If you want to be running faster, you have to incorporate a variety of runs into your training. The saying goes, if you want to run fast, you’ve got to run fast in your training. The 3 main kinds of speedy workouts are:- fartlek, tempo runs and interval runs. They are similar but different. They are similar in the sense that they are all tough workouts in the sense that you probably will dread doing the workout. But they are different in format and gives you different benefits.
We all know that Fartlek forms the basis of most Kenyan training. The Kenyan groups do their weekly Thursday Fartleks. Fartlek is the Swedish term for speed play. It blends continuous training with interval training. It is simply defined as bouts of fast running intermixed with periods of slow running. An example of a fartlek workout is 1 minute on, 1 minute off. This means you run fast for 1 minute, and you run at a hard effort and 1 minute at recovery effort. You are running continuously, unlike intervals. You are training your body to recover while still running, though at a slower pace.
This is often described as running above your red line. You will come out gasping for air. I guess you could call this uncomfortably hard. You run for a short intense period, then have a short recovery time before going out full force again. You will have to learn how to deal with the pain. This workout trains your speed, fatigue resistance, and pain tolerance. An example of this would be doing 400m x 12 sets at every 3 minutes.
Tempo runs are often described as running comfortably hard. It’s a hard effort but not at your redline zone, unlike interval runs. It does not have bouts of recovery period, unlike the fartlek run. This particular type of run aims to train our metabolic fitness. Lactate threshold is a point where lactate starts to increase exponentially in our muscles. When lactate starts accumulating in our muscles, there will come a point whereby our muscles start to fatigue and can no longer sustain a particular speed.
The tempo run is aimed at target this problem. Tempo runs seek to improve your lactate threshold. This means you can run faster, for longer periods before the lactic acid in your blood starts to accumulate.
A rough guide on how to find your tempo pace is to add roughly 15 seconds to your recent 10km race pace! Remember this just gives you a gauge. There is no right magic number. Run at this pace for a time of 20 minutes, and voila you’ve got a tempo run in.