Tempo Run Vs. Interval Run: What Are The Benefits?

Tempo run vs interval run

What are the benefits of a tempo run vs. interval run? With interval runs, you have a break between the repetitions, but tempo runs have a time and place too.

There are several different training methods runners can employ, and while the terminology around running can be confusing, there are some key differences between the various types. All of the running methods have the same goals:

  • Increase speed endurance
  • Increase speed
  • Increase basic stamina

How the different training methods go about this is where the differences lie, so our tempo run vs. interval run explainer will break it all down for you. You might also be wondering why do runners breathe heavily after a sprint race.

What Are Tempo Runs And Interval Runs?

What are tempo runs and interval runs?
Tempo runs can be done about once a week at the beginning of your training block

Tempo runs are also known as threshold running or training. This type of training is important for preparing for longer races, such as a half marathon or 10K. Here is an example of a running workout using the tempo method.

  1. Warm-up: Jog for 15-20 minutes.
  2. Tempo run: Continuously run for 15-30 minutes keeping your heart rate between 80% to 90% of its maximum rate.
  3. Cool-down: Jog for 10-15 minutes.

For a tempo run to be effective, the run needs to be at or below your lactate threshold. The lactate threshold is the point where your body cannot remove lactate as quickly as it is accumulating. Tempo runs can be done about once a week at the beginning of your training block.

There are many different types of interval runs, but the main thing you need to know is that with interval runs, you take breaks between repetitions. Here is a good example of an interval run.

  1. Warm-up: Do pre-run running drills and stretches.
  2. Jog for 10-15 minutes.
  3. Set 1: Run a two-minute set five times at medium effort. Take an active rest for two minutes between reps.
  4. Set 2: Run a two-minute set five times at maximum effort. Take active rests of two minutes between reps.

One thing to keep in mind is that interval training is strenuous, so you need to make sure you warm up correctly and allow your body time to recover after training. Your recovery period will depend on the type of interval training you’re doing and your level of fitness.

Those new to interval running will need a longer recovery period than elite or experienced runners. The longer the run, the longer the recovery period needs to be.

What Do Tempo Runs And Interval Runs Have In Common?

It can be confusing when you’re trying to wrap your head around all of the different running terminologies. The best way to think about the different types of training is that tempo runs and interval runs are both training techniques. Interval runs, and tempo runs have similar goals: to increase speed, basic stamina, and speed endurance. Check out our explainer on do squats make you run faster.

Tempo Runs Vs. Interval Runs: The Differences

How are interval runs different from tempo runs? The primary difference is that with tempo runs, you take breaks between repetitions. Another key difference between tempo runs and interval runs is that intervals are paced faster than tempo runs.

With interval training, your runs are defined by faster, shorter, and more intense workouts. With tempo runs, you’re trying to build endurance. 

What’s Better About Tempo Runs?

With tempo runs, you follow your heart rate and try to keep it outside of your heart rate maximum zone. Ideally, your heart rate should remain steady the whole time you’re doing the tempo run.

Tempo runs are run at a hard but comfortable pace for 15 to 20 minutes. The pace you can hold for an hour is your median tempo pace. 5K runners often have a race pace of between 35 and 50 minutes. On the other hand, a marathon runner’s pace can be up to two hours.

What’s Better About Interval Runs?

What's better about interval runs?
Increase your speed endurance

To improve your speed, you need to practice running faster for short periods. By breaking up the distance at which you intend to run faster, you can train your body to be quicker for longer. With interval runs, you can achieve the following:

  • Increase your running form
  • Increase your speed endurance
  • Increase your running economy

Who Should Try Tempo Runs (And Why)?

If you’re training for a longer race, such as a 10K or a marathon, tempo runs are your best friend. With tempo runs, you will teach your body to process fuel for energy more efficiently, which is essential for endurance running. 

Who Should Try Interval Runs (And Why)?

If you are trying to improve your overall running speed, you should try interval training. With interval runs, you can get faster. Interval runs are excellent training if your goal is to be a faster sprinter. 

FAQs About Tempo Run Vs. Interval Run

Are tempo runs better than intervals?

It’s not a matter of better or worse. Rather, the type of training you choose depends on your running goals. Tempo runs improve your endurance so your body can better learn how to process fuel for energy.

Is it better to run at a steady pace or intervals?

Tempo run training can be very effective, but if your goal is to improve your running speed, interval training may be your best bet. If speed is your goal, interval training will help you get there.

Which is better, tempo or fartlek?

Fartlek is a Swedish running training technique that means “speed play.” When you combine tempo runs with fartlek, you can teach your body how to run with good form at a moderately fast but steady pace.