Today we’re going to dive into a moderate-intensity interval method called Tempo Intervals.
Despite the fact that very few people know about them, Tempo Intervals have been around a long time. They were originally popularized in the track and field world by a world-renowned coach named Charlie Francis in the 1980’s.
So, why would a track coach training some of the fastest athletes on the planet use a relatively low speed, moderate-intensity interval on a weekly basis with all of his sprinters?
Simple: He wasn’t using Tempo Intervals to increase speed, he was using them to increase recovery.
And anyone can enjoy the benefits of Tempo Intervals—especially when you do them the day after a high intensity workout—which include things like:
- Feeling less tired and sore after a workout
- Being able to train at higher volumes without overtraining
- Decreased rates of lower body injuries
- Reduced soreness and improved mobility
How do tempo intervals work?
The main reason tempo intervals are an effective way to promote recovery is precisely because they are done at a moderate intensity.
This is the sweet spot because it allows you to recruit higher threshold muscle fibers than you would at lower intensities, but they don’t lead to the same level of stress and fatigue as higher intensities.
By hitting this middle ground, they drive blood flow and oxygen to promote recovery, while helping to build your general aerobic fitness at the same time.
The key to doing tempo intervals
The basics of a Tempo Interval are to do 10 seconds of work at a moderate intensity, followed by 60 seconds of active recovery. Then repeat for a total of 10-20 minutes.
The key to doing them properly is the intensity, and this is where most people get them wrong:
Too much intensity, and they can actually slow down recovery.
Too little intensity, on the other hand, and they just aren’t effective.
Aim for about 70% of your max level of exertion during the work intervals, and you’ll be right on target.
If you aren’t sure what 70% feels like, the best way to find out is to start with an exercise where you can measure how far you can go in 10 seconds. Start with a max effort test, and then shoot for about 70^% of that distance when you’re doing tempo intervals.
Another good guideline is that you should be able to cover the same distance in your last rep as you did in your first rep. In other words, if you’re slowing down as you’re doing them, then the intensity is too high.
On most days, the majority of the intervals should be in the blue zone.
What kind of exercises should you use?
Part of the beauty of this method is how extremely versatile it is.
From battle ropes to med ball throws, to jumping rope, and everything in between, you can use just about any exercise that will allow you to reach that 70% max exertion mark.
Once you get a feel for what 70% feels like, it’s easy to hit this target in a variety of exercises.
How often should you do them?
How often you should do Tempo Intervals depends on your recovery each day and your program. These are perfect for your blue workout days for either the 2/2/2 or 1/2/3 model we talked about in the Train, Recover, Repeat lesson. They can also be used during the warm up on your green or red days.
It’s particularly useful to do this type of training when Morpheus shows your recovery score dropping below 80% as they can help boost it back up as part of a recovery workout.