Before we dive into the techniques you should understand that running is not just running. Many runners believe that the best way forward is to simply run more which is only true to an extent. At the end of the day, running is a skill and the best way to get better at a skill is to practice.
However, there soon comes a point where doing more not only doesn’t help you to progress, it can actually hinder you. Simply increasing the frequency and length of your runs can lead to injury if you’re not prepared and so, the answer is to not just train harder, but to train smarter, too. Below you will find three different techniques to incorporate into your current running routine:
What is a Tempo Run?
A tempo run is a blend between sprinting and endurance. With this technique, you run over a short distance, but go at a higher pace for the whole run. This helps you to develop speed and power in your lower body whilst also training you to be more comfortable at a faster speed whilst clearing lactic acid from your body.
Popularized in the 2000s by Jack Daniels, Ph.D., tempo runs are also referred to as an anaerobic threshold or lactate threshold run. He defines the technique as "A tempo run is nothing more than 20 minutes of steady running at threshold pace." A threshold pace is essentially how fast you can run whilst your body can comfortably clear lactate from the muscles.
An example of a tempo run would be running at a pace of around 25 to 30 seconds per mile slower than whatever your current 5k pace is for a total of 20 minutes, with no breaks.
What is interval Training?
Interval training is similar to tempo runs in that the workout takes less time than a normal jog. However, the session is far more intense as you constantly switch between faster and slower paces based upon specific timed intervals.
There are different styles of interval training such as Tabata and pyramids, but they all revolve around the same idea of alternating between periods of higher and lower intensity. The only consistency is that the harder periods need to be hard. These help you to develop speed, work capacity, strength, and mental rigidity. Not to mention, the fact that they can be done in 20-30 minutes, making them extremely easy to fit into a busy schedule.
Interval trainings work off something called an RPE (Rate of Perceived Exertion) scale which is essentially a way to determine how hard you think you’re working. An RPE of 10 would mean that you couldn’t put in anymore effort and an RPE of 0 is the equivalent to resting on the couch. This means that you don’t necessarily need to go faster if you’re being challenged by running uphill. It’s all based upon how you feel and is therefore, completely individual and malleable based upon your body.
An example of interval training would be something similar to this:
You would then repeat this until 20 minutes has passed not including the warm-up and cool-down either side. You can easily alter the time for each interval as well as the RPE, but the RPE of the higher set should never cross 7 and the RPE of the low intensity should never increase beyond 6. As well as this, there’s no time restraints in regards to the total length of the workout, but shorter workouts will involve less rest and a higher RPE to get the most from the session.
What is Fartlek Training?
The word ‘Fartlek’ is actually a Swedish term for ‘speed play’. Similar to interval training, Fartlek uses speed and time to manipulate your training session to improve your endurance. However, the difference between Fartlek and Interval Training is that with Fartlek you alter your speed throughout your run. As well as this, Fartlek is much less structured as they’re based upon how your body feels opposed to specific time splits.
To make it less confusing, in fartlek training you will usually look ahead and find two trees (or lamp posts or whatever you can find) that have some distance between them. You will then run at your usual pace while approaching the first tree/lamp post but when you reach the first tree you will increase your speed until you reach the second tree, at which point you will slow down and resume your usual pace. Continue this as many times as you want throughout your training session.
Fartlek training helps you to manage your pace throughout your workout as you need to conserve more energy for your sprints. As well as this, it’s an enjoyable and engaging way to improve your speed and stamina without structure. Many beginner runners find this more favourable as there’s no necessity to drain your body but you’re still getting a large amount of benefit.
An example of Fartlek training would be going for a 1-2-hour jog, quickening and slowing the pace when you feel like you should (using trees and lamp posts helps). Time your runs and try to beat the time each time.
How can you incorporate this into your training plan?
On the last blog post we showed you how you can build your own training plan and we also provided a free template that you can easily use. So now you want you want to use these techniques to structure your workouts and improve.... here’s how you can do that.
You need to keep one thing in mind, especially if you’re a beginner. Never put these workouts back to back. Always include an easy jog/workout session on the days before and after a speed session. This is because these are intensive workouts that are designed to push your body to its limits and your body needs time to recover after these sessions.
To take the most advantage out of these techniques you should try to include at least two different sessions per week. Below is a screenshot of how it would look on your training plan.
I’ve edited the original file so if you want to play around with the template you can find the link to it in our ‘Build Your Own Training Plan’ post.
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