Saturday, January 7, 2012


As I look at creating a Marathon Plan I am getting so CONFUSED. Trying to figure out the difference of Fartlek, Intervals and Tempo Runs.
I found this definition but I am still don't see a BIG difference??

Crazy that I still don't get it??

If I looking at running four days a week and want to work on my speed (in a safe way) what would you do??

Real quick explanations 1. Fartlek is Swedish for "speed play." These are random bursts of speed of random length/duration. It's a fun way of doing some fast running without structure. I used to do it by saying, "I'm gonna run fast for the next three telephone poles" or something like that. These runs help train your body to run fast, but without the pressure of running certain distances, number of reps, or times. 2. Intervals are usually shorter distance fast repetitions, often done on a track. An example would be to run 6x800m with 3 minute recoveries. This means you run 800m fast (at the pace you might run a 5k or faster), then jog 3 minutes really easy to recover. Repeat a total of 6 times. Standard interval distances are 200m, 400m, 800m, 1000m, 1600m. These are "red-line" type workouts which force your body to run under duress. Interval training increases your overall speed, you VO2max (the maximum amount of oxygen your system can uptake -- more is better), but are usually strenuous enough to not be undertaken more than twice a week, and only then after you've developed a mileage base. These are the tune-up you do in the 8~12 weeks prior to a big race, not a year-round type workouts. The longer your target race, typically the longer the interval. Most interval workouts are done at 5k pace or faster. I should note that intervals do not have to always be distance based, nor do all intervals have to be the same length. Examples would be 5 x 3 minutes fast with 3 minute recoveries, or a time based interval like this one, which is one of my favorites. 3. Tempo runs are 20~30 minute runs done at a pace 10~20 seconds per mile slower than your 10k pace. These sustained efforts are done after a mile or two of easy jogging, and are usually followed by a mile or two of cool-down. Thus, a typically tempo run would be 2mi easy warm-up / 20 min TEMPO / 2 mile easy cool-down. These runs help your body tolerate a relatively fast pace for a longer duration -- they are good endurance workouts, and are especially good for 15k and up training.

Clear as MUD??

Let me know your thoughts. Check back soon...great giveaway to kickstart my LATE/I AM BEHIND Marathon Training!


Jessica (Pace of Me) said...

it can be soo confusing! my thoughts, for what it's worth:
1) all of these workouts are great to mix into your marathon training at some point!
2) i generally do 2 hard workouts during the week, plus my long run and then the rest are easy days or rest days. all of these workouts would be considered "hard days" -- a hard day is any day where you are working on your speed, doing a hill workout, or long runs (even at slow pace, long is still hard!)
3) alternate hard days with easy (or rest) days - always. do not do two days of hard in a row.
4) so i would maybe a tempo on monday, tuesday easy, wednesday do intervals at the track, thursday rest, friday easy, saturday long, sunday recovery (during marathon training)
5) you want to control your pace, even when you are running speed work.
6) the long runs done at easy pace will build your endurance, the speed work will teach your body to manage the lactic acid build up and to work with a much faster turnover.

does this help? i am sort of rambling... but i think mixing it up with all these varying types of workouts is good for you - it is what training is all about! i had never done any type of speed work before my last training cycle. my PR going into it was a 4:35:09. after months of training and nailing the right paces in my different workouts i ran my fall marathon in 3:41:56. i think the speed work had a LOT to do with that, as well as running an easy pace on most of my long runs (with some practice race pace miles in there towards the end of the long runs) and increasing my mileage.

There are always things we can tweak to improve our performance, and shaking things up with some solid speed work will do the trick! it takes us out of our comfort zone and also helps us to believe in ourselves!!

Rebecca said...

I call every thing a fartlek because I enjoy the reactions I get from other people!

Yeah I'm no help, sorry,

misszippy said...

Agree with what Jessica is saying--all three have their place. And I would work them into the schedule like this--begin w/ fartlek to ease your body into speedwork. After a few weeks of that, add in some tempo work. Then some speed on a track or the road. Finally, alternate tempo one week/intervals the next. Not super scientific here, but it will give you the mix you need. And to start, only do one day/week of speed. Later on you can add in a second day of speed. Always put an easy day before/after speedwork.

Anonymous said...

You've already been given some great advice, and I'd echo that you should not do more than one day of speed per week to start, especially if you want to play it safe and not get injured. I like misszippy's suggestion to alternate intervals and tempo every other week, and easing into it with some more random bursts of speed (fartlek). Good luck!

engineergirl said...

I think they all have their place as well. Here is my take - I think that you should work them all into your training as they all have different benefits. Fartleks are fun and low key great for a day when motivation is hard to find. I like Intervals because they are challenging but doable and make me feel like a rock star! Tempos are the hardest for me and totally test my mental endurance. So while I don't think that they all need to be incorporated into every week I think that 1 or two rotated in will bring big benefits. I'm working on my half marathon training plan and I will switch between 2 speed workouts one week and 1 speed work out the next in addition to my weekly long runs so I don't over do it. I hope this helps you! Keep up the faith. I think you are an inspiration to us all.

Jill said...

Thank you for writing a post for what I have always thought. It totally confuses me. Great comments...very helpful.

gba_gf @ Neurosis of the Stay at Home Marathoner said...

one time I asked my coach this question, so he wrote a (ridiculous) blog post on the topic. It's worth reading though, he explains it from his point of view. He's a galactically bada** marathoner and knows a thing or two about running fast for a long time.

Kris said...

Yes these are confusing. I finally understand interval and tempo but still foggy on the fartleks, haha I think the name is funny too..I know I'm childish :) this is what I do, in 4 runs a week, one is long, one is speed (tempo,interval) and two are easy pace small-mid distance.