Tempo Runs vs. Intervals

The government shut down yesterday, and, as a person who studies political science, I feel somewhat obligated to comment on it. I remember seeing a poll the day before the shut down showing that most (though it was a small margin) people thought that the shutdown would not personally affect their families. I couldn’t believe these people – I mean, do they not realize how many things the government does?! Then, reading the stories yesterday morning about the people trying to go to the IRS office and being surprised to find it wasn’t open and things like that. Once again, I was surprised at their ignorance – why would someone think the IRS would be open during a government shut down.

Keep in mind that although I was surprised to read that most people thought it wouldn’t affect them personally, I had somehow got it into my mind that I would not be affected personally – after all, neither my husband nor I work for the federal government! We also weren’t planning to go to any parks, didn’t need to file any paperwork, and we don’t receive any sort of government benefits that would be stopped by this (I take out student loans). And then we were affected (don’t worry – in EXTREMELY minor ways). Let’s just say I am suddenly more understanding of how people thought they would be unaffected – I mean, I actually sat and THOUGHT about it, and came to the conclusion that we wouldn’t be, and so I’m guessing that most people that are not political scientists/state government employees gave it slightly less thought (you know, since they aren’t paid to sit around and think about it). Now, you might be wondering – in what way were we affected, then? Well, both my husband and I are researchers – I am a graduate student, and he works for a state government agency – and we rely on lots of data from the federal government in order to complete portions of our work. Our jobs are obviously still here, but we are definitely stuck on some projects until this is over!


Ok, so this post isn’t going to be completely about the government shutdown. It’s going to be about speedwork! I feel like I’ve been kind of quiet about my workouts lately. I think it’s because I’m bored of them – I mean, I just do the same thing  week after week to train for my half. Sometimes I have good days; more often I have bad days, and I don’t really want to talk about it. I am kind of looking forward to my training being over so I can switch up my workouts a bit!

One thing I can do, though, now that I am nearing the end of my training (less than 3 weeks left!) is reflect a little on my first experience with speedwork. The plan I am using (Hal Higdon Intermediate) calls for speedwork once a week. Every other week, this switches between intervals and tempo runs. I have learned a few things by incorporating these into my workouts.

One is that even though my average pace may wind up being the same after one of these workouts as it was on a relatively normal effort run due to my slow warm up/cool down paces, these workouts are WAY harder. I find it odd – why would a workout be harder when the average pace was the same, especailly when I am going the same distance? It’s not like I go THAT much faster during the fast parts, and it is for a really short period of time.  Perhaps this is a good reason to get my GPS watch/heart rate monitor back in working order – maybe I am exerting far more effort during the speed workouts for some reason, but that is hard to gauge without actual data, or maybe it’s all in my head because the workouts only “seem” harder.

The second is that I HATE TEMPO runs. I think it is because they sound deceptively simple. What I do for tempo runs (still not sure this is 100% what I am supposed to be doing) is start out really slow then every couple of minutes increase my speed the tiniest bit. Usually by the 10 minute mark I am nearing a fairly normal average pace, and by the time I hit 2/3 of the way through the run I am hitting a 5K race pace. I then slow WAY down. Depending on how tired I am, I might run at the slowest treadmill pace I allow myself (6 mph) for a minute or two before returning to my normal average pace to cool down. Tempo runs actually often have a worse average pace than my normal runs but for some reason building up to that 5K race pace is the WORST. I absolutely dread heading in for these workouts and afterwards I just feel kind of sick and weak. I’m also incredibly bored the whole time because I am focusing so much on how much time I have left until I can…speed up. What a thing to look forward to!

Intervals, on the other hand, I LOVE. They go by very quickly. I think this is because even though I am also paying attention to the treadmill, things are changing every couple of minutes, and not always for the worse, like with a tempo run. Also, I don’t get as bored during the cooldown because I cool down for “less” time (just .25 miles of jogging at the the end before I switch to walking instead of 10-15 minutes like with a tempo run). For intervals, I always do a 1 mile warm-up, with the first 5 minutes really slow and then the second 5 minutes a little faster, then I start the intervals. My plan calls for 400m intervals, which is about .25 miles, so I run at about a 5K race pace for .25 miles then back down to my average pace (or lower if I’m really tired) for .25 miles then repeat as many times as necessary. I am never bored and even though these workouts are WAY harder I never feel sick and weak afterwards -just badass! Instead of dreading my 10×400 repeats I have to do in a week, as I was dreading my 45 minute tempo run this week, I am actually looking forward to them! Why do I view these so differently?

My hatred of tempo runs is so great, in fact, that it might be biasing a decision I need to make about my last week of training. Right now, my schedule wants me to do my normal stretching and strength on Monday, run 4 miles on Tuesday, do a 30 minute tempo on Wednesday, and do a 2 mile pace run on Thursday. However, this plan assumes that my half marathon is on Sunday, but mine is on Saturday. I want at least 2 rest days before it, so I have to cut out one of those workout days. I don’t want to cut out the stretching/strength the day after a long run, and I think the best idea for my Thursday workout is the 2 mile pace run, so I need to cut either the 4 mile run or the 30 minute tempo run. Right now, I’m leaning to cutting the tempo run, obviously. I’ll have to think about it some more, though.

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