The benefits of interval and tempo training

What a workout! I ran a four mile warm up and a two mile cool down but the main part of my workout was the intervals. Today was 8X2000meter intervals in 6:05 pace. Altogether I covered a total of 10 miles in 1 hr and 57 seconds. Not a bad speed workout day. I was running slightly faster than my goal marathon pace. I’ll admit, it was very uncomfortable running intervals this morning. So why do I do it? Why go through the discomfort and pain of running fast?

If you really want to lower your running times and race faster you can’t get around the need to train with speed. It is important to run at your goal race pace so that your muscles and mind can become familiar with what it feels like. However, I find it also important to train at paces even faster than race pace. Training at different paces faster than race pace will make race pace feel easy. Two common ways to train at faster paces is with intervals and tempo runs. Intervals are shorter runs with rest in between sets. My workout above is an example. I did intervals that were 1.25 miles long with about 60-90 seconds rest in between. I did a total of 8 of these 1.25 mile runs.

A tempo run is usually anything from a 4 mile run all the way to a 12 mile run at a hard pace. In fact, you are running close to or at your anaerobic threshold. The anaerobic threshold is the pace you can hold for about an all out 10k (6.2miles). If I was to do a long 12 mile tempo run it would probably be at marathon pace or slightly faster than marathon pace.

As a marathon runner, I will train 5k pace, 10k pace, and half marathon pace quite often. However, if you are a 5k runner you might do 400m, 800m, 1600m, and 2 mile pace for a lot of your interval workouts to prepare for a 5k. If you want to be able to give maximal effort and have great results on race day then you need to train with maximal effort paces that will train your legs to go fast when needed. I’ve met a few runners who insisted that all they needed was long steady or easy runs to run fast 5k’s. They avoided the interval and tempo paces. The guys who did this on my high school team never beat me in a race and they never achieved their fullest potential.

If you want to make great gains and drop your times you will want to have at least one interval speed session a week and a tempo run as well. These runs improve your V02Max (how much oxygen your heart can use) and your lactate threshold (ability to recycle or run through lactate buildup). For example, Monday is my interval day and on Wednesday I do a hills circuit workout and then a tempo run later in the day. As you see your intervals times improve and your tempo runs get faster you can be confident that you are going to run faster than ever on race day!

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