Tag Archives: tempo run

Trying to Run Fast and Eat Slow

The goodness that came in the mail today:


I’ve already made and tried the Superhero Muffins (delicious!), and the Banana Spelt Bread is cooling and ready for breakfast tomorrow.  I’ve wanted this cookbook since before it was released this summer, but made myself wait until my birthday to get it. I highly recommend Run Fast Eat Slow if you like good food that also happens to be healthy and nourishing. There is a good mix of drinks (smoothies, tea lattes, etc.), snacks, salads and light meals, main entrees, and treats. And that’s not all! I sound like an infomercial. Seriously though, every recipe looks awesome.

On the workout front, I’ve been keeping up with my normal running routine, although I’ve subbed in a track workout every other week in place of my tempo run. I think it’s super important to have one faster or challenging workout per week.  Although I take some time off a couple times of year from all speed work (usually after my December half marathon and after the end of the local racing season), for most of the year I include a tempo run in my weekly schedule. My 5k times have improved with just a weekly tempo run, and I think tempo workouts have an even greater impact on longer races – the 5 mile, 10k and half marathon.

During and just before my racing season, I will substitute a track workout for a tempo run every other week. I like doing 5k paced track workouts because my coach makes makes me do them they help me to lock in my pace during a 5k race, give me confidence that I can run fast, and also help me to get faster. However, as Bill likes to say, “the track giveth and the track taketh away.” My body (especially my feet) take a beating from the combination of regular track workouts and races. So I try to limit my time on the track to key times during the year.

“The track giveth and the track taketh away.”

Racing! Although I missed the first race in the local series this year (we were in Chicago in August), I was able to run the September race which was the Rock N Run 5k in Casselberry. I’ve always liked this race, mostly because there are no brick streets. I ran a 21:37 (6:57 pace) which I was very happy with. Four seconds faster than last year’s race, and my new PR for chipped races. I am also now fairly convinced that I did not run a 21:29 at the July race, as I used the mile marker clocks during the Rock N Run to estimate the distance I ran before I started my watch at the July race. I’m pretty sure it was a bit longer than the two seconds I previously estimated. Obsess much?

The splits for miles 1-3 are  actually slightly faster than each of those splits during the July race. That’s something!

My last bit of workout news is that I’m back on the strengthening train again. Twice a week for the past month. For real. I’ve started doing the workouts at the gym instead of at home and it’s made a big difference for me in terms of convenience, liking it more, and making it a more challenging workout. There is a lot more space, and all of the equipment I need is there – a better variety of weights for different exercises, a step to elevate my legs for some of the abdominal work and an exercise ball that is not half deflated (or my kids’ hopping ball with a handle on the top of it, also half deflated). The best part is, I discovered that I actually kind of like going to the gym. So that’s been kind of fun to discover. Oh, and I’m getting stronger. My planks have gotten longer and my single leg squats are so much easier than they used to be. I need to figure out how to go lower without hurting my knees or add some weights next time. Progress! I guess some consistency in strength training actually makes you stronger. Weird.

Ok, that’s enough for now. Bill’s sofrito chicken and arroz con gandules have been simmering for the last 90 minutes and everything smells so good. I can’t wait to scrape the overcooked rice from the bottom of the pot. Does anyone else do that? It’s the best part!

Which do you prefer, track workouts or tempo workouts?

Favorite strengthening exercise?

Favorite cookbook or recipe source?

Give me a drink

The bad news about racing faster is that it means your workouts get harder. It’s really unfair when you think about it. You push yourself and persevere while simultaneously wondering why you find racing even remotely fun. Then you get a PR. Yay! You ride the high for a day or two. Before you know it your next workout day is up, which isn’t great to begin with, and then you realize you have to go even faster now to keep up with your training. So that’s awesome.

But what's really awesome? This view on a recent run at the beach.
But what’s really awesome? This view on a recent run at the beach.

So my tempo run yesterday. It wasn’t even that my three miles were  much faster than they had been, if at all. It’s that they were supposed to be faster which tricked me mentally into thinking that it felt much harder. Let’s not even discuss the two cool down miles afterward that lasted at least forty minutes.

Tempo Wednesday
Tempo Wednesday

But I digress. The main point of my post today is to declare to the world I mean my two readers that I’m going to work very hard to give up Powerade Zero. It’s embarrassing that I even drink it at all. For the most part, I eat whole foods. Bill and I cook a lot at home. I don’t buy much packaged processed food. Our favorite friends are the ones who like to hang out at each other’s houses and cook and eat good food. I gave up pop (Midwest strong!) two years ago. I stopped chewing gum this year. I care about things like soy protein isolate and BPA in canned beans. Why the heck am I still drinking Powerade Zero nearly every day?

Stir fried veggies with rice and peanut sauce? Yes please. Even if it's on a bench at a softball game.
Stir fried veggies with rice and peanut sauce? Yes please. Even if it’s on a bench at a softball game.


I think I originally got into electrolyte drinks after an annual physical with my doctor a few years ago. He expressed some concern that with my naturally low blood pressure, getting even minimally dehydrated during my summer runs could put me at risk for fainting and other negative side effects of low blood pressure (nausea, dizziness, weakness, fatigue). He encouraged me to drink daily electrolyte drinks to help prevent dehydration and keep everything running smoothly.

Know what else helps you to run smoothly? This view.
Know what else helps you to run smoothly? This view.

That made sense to me, especially since I had experienced all of the symptoms of low blood pressure and dehydration after my summer runs. Since I needed only electrolytes and not fuel, I wanted to avoid sugar water based drinks. I tried the drinks advertised as more “natural” without sugar, chemicals, artificial colors and flavors, and drank them almost exclusively for a year. The taste of stevia doesn’t bother me, but my stomach doesn’t love it. Plus, the more I read about it, the more I became convinced that stevia is not nearly as well researched as other artificial sweeteners, and while it enjoys a campaign involving words like “clean” and “natural” there is not much long term research regarding its long term health effects.

Long term health right here.
Long term health right here.

So last summer while we were at the beach (the day before the first Track Shack series race) I picked up some Powerade Zero at Publix because it was convenient and I wanted to make sure I was fully hydrated for the race. It was delicious. And easy. I ran a great race and I logically concluded it was because of the Powerade.

I mean really
I mean really

Over the last year, I’ve been drinking way more Powerade than I need, and I’ve realized that my water consumption has drastically decreased because of it. Sadly, water just doesn’t taste as good to me as it did before. I find myself craving something more flavored and sweeter. Not cool at all. Plus, while Powerade is easy on my stomach, I hate that it has artificial coloring in it and other questionable ingredients. Good thing I gave up Coke Zero.

So here I am ready to be done with it for good. It turns out that there are a lot of foods that are naturally high in electrolytes and I eat them already. Bananas, dates, peanut butter, olives, tomatoes, lettuce, oranges, melons, raisins, sweet potatoes, spinach, kale, beans, avocado. The list goes on.

Toasted Ezekiel English Muffin. Cashew butter on one side, avocado on the other. Sautéed kale in the middle. File under sounds gross tastes awesome.
Toasted Ezekiel English Muffin. Cashew butter on one side, avocado on the other. Sautéed kale in the middle. File under sounds gross tastes awesome.

I’m also planning to try some coconut water again once I consult with the Food Babe to determine which ones are legit. We live in a strange world.

If I start experiencing the nausea and lethargy I used to feel after running, then I will stick to my nuun tablets (strawberry lemonade without the stevia). Imperfect, but at least it doesn’t have all of the junk that gives my Powerade that mystical blue color.

My primary goal is to drink more water, but I plan to have this on hand (made with regular old Earl Gray or my beloved Lemon Ginger) for days when I’m simply bored and want a non-water drink. I might give my Tazo iced herbal teas another whirl. Maybe mix in some watermelon juice or pureed fruit to make it interesting? Plus there is always LaCroix, which I love but BPA, and the sparkling waters from Whole Foods are really good too.

I'm saving my absolute love of homemade cold brew coffee for another post. I'll be drinking that too.
I’m saving my absolute love of homemade cold brew coffee for another post. I’ll be drinking that too.

I think I can do it – I’ll keep you posted!

Do you regularly drink electrolyte drinks?

Do you like coconut water? 

What is your favorite flavor of tea? 


This week I made chicken nuggets that my kids told me were even better than Chik-Fil-A nuggets. Winning.

I’m not going to say Bill and I were in complete agreement with them, but these were pretty good and much healthier. The recipe is heavily adopted from the Chia-Crusted Chicken recipe in Self magazine.

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Cut 1.5 lbs boneless skinless chicken thighs into strips.
  3. In resealable bag mix 2 TBSP almond meal tossed with 1/2 tsp each salt and pepper. Add the chicken to the bag and shake to coat.
  4.  In pie dish mix 2 eggs with 2 tsp Dijon mustard.
  5. In another pie dish mix 4 TBSP chia seeds with 4 TBSP panko bread crumbs.
  6. Coat a jelly roll plan with avocado oil or other high heat oil.
  7. Dip each chicken strip into the egg mixture followed by the chia mixture. Place on jelly roll plan.
  8. Bake until chicken is fully cooked. It took mine 15-18 minutes to cook.

We rounded out the meal with this yummy side dish. I made a few alterations (more quinoa; honey instead of agave; raspberries instead of blueberries in the salad). I will definitely make it again.

On the running front, I got antsy with my easy running plan and added in a tempo run last week. I’m in this weird place of knowing I should take a break now because I have no races on the schedule and it’s just the smart thing to do, but feeling pretty good and healthy and not really wanting to. I think the other part is that fitting in a run is so much easier than any other kind of exercise. Classes are limited by schedules which don’t always work with mine, and swimming takes a longer time (driving time, locker room time, shower time) when I want to maximize my sleeping time. It’s not that I have anything against cross training. I actually really like it. In the last two weeks I have taken spin classes, extra yoga classes, and even a boot camp class. I’ve enjoyed all of them. But there is some efficiency lost with not being able to wake up and knock it out first thing in the morning, or having to add in extra steps that running from my front door does not require. I’m definitely a maximizer when it comes to time.

Anyway, this includes my warm up and tempo portion of my workout. Bill suggested I not look at my watch at all and just go by how I felt. I started off too fast and it was hard to slow it down once I got going. I’m going to try the same thing again next week (?) to see if I can get a better handle on my pace without relying on my watch.


I’ve gotten back on the strength training bandwagon (again). My little buddy loves to try to copy my every move. I use wine bottles laying around as weights; she uses bean boxes. Whatever works.

What? You don’t exercise in your jammies?

Keeping up with our stretching too.


And my post would not be complete without a few on the run pictures from the last week.

That morning sky.
Swan in the morning sun.
Jasmine for days

Do you plan your running breaks or just take time off when you are injured or feeling run down?

Favorite ways to cross train?




What to wear and why I love/hate tempo runs

Since it is almost always, at a minimum, warm here in Florida I go into slight panic mode when the temperature drops and I can’t wear my go-to running shorts and tank top combo for my run. I wait all year for cooler weather, it FINALLY comes, and then I grumble at the thought of taking that first step in the colder early morning air (and by cold I mean anything below 50) and not being perfectly dressed. I don’t want to be too cold but also not too hot once I get going. Every year I forget at which temperature I break out the gloves, move from shorts to capris to tights, wear a long sleeve shirt and start to add layers.

And then I found this: What to Wear. You enter your gender, type of run, temperature, wind information, time of day, etc., and it tells you exactly what to wear. It was right on! I’m not saying I followed it because my now thin-blooded mindset required me to wear more clothes….which I ended up pulling off a mile into my run. Spot on.

It was 46 on Thursday morning and I ended up in thin tights, a short sleeve shirt and gloves for my tempo run. Ah, the tempo run. I start dreading it the day before I run it. The night before I contemplate taking it easy and not running it. The morning of I tell myself I’ll see how I feel after my mile warm up. And then I convince myself to do just one mile of tempo. Three miles at tempo pace later, I’m done and feeling good!

For the newbies, this is Jack Daniel’s description of a tempo run (full article here). He kind of knows what he’s talking about.

Ideally, a tempo run is nothing more than a steady 20-minute run at T-pace. Subjectively, the intensity of effort associated with T-pace running is comfortably hard. Again, your effort should be one that you could maintain for about an hour in a race.

Wondering what your T-pace is? If you have recently run a 5k it is easy to figure out. Click on the link below and find your 5k time on the first table. Use that to locate the VDOT number associated with that time. Use your VDOT number to find your T-pace using the second table.

VDOT Chart

My last 5k was a 22:12 so my VDOT is 44. I plug 44 into the second table and see that my T-pace should be about a 7:34 pace.

Why would you ever run this pace for 3 miles if you are not in a race?   Because tempo runs help both your endurance and speed, and provide practice in pacing yourself and recognizing how different paces feel (verify me here) which can help you run more consistently (and efficiently). There is a very scientific explanation behind tempo runs and it has to do with improving your lactate threshold so that you can run faster for longer. Nerd up and read more about it here (I find this stuff fascinating).

I have found tempo runs to help me tremendously. After some significant IT band tightness and patella tracking issues last year, I have been super conservative in my training plan. I went from running 5 days a week (pre-knee pain) to 3 days and then finally up to 4 days in May. I took out my speed (track) work completely. The one thing I did keep in my weekly training plan (once my knee was 100%) was my tempo run. Despite training for my first sprint triathlon in August, and therefore not being super focused on running this summer, I still managed to PR at my last 5k in August. I truly believe it’s all about the tempo run. It helps me to psychologically prepare myself for getting out of my comfort zone even when I don’t feel like it, it helps me to recognize how certain paces feel (e.g., I know I’m running too fast when the scent of my breath changes and I get a certain taste in my mouth – isn’t that weird?) and it helps me to open up my stride and improve my running form (which I can actually feel).

One of the hardest parts of a tempo run for me is keeping my pace  consistent over three miles. I often get too fast by the end and wind up feeling like I’m running a race instead of a tempo workout. Faster is not better when it comes to tempo training. Let me repeat that. Faster is not better when your goal is to improve your lactate threshold. Listen to Jack Daniels:

Please remember not to run faster than the prescribed T-pace when doing tempo workouts. When you’re having a good training day, it’s not that tough to beat a previous time over a four-mile tempo course. It’s very important, however, to let your ability, based on competitive efforts, determine your training intensities. When a workout begins to feel easier, use that feeling to support the idea that you’re getting fitter. Then, prove that you are getting better in a race, not in a workout.

The weird thing is, I don’t feel like I’m getting faster over the course of my workout. I actually feel like my legs are getting heavier and slower (probably because I am going too fast?). In any event, keeping my mile splits consistent and not letting myself speed up is one thing I’ve been working on. I’ve gotten better but I still have some work to do. Here are my mile splits from Thursday’s tempo run:

Mile 1: 7:30 pace (right on!)

Mile 2: 7:23

Mile 3: 7:15

I have no pictures to share with you today. I know you are devastated.

Who else runs tempo runs? Love ’em or hate ’em?

Would you rather run when it’s cold or warm? 

I don’t love running in Florida summers but I love the consistency of the warm weather and not having to think about what I need to wear because it’s always shorts and a tank.