Over the past decade, many elite runners have altered their workouts to fit more volume in before doing harder interval training. Many coaches have turned to a longer up-tempo warmup to get a runner’s heart rate up before handling more intensity.
We spoke to Dave Reid, the coach of Canadian 3,000m steeplechaser record holder Matt Hughes and 5,000m Olympian Kate Van Buskirk to get an idea of the benefits of doing a bit of tempo or fartlek (speed-play) training before intervals.
“The idea here is to get more volume and quality out of your run without being mentally drained,” Reid says. “It’s faster than the warmup, but it prepares your body to run at a harder pace later on.”
There are two ways a runner can go about doing this, and it depends on what they are training for. If you are training for a 10K to marathon, try one or two miles at tempo pace before doing your harder intervals. This will add volume to your workout without blowing out the pace in the first couple of reps, and it will let you settle in.
If you are training for 800m to 5K, try doing a short fartlek of 30 seconds on, 45 seconds off, or if you are on a track, 200m at a comfortably fast pace, then jogging the next 200m and repeat four or five times. This will get you ready for the faster intervals that are the meat of the workout.
“When you are training for a goal race, you are always looking for ways to get more quality in,” Reid says.
This workout can be used as an aerobic base-builder in the pre-competition phase, four to eight weeks out from your goal race.