Fartleks or Tempo Runs to Improve Your Running?
Once you have been running for a while, you might find yourself looking for ways to improve. It sounds so simple when you are getting started, doesn’t it? Put on some shoes, put one foot in front of the other, and start to run. However, once you get the hang of that, you may find yourself craving more. More what? More direction. More discipline. More speed.This is why today we discuss fartleks and tempo runs.
What Is A Fartlek?
Not just fun to say, fartleks can also be fun to do! The word fartlek is actually Swedish for “speed play” and it literally means exactly that. In fartleks, you are just randomly speeding up at intervals. You don’t necessarily have to have a rhyme nor reason to your interval.
Even beginners can get into fartleks! All you have to do is set random spots where you will pick up your pace, and then a spot where you will take it back down a notch. For example, if you are looking to try fartleks, here is one way to try.
First, you should always remember to warm up your body properly before starting to do any type of speed work. Most coaches would recommend you warm up for at least five minutes, but most say would tell you that fifteen minutes or so is probably ideal.
After you have warmed up, just pick yourself a random spot up ahead of you on the road. When you get to that spot, start going faster until you get to another random spot up ahead of you. When you reach that second point, slow backdown. After jogging easy for a bit guess what you do next? You guessed it! You pick another spot and run hard again!
Coach Led Fartleks
If you are working out with a team, you may find yourself experiencing coach-led fartleks. These can be a bit more intense than the ones described above. Coach-led fartleks are typically done with a group of athletes running in a circle. After you have warmed up properly the coach will blow a whistle.
When the whistle blows, you hit it hard into a faster effort run until the whistle blows again. When the whistle blows, you slow it down. This is your recovery time when you go nice and easy until the dreaded whistle makes its sound once more.
The difference in these intervals is multifaceted. First, you have no idea or warning when the whistle will blow. Second, you don’t know how long the interval of hard running will be. In addition to that, you also don’t know how long your recovery time will be. In fartleks, you are engaging in active recovery. Fartlek runs in a group like this are challenging and unpredictable!
What Is Active Recovery?
In active recovery, you are jogging through your recovery time. This is different than a workout where you get complete rest during the recovery time. This type of workout means you continue to challenge your cardiovascular system throughout the entire workout. As the workout continues, you may find yourself having to run hard prior to your body getting back to a resting heart rate.
These workouts help you get stronger and build mental toughness!
What Is a Tempo Run?
A tempo run is a different animal. It’s kind of like an Oreo cookie, with warm-up and cool down acting as the chocolate wafer and the tempo as the cream filling!
In a tempo run, you have a set distance or time of warm-up before starting the tempo portion. Once you are warmed up, you will start the work.
For the tempo run portion, you are running at or above your anaerobic threshold (see explanation below!). After you do that portion of the run, you cool down.
What Is Anaerobic Threshold?
Anaerobic threshold is where your body makes the shift to using glycogen for energy. It doesn’t matter if you know exactly what that means or not. If you are in this zone, you are outside of your comfort zone. This is where you can only say a word or two. This is as opposed to when you can chit-chat away while running with friends.
In the thick of a tempo run, you can only talk a limited amount, and even that is with effort. When discussing these types of runs, you should try to talk to see if you are in the right zone. If you cannot talk at all, your effort is too hard. If you can talk easily, it is not hard enough. Remember: you should only be able to talk in single words or very short phrases.
What Is The Benefit of Tempo Runs?
The tempo runs have many benefits. First, it builds mental toughness because you have to stay focused and moving at a certain effort for a period of time (or distance) prescribed ahead of time. This can be difficult.
Second, it will help you to run faster with the effort seeming easier. Well, perhaps “easy” is not the right word… but you will grow as an athlete. The point with these runs is so that you feel like you can run at that pace longer as time goes on.
Tempo is also an excellent way to simulate a race situation where you learn to push through the pain. Many people sign up for races and travel a distance on their feet. However, that does not mean you are racing a 5K. If you are racing it, you are pushing your body to the level described in a tempo run.
Which Helps a Runner More?
Both fartleks and tempo runs are excellent techniques for runners to use. The fartlek is often a more accessible run for a newer runner. Also, you need no guidance, track, nor do you need anyone else to perform the task. Don’t get me wrong. Fartleks can definitely help you progress and build strength as a runner. However, the tempo run is an entirely different animal.
The tempo run will help prepare you most for race day. This is when you are simulating a race day effort over an extended period of time. While challenging and a difficult workout, you won’t regret these efforts. Well, maybe sometimes you will.. but the work will payout in the end.