The 30/30 Tempo Run

by kevbalance Comments (0) Articles, Guest Post, Training

Today I’d like to share one of my favorite workouts, the 30/30 Tempo Run. Introduced to me by Marius Bakken, a former great Norwegian distance runner, it’s a versatile, fun fitness building session that you should use nearly year-round. I love that it provides an awesome aerobic boost while addressing leg speed in one session – how time efficient!

Here’s How You Do It.

First, warm-up with at least a lunge matrix and 1-3 easy miles. Then, you’ll alternately run faster for 30 seconds and slower for 30 seconds for however many minutes is right for you. Typically, I’ll start out at 20 minutes in session 1 and progress to 30 minutes by session 3. Are you used to speed work and tempo runs? Then go for 30 minutes. New to the game? Start with just 15 minutes and build up a little each week.

So, written out it would simply look like 30X 30 sec ‘on’ / 30 sec ‘off’.

Now for the fine print that really makes all the difference. We need to define “on” and “off”.

When you’re ON, you should be running fast, but not straining. The pace will get faster as the workout goes on. For example, my first few “on” intervals will be around marathon to half marathon pace. After that, the majority of the intervals will be between 10k and 3k pace and I may even squeeze down to 1 mile pace for the last 2-3 reps.

Here’s the catch. You should NOT be pushing yourself so hard that you need to run any slower than normal easy run pace during the “OFF” segments. This workout is NOT sprint and rest, sprint and rest. If you feel the urge to slow to a walk or shuffle, you are doing it wrong.

Rather than 30X 30sec intervals, think of it as a tempo run that is broken up into little 30 second bites. It’s because the run is broken into those bites that makes this workout awesome. You can spend time running faster than a ‘normal’ 30 minute tempo run and mentally it’s a lot easier (IMO) than a straight 30min run.

Customizable and Versatile

It remains a staple in my clients’ training program year round, but it fits perfectly into the base training phase because it isn’t too stressful. As I said earlier, you can start with a 15 minute session and build to 30 or even 40 minutes of intervals.

Once you’ve built up to your target duration, you can start taking away recovery. For example:

30X 40 sec ‘on’ / 20 sec ‘off’.

30X 45 sec ‘on’ / 15 sec ‘off’.

Seems kind of intimidating when you look at it on paper, but by the time you’ve built up to 30 minutes and have gotten the hang of the workout, you’ll be able to handle it.

Even in the middle of the racing season, you could throw in a 30/30 session to get a threshold stimulus without beating the legs up too much.


Yes, this workout is actually fun to do – primarily for the reasons outlined above. It’s only 30 seconds of fast running, so if you do start “feeling it” it’s probably time to slow down anyway. And you get to run fast – probably noticeably faster – than if you were to do a straight 30 minute hard run.

Every time I execute one of these workouts I always feel pleasantly tired, never trashed. And it reinforces my belief that consistent, appropriate stimuli are much more effective in the long term than super hard beat downs (that inevitably lead to injury and time off).

Week by week you should notice a greater ability to maintain a stronger easy pace and recovery quickly between fast segments. Plus, you should notice that your fast segments feel more smooth and efficient than they first did.

Try the workout and let me know how it goes! It may take you a few attempts before you nail it, but I guarantee you’ll grow as a runner and learn along the way.

If you would like to read more from John Goldthrop, click here. 

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