Fartlek, tempo and interval training. What’s the difference?

Фартлек, темповые и интервальные тренировки Training
These three types of running workouts have a common detail - getting out of the usual comfort zone. But their approaches and goals are different.

These three types of running workouts have a common detail – getting out of your usual comfort zone. But their approaches and goals are somewhat different.


Fartlek translates from Swedish as a speed game, which reflects its essence quite accurately. In contrast to tempo or interval running, fartlek is completely unstructured and improvised alternates between different degrees of exertion.

After the warm-up, you play with speed, doing strength work, alternating recovery phases chaotically, based on your own sensations or defining sections with reference to surrounding objects, such as trees or poles.

It’s very productive and quite fun in a group club workout in which you can alternate leaders who each have a different idea of the speed and time needed.

This creates an unpredictable training process that prepares you well for the realities of the race. The goal is not to be tied to a sports clock or a training plan.

Advantages of fartlek: excellent combined preparation for marathons, which includes psychological readiness for unexpected turns in a familiar process. Fartlek allows you to get rid of the monotonous routine and add an element of play to your running training.

Disadvantages of fartlek: with this kind of running you do not monitor your heart rate, which means that the efficiency of training per hour is reduced.

Tempo Training

Not always, but usually it’s running at or just above the anaerobic threshold. This is when your body switches to using more glycogen for energy production.

You can roughly determine your tempo level by speaking. If you can pronounce difficult phrases easily, you are clearly below the tempo zone, and if you can’t speak at all, you’ve exceeded your heart rate too much. The tempo zone is about midway through when you can speak, but no longer in complete sentences and sometimes not even full words.

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Advantages of tempo running: effective raising of the lactate threshold.

The disadvantage of tempo running: the monotonous load can have a negative effect on your psychological state. It is easier to run when the scenery around you is constantly changing.

Interval training

These are short, high-intensity stretches of running accompanied by equal or slightly longer recovery times. For example, after warming up, you can run for two to three minutes with a lot of effort, followed by two to three minutes of easy running or walking to catch your breath.

Unlike tempo workouts, during these intense stretches you run above your red line, completely anaerobic.

The essence of the approach is the rest phase, during which the body learns to adapt to powerful loads, as it usually recovers on the day off after strength training, strengthening muscles.

The benefits of interval training: the development of economy and endurance, including psychological. Powerful fat burning for those who want to lose weight.

Disadvantage of interval training: there is a risk of overtraining at maximum capacity.

Follow running safety procedures

This kind of intense running training is very effective only for those who have undergone the necessary endurance training. In other cases, they may overstress the cardiovascular system and the musculoskeletal system.

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