moderate pace develops the size of the heart and increases the volume of blood capillaries. Thereby increasing aerobic capacity.

This is followed by hill training to increase leg muscle strength.
Looking at the hill springing included in this phase it sounds like plyometrics. Perhaps that was not a term used 40 years ago !

The sharpening period of wind sprints were 80-100m sprints to develop max speed.

They are the main phases and the theory behind them.

What he did not favour was high volumes of lactic producing intervals. Considering that the key factor for middle and long distance was aerobic condition, with leg strength and low volume of high speed added on top (he described it as icing on the cake).

The main difference between his approach and the Coe method was that Coe favoured lower mileage (less of a base period) and more race pace specific intervals. So did Roger Bannister of course. Coe also did more supplemental weights and circuits. On the other hand there is a whole bunch of Africans that run high mileages, never go near a gym etc.

Which goes to prove there is probably not a single right answer.