Fartlek and Tempo Running Training

Jul 19, 2019 | Jenni Ashford

With ten half marathons, two marathons and an ultra, under his belt, fitness instructor and personal trainer, James, knows how what works when it comes to running training plans.

Team ‘ExeterGCC’ runners have started week four of their training plan for Exeter’s Great West Run. A couple of the beginner runners are contending with muscular strains having let enthusiasm get the better of them last week and ran a little too far, too soon – a common dilemma when you start running. A bit of rest of TLC and they’ll be back on their feet next week.

For others, the steady push is paying off and they are working new training techniques into their schedules.

James explains the key to upping speed and strength is introducing three training techniques to running training plan.

James said, “For me, the best part of this Great West training experience is the team working together – everyone is being so encouraging and motivational. Watching colleagues progress from being a complete novice runner to running their first 10k, has honestly been brilliant to see. I remember starting out as a new runner thinking I would never be able to cross that finish line; now I’m here training for my next ultra-marathon in September – a little warm up for Exeter’s Great West Run in October! My running schedule has a few extra miles than you would need to train for a half marathon, but there are three training techniques that all runners can incorporate into their own schedules, regardless of what stage they’re at.

1. A tempo run (a tempo run is a faster run than normal) run at sub-maximal (3/4) pace, usually for 20 – 30
minutes – or for as long as you can and build up towards that time.

2. A fartlek run (a fartlek run consists of speed changes. Intensity can be varied, e.g running uphill, downhill, slow and fast). You will find this will help improve your aerobic and anaerobic system.

3. A long run. It is really important, this is just once a week and you schedule your other runs to allow you to rest for the day before to store all that energy for the big event! The long run should be increased gradually – try to finish feeling like you’ve got a little bit left to give. As my next event is running over Dartmoor, I find the best place for my long runs are either our very own Coast Path or over Dartmoor. For the Great West, why not use the actual route for a few of your long run (except the section to Stoke Woods!) to get to grips with the challenges and the gains – work out which bits you can blast it!

Whilst I’m trying to increase my runs week by week, I also listen to my body. We all have days we don’t feel quite right and it’s honestly okay to take a couple days out to recover – if you don’t listen to your body, you risk falling foul of injury and that can be devastatingly frustrating.

Finally…a mention of fuel. Hydration and nutrition both play a massive part in your training – all the way through. Really focus on increasing fluid intake prior to going out on your long runs – plenty of water in the days leading up to it, will make a massive difference. On the day of your longer run, get started with a high carb low fat breakfast that is easy to digest, for instance, bagels with peanut butter, porridge with honey, seeds and berries etc…a coffee always gives you an added boost to get off to a flying start, plus lots of water. Not everyone gets on with running gels, but if you find one that works for you, they are invaluable. I like to have one every 3 miles or so, to keep my energy levels up. Afterwards, make sure you eat protein-rich food within 20/30 minutes so your body can get to work recovering and repairing to make you even stronger for next time.”

Find out more about the running training for the Great West Run.

Improver Runner Update


Events Coordinator

“Following advice about how to improve my overall speed, I gave hill training and tempo running a go this week.  The speed run took me to breaking point, but I made it – just! Once I looked at my time and saw what I had achieved, it was worth it. I achieved my quickest average pace ever – 8.31 min per mile compared to 9.5 – 10 per mile. Next up was hills…not just small slopes, they felt more like mammoth mountains! I maintained a steady pace for 30 second sets with a 10 second walk. Although this was tough, I know that the pay off will come further down to line by making me stronger. I will be including a tempo run and a hill run once a week alongside my other runs.”
PT Top Tip: Elaine wants to knock about 12 minutes off her half marathon time. Incorporating these runs will help – having the confidence to push her pace on her regular runs is key to her progress.
Ask our PT about training for a sub 2 hour half marathon


Marketing Manager

“Interval training is key to pushing past my plateau of around a 1.50 half marathon. I have a hill route which involves two long, steep hills – Dunsford Road and Polehouse Lane. I am pushing myself to run these faster by incorporating some hill sprints. Flat sprint intervals of 1 minute with 20 second rest are helping once a week. My running to-and-from-work sessions are also quicker. Running 5 or 6 times a week, I am finding my legs are feeling more fatigued…I am going to add in a sports yoga session with Howard at club to help stretch and lengthen my muscles to help recovery – hopefully it may even help my plantar fasciitis.”
PT Top Tip: Exeter Arena is the place for Jenni  to increase her speed – try running 600 metres as fast as possible then 200 metres recovery x 6 times, maintaining the same pace each time (or within 10 seconds).Ask our PT about interval training for running



“I felt confident at the beginning of the week after running 8.3K which for me is quite far. A couple days of rest later I decided to go for another, I knew it wouldn’t it be as long as I didn’t have enough time so I aimed for a 5k. As I set off I found it hard to pace myself, usually early on in my run I get into the flow and this helps set the pace. I’m not sure if it was because that particular morning was really warm or because my hay fever was bad but I couldn’t get into the swing of it and instead of running smoothly it felt quite clumsy. I was determined to carry on however as I got ¾ of the way through I felt a twinge of pain in my right knee from an ongoing injury, so I decided to head home. I was proud that I had managed to carry on and complete 5k but felt disheartened that it wasn’t as smooth or straightforward as normal. As a result of this I decided to pause the training for a few days but worked on my fitness in other ways, such as HIIT sessions mixed with short treadmill runs and swimming. My aim for this week is to try and run 10/10.5K along with a couple of short runs to work on pacing myself.”
PT Top Tip: It’s great that Zoe has realised that not all runs feel great at the time – and that any run is better than no run – sometimes the hardest are the most effective. It would be a good idea to start running for time rather than distance to get used to adding miles to your legs. 
Ask our PT about tips to extend mileage of your runs


Spa Manager

“As it’s been a while since I last ran (before my daughter was born), my main aim this week and next is to remind my body (and mind) about how much I enjoyed running before! I’ve been out with Lee, our Fitness Manager, for two runs, the first was 3 miles and the second was 5. I can feel my running muscles coming back to life. A steady pace and lots of motivation and encouragement from Lee is helping me pick up the pace again. 7 miles next time!”
PT Top Tip: Add miles per week not focusing miles per run at this stage. Amber needs to incorporate smaller, more regular runs – for instance to and from work which is just a couple of miles each time – this will benefit her much more than less regular, longer runs.
Ask our PT about getting back into running after having a baby


Assistant Fitness Manager

“My old approach to running was to push ’til I dropped…the PT in me knew this wasn’t the right approach but it’s hard not to when you feel you have more to give! So, this time round I have a new philosophy and it’s already working well – finish on a high! I ran two 3-4 mile runs and one longer 6 mile run last week with the aim of gradually increasing my stamina. My longer run around Exmouth and the estuary was early on a Saturday morning at sun rise – peaceful, quiet and beautiful – what more motivation do you need to make it a regular start to the weekend?!  After each of the runs, I felt that I had enough left in the tank to run a few more miles – which I felt is important as it made me enjoy the run. Often, in the past I’ve always finished by upping my pace, pushing myself to the max and finishing exhausted. Although sometimes feeling exhausted from exercise can be a good thing, I ALWAYS associated my running with that feeling and never really looked forward to my next run.  Next step for me is hills to up the resistance!”
PT  Top Tip: Finish on a high – you’ll remember the feeling and look forward to the next run so it doesn’t feel like a chore! Great for self-motivation and a pat on the back!
Ask our PT about motivation for running

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