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Why Your Training Should Combine the Tempo Run & Long Run

By Andy Potts, Ironman Champion & Pro Triathlete

tempo run

The Long Run, The Tempo Run…Both? 

For marathoners and triathletes, the long run is a staple in their training regimen. It is one of the workouts that I get ‘pumped’ up for every week. For most recreational marathoners and triathletes, the approach for this workout usually involves a series of progressive builds of distance or time over the course of the year. And while I take a similar approach in some regards, I also differ greatly in others. The key for the long run for myself and what I suggest for a lot of athletes, specifically triathletes, is to combine your long run and your tempo run; which makes it the Long Tempo.

Now, let me explain a little bit of the why, the what, and everything else you need to think about if you take this approach.

Why Combine the Long Run and the Tempo Run?


A key reason is time. In a triathlete, and even a busy marathoner’s schedule, you have a lot of workouts to fit into your schedule. By combining these workouts, you can maximize your time.


When we race, we are in essence doing a version of a tempo run. Why wouldn’t you train your body for that. By training based on the demands of racing, you are training your body and your mind to race.


Say what? Yes- recovery. If you were to break up your running each week into a series of runs that included 1-2 easier runs, 1 tempo run, 1 track/speed/efficiency based workout, 1 long run and 1 tempo run; you would have to plan for recovery for at least 3 workouts (track, tempo, long). That leaves little time for your key bike and swim workouts too. Granted, hooking yourself up to the Marc Pro for a few hours after each workout can help a lot, it still puts too great of a demand on your body (and mind).

tempo run

How do I Combine the Long Run and the Tempo Run?

Be Ready

You should already have some longer runs (steady state, easier effort) and some tempo runs of shorter distances logged. Like anything, you cannot start week 1 going out full throttle.

Plan Accordingly

I always back up my long tempo run days with a day completely off or a really short and easy swim. By giving your body a day of recovery, you can come back to train at full force. Consistency over time is the #1 key to success in your training. On my day off, I used to get a massage or get some body work done but I found it left me more tired and sore. So now, I typically plan for at least 4 hours of Marc Pro usage and it usually turns into 8+ as I use it when doing dishes, watching football/sports, doing paperwork, or pretty much anything. I also make sure I am eating well balanced meals to help get the proper nutrients in my body.

Not Every Week

While long tempo runs are really effective training tools, your body cannot handle the demands of these week in and week out for countless weeks on end. I typically assign our athletes about 3-5 weeks of these runs in a row and then we change the stimulus for a week or two. Dependent on how the athlete responds, we will probably come back to these runs, but we always break them up over time.

A Sample Workout for a 70.3 Distance Racer:

tempo run


10-15 minutes of an easy build to mid range z2

PS: (Primer Set)


:30 strides (open it up)

:30 easy cruise



2 miles or 15 minutes @ tempo; right into

4x 400 @ tempo pace minus :08/mile; r = :30


10-15 minutes of easy cruising and stretch

A Quick Note

For zones (z1-z5 or tempo); I typically go by Perceived Effort for WU/PS/CD and then use Pace or Power for the tempo work. If you want to know more about zones and why I use these methods, check out these two articles:

Setting your Training Zones

Training Methodology and the Golden Triangle

What Else you Need to Know

The Tempo Long Run can come in a lot of different forms varying from interval-based work like I described above to steady state running.  The tempo or ‘work’ part of these workouts can get up to being about 85% of the entire workout or the distance you will cover in a race. It is really demanding, but if you follow some basic recovery protocols (rest/sleep, Marc Pro, balanced nutrition) and progressively build the training load, you will be well on your way to setting personal bests.

Let me help you: If you need more help with this type of workout, or with any of your training, I am happy to help. Come over to AP Racing and check out all of the coaching and training/camp experiences we offer.

Now get out there and #getsome!