What Are the Differences Between Fartlek, Tempo and Interval Runs?

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All three methods of running, i.e., Fartlek, Tempo, and Interval Runs, offer great advantages and train you for various elements of running.

Each of them helps you gain a few unique advantages and some overall benefits that are otherwise impossible to focus on in general training.

When you utilize them for your respective use or strengthen a weaker section of your running, you achieve your goal quicker than traditional training.

Check out each of these methods explained below, along with an example and their advantages.

Fartlek Running

Fartlek is the combination of two Swedish terms, namely “faer” and “lek” meaning “speed” and “play”.

When talking in terms of exercise, Fartlek is all about continuous training and interval training. It includes short bursts of quick running altered with periods of slow running.

This combination can vary as per your choice by choosing the necessary fast and slow running time length.

There is no restriction on how you mix and match various distances and speeds, but one thing you need to keep in mind is you need to keep it continuous.

Meaning you cannot include sprints and keep moving throughout the session as planned.

It is an interesting method of exercise for individuals who are not strictly conscious regarding their endurance levels.

Beginners should keep their activity moderate when using this kind of workout and not push too much to avoid injury. You need to introduce higher levels with practice and gradually understand the pace and comfort levels of where you find it comfortable for fast and slow paces.

Fartlek Workout Example

For a better idea, let us look at an example which is as follows:

  • Start with 5-10 minutes of jogging for warm-up
  • If you decide for 20 minutes of Fartlek training, then it can be like 2 minutes of fast pace continued with 1 minute of the slow pace and then repeat it for the rest of 20 minutes. Alternatively, you can simply use consistent natural markers such as lamp posts, run past the first two quickly, and then recover for the coming three posts, repeating until you finish your time.
  • There is no set rule for your time, speed, or distance in this method, and this is the fun part of the Fartlek method, where you get to enjoy spontaneity. In some aspects, it is similar to HIIT.
  • Finish with 5 to 10 minutes of jogging.
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In the 1920s, the Swedish national coach, Gosta Holmer, made his athletes do at least 3 Fartlek sessions in a week. The sessions were 7 miles long, which they should run continuously with effort distance as 40 m to 2.4 km.

Advantages Of Fartlek Training

The fun element is the most appealing part of this training. You can do it anywhere, and it helps in improving your speed and endurance.

It also promotes mind-body awareness, enhances stamina, and improves mental strength.

Its adaptability helps you prepare for a race since it helps improve your ability to finish your race strongly.

Tempo running

Tempo running is also called threshold running or training. It is suitable for runners training for 10K or half marathon race pace.

In this method, you aim to run at your anaerobic threshold or slightly higher, making your body use glycogen for more energy. These runs are longer and continuous than fartlek exercises or intervals.

You should find the zone where your exertion level is slightly outside your comfort zone. It means that you can hear your breath but not have difficulty breathing, such as gasping for air. Another test is your ability to speak.

If you can speak smoothly, you did not achieve tempo zone, and if you cannot speak at all, you are over-exerting yourself. You should learn to keep it in between where you can still speak but using broken words and convey your message.

You can implement this tempo running in various ways. Monitoring your heart rate throughout the session is necessary. Keep it stable and within the zone of your maximum heart rate range. The same is the case with average pace and overall speed.

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Ensure that you maintain a steady pace. Devices such as polar watches can help in such efforts as they are capable of displaying current as well as average pace.

However, it is not advised to make pace your primary focus as it is affected by air temperature, wind, overall health, and respite factors.

Tempo Run Workout Example

Here comes an example that depicts a tempo run workout for your convenience.

  • Begin the exercise with a warm-up for 10 to 15 minutes.
  • Then choose a tempo run for 25 to 30 minutes continuously at the heart rate or same pace. For heart rate, you can use zone 3 and 4.
  • Finish of by doing jogging for 5 to 10 minutes to cool down.

This is just a sample using which you can properly understand this method, but these numbers are not set standards.

They can vary based on individuals from 25 minutes to 2 to 3 hours long based on your endurance levels and fitness goals.

Advantages Of Tempo Training

It improves your lactate threshold. Usually, lactic acid accumulates in your blood when you exercise for a long period which can give you muscle cramps and fatigue.

However, during tempo training, you aim to keep this level in check to keep the constant heart rate or pace just enough.

This helps you run for a longer time and faster without gathering lactic acid in your body. And it improves your mental strength, race stimulation, and concentration.

Intervals Running

Short bursts of intense efforts are followed by slightly longer recovery periods in this intervals training method.

The Olympics champion Emil Zatopek popularized this method in the 1950s to emphasize how it is important to engage in a short burst of intensive training.

These short periods of intensive training are followed by a recovery period for recuperation to gain the total benefits of this method.

This method is effective to follow anywhere, but it is a popular choice to run on tracks as they are more convenient.

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Ensure that you are getting nearer to the no-talk zone while running the interval run, making it possible for you to speak only a few words.

According to Jeff Gaudette, a prominent running instructor, it is termed as the quickest way to gain maximum fitness levels when compared to other training methods.

You will stimulate your vital organs such as heart, lungs, and even muscles at higher levels as this training allows you to handle more as you breathe between phases of fast running.

The short rest period is involved in this running method after every repetition of fast-paced running, unlike fartlek and tempo runs which make this difference.

Another important difference is that you should run faster than fartlek pace or tempo run in this interval method.

Interval Workout Example

When you see the example, you will get the difference from other methods much clearly.

  • Jogging and stretching of 5 to 10 minutes will give you a good warm-up
  • Start running for 2 minutes at maximum speed to start interval training, and after that, allow your body to restore breathing while performing slower-paced activities such as jogging. Keep repeating this cycle for 10 to 15 minutes.
  • Jogging for 10 to 15 minutes will help your body cool down effectively.

Interval training is a tough approach among these training methods, and it is highly important to warm up sufficiently and allow proper recovery time for your body.

Experiment with various exercise durations and recovery periods to find your ideal plan.

Advantages of Interval Training

The VO2 max, i.e., maximum rate of oxygen consumption by your body during exercise, increases. It helps you improve your pain threshold, endurance, and speed. Taking short breaks helps in improving your lung capacity.

Your running form, as well as mental and physical coordination, improves. Interval training boosts not only your stamina but also your workout motivation. It is also an effective way to train for fat-burning as it offers greater calorie burn.