Adding in speed work can be something that lots of runners find tricky, but if you do it right the benefits can be outstanding. Last week I talked about how to build yourself up to the point where you could add tempo runs into your plan. After you have worked with adding in speed through tempo runs for a while then you can bump your speed work up by adding in intervals. Note: Any speed work days would be considered a hard effort workout and would need an easy effort day following them.
What is the difference between a tempo run and an interval run?
Tempo runs have a longer tempo run piece sandwiched between a warm up and cool down. During this time you push yourself just outside of your comfort zone and try to get your body comfortable with being uncomfortable. If you can talk you are running too slow for a tempo, if you cannot talk at all you are running too fast – in a tempo you should be able to speak in broken words if needed.
Interval runs on the other hand have shorter running periods at a much faster pace – one at which you cannot talk and are counting down the seconds until you are done. However, after each interval you get an equal (or slightly longer) block to recover which should be done at a super easy jog (or even a walk if needed) so you can catch your breath and be ready for the next interval speed section. One of the big keys to intervals is to take the recovery time really easy so that you will be able to make it through the whole workout without burning yourself out.
What might this look like in my plan?
Here is an example of how we are adding in speed work for one of my girls who is going for a sub 2:00 half marathon. (Note: These are spaced throughout the week according to the EASY/HARD Principle.)
Tempo Run – half mile warm up walk, dynamic stretches, 7 mile run – 1 mile at conversation pace, 5 miles @ 8:30 – 8:40 pace, 1 mile at conversation pace, half mile cool down walk, more stretches
Interval Run – half mile warm up walk, dynamic stretches, 5.5 mile run – half mile warm up at conversation pace, half mile @7:55 – 8:00, half mile easy jog recovery, half mile @7:55 – 8:00, half mile easy jog recovery, half mile @7:55 – 8:00, half mile easy jog recovery, half mile @7:55 – 8:00, half mile easy jog recovery, half mile @7:55 – 8:00, half mile easy jog recovery, half mile cool down walk, more stretches
*Note – These are not her first tempo or interval runs, just current examples so you can see how they might look. When we started out adding in speed work she was running one mile at tempo pace and we worked on building the tempo runs up first. Then, we started adding in intervals, but our first interval workout only had one interval, not the 5 this one has. We slowly built up to all this in order to prevent injury and get her body used to the added stress.
What could my paces be like?
This chart is a rough estimate of what your tempo and intervals paces could be like based on your easy run pace. Note that this is your truly easy run pace when you are not pushing it at all. If you are never hitting your interval paces, even though you are taking it super easy in the recovery sections of the tempo run, you may need to adjust your interval pace goal. Or, maybe you are not running your easy pace runs slow and easy enough for you body to recover and be ready for the interval run effort and you need to slow it down a bit more on your easy days. The chart below is a rough suggestion on tempo and interval paces based on your current easy pace. (When I plan out tempo and interval runs with my clients not only do we take current paces into account, but also their goals, training schedule, etc. so use this only as a baseline to help you understand the difference in pace between easy runs, tempo runs, and interval runs.)
What are the benefits of interval runs? –
Interval runs teach you to really push yourself and dig deep for that speed and because of that they can not only help you to grow and become a faster runner, but they teach you to push harder and can even improve your self-confidence.
While tempo runs teach you to run faster for longer, to get comfortable with being uncomfortable, and are great for race training – tempo runs push you to find your top speed and challenge yourself in a whole new way.
Let me know –
Do you do any type of speed work?
Have you run intervals runs before? -or- Are you doing them currently?
Which do you prefer tempo runs or interval runs?
Feel like this is a lot to take in? You can always hire a professional running coach (make sure you pick someone who is certified) as they will set up your plan for you taking all these factors into account. You can visit my run coaching services page to learn more about coaching.