This is a difficult question to answer in this format for what folks mean by intensive, extensive and low intensity work varies. I have seen very consistent results from programs that do intensive and extensive work as classically described. I do things that I consider to hit both realms albeit not purely classical in design. For example, we do a lot of 100m up-backs in the early training phases whereby we run a 100m section on grass, make a quick U turn and run another back to the starting point….we take 1-2′ recoveries and do 6-8 trips in this session….we time each 100m segment and total time for the two runs and U turn. Later in the year we do this over 70m segments….I have found this format to be more interesting for my athletes and they maintain mechanics at a higher level with this format…For many the total of the 2 x 100m segments would far exceed their 200m run quality under similar rest constraints. We do combination tempo runs in the autumn and early winter also….
One area of research that I would like to see would be a radiology scan of tissues and support structures after extensive tempo runs. Perhaps the vibrations that occur in these structures at that speed and with that degree of relaxation create some interesting recovery situations.
We do hit some of the biochemical markers highlighted in the research obtained by tempo work in other ways. I think you can create acceleration sessions, speed sessions, off track exercises, and so on to address items that one feels is being dealt with in these sessions. We have a section of work that we do that involves general strength circuits, med ball circuits, hurdle mobility and special walking exercises that takes about 40 minutes to complete. We use very short rest in this battery and heart rate monitors show HR well above 140 beats the entire session….so in my mind aerobic factors have been challenged. Recent research on short burst activities and how mitochondrial enzymatic markers are affected gives one pause as how to best address the oxygen supply and reserve end of things for power speed athletes. Some might class this as low intensity work but my athletes would not agree with that classification nor would the lactate analyzer. I have a difficult time deciphering training schemes from coaches whereby they call the work they do tempo so I never claim to be of great knowledge in this realm. I think that certain types of work needs to be done at very exact speeds and intensities. I also think work needs to be done mechanically correct.
The biggest complaint I have when watching folks do tempo work is the degradation of mechanics throughout the workout. I am not willing to sacrifice dynamic stereotypes, joint/tissue health and mechanics to address biochemistry factors that may be addressed in alternative methods.
I will stop at this for I fear that I am rambling now….I hope this answered to some degree a question that I find perplexing… – Dan Pfaff
As for my views on Tempo running I am a centralist. Tempo volumes and % running is based on budget and program design. I find that 400m runners need to do more grass and lower intensity running as their maximum work is less and the need for biochemistry changes is higher. My observations and historical understanding is that no pure speed 400m runner ever was ever created from speed only methods so you go to put the work in. My other observations is that many guys didn’t need nearly any tempo to be in the 9.8 range. The athletes from Jamaica seem to do a lot of grass running but how much do other factor come into play will be debated. What I do know is the coach is responsible to finding the correct dose and I like running on the grass and feel that combining both works the best. How much running is enough and how much is left for alternate means. Pool running is a not a replacement but a compliment, and I don’t do much pool running but more aquatic work. Several athletes on this message board have done my workouts in the pool and they are truly total body work without the overload on the hip flexors. Medball circuits, German Par Course like station work, GS bodybuilding style circuits, slideboard and indoor methods have worked for me to keep the volumes of running to a minimum as I find that people breakdown doing too much running. So long as the speed work improvements are as fast and or faster (improvement curve vs other program models) the tempo programming stays the same. I shut it down when the lower extremity issues (from the knee down) become 1-3 on the pain scale unless they are a 200/400m athlete and that becomes pain management and mid-air mechanical work with therapists. Shin splints, achilles issues, ankle mechanics of footstrike, all must monitored.