Types Of Running Workouts Explained: Intervals, Tempo Runs, Fartlek

Types of running workouts - female sprinting on a track

There are many types of running workouts, like intervals, tempo runs, and fartleks, but how do they differ?

What is the DIFFERENCE between these types of workouts? Are you confused by the terminology?

This article explains the distinction between some of the most famous training methods: intervals, tempo runs, and fartleks.

If you want to improve your running, remember that VARIETY is key.

Yes, running 30-minutes a day has its benefits, but if there is no variety, you eventually reach a plateau. Try incorporating these workouts into your training plan to avoid those plateaus!

These workouts increase speed, endurance, and stamina – all of them do it slightly differently, though.

The following are the differences between these methods:

Interval Training

As opposed to tempo runs and fartleks, intervals involve a break between repetitions. Another difference is that you should maintain a faster pace during intervals than during tempo runs and fartlek sessions.

Runner doing interval training on a road

During intervals, you run faster than usual for short bursts of time.

Interval training improves your speed endurance, running form, and running economy.

Side note: speed endurance is the ability to maintain a nearly maximal speed for a long time and sustain physical activity over more extended periods.

Interval training is strenuous on your body. Warm up properly before and let your body recover afterward.

There are as many types of interval training methods as there are runners on this planet!

Interval training example:

Warm-up: Walk 5 minutes, jog 5 minutes, stretch and do some light drills.

Intervals: 5 x 2 minutes sprints at medium effort with a couple of minutes of recovery between (walk).

Take a couple of minutes to rest before the next set.

5 x 2 minutes sprints at maximum effort with a couple of minutes of recovery between (stop / walk).

Cool down: 10 minutes jog, 5 minutes walk.

Tempo Runs

A tempo run is a fast-paced run that lasts 15 – 30 minutes. This type of run helps develop endurance and speed. So, to improve your mile time, you can do tempo workouts.

The main difference between intervals, tempo runs, and fartleks is that the tempo run should be longer and continuous exercise.

Tempo runs are often used by athletes preparing for races such as marathons. They’re also helpful in improving overall fitness.

The idea of a tempo run is to practice just below or at your anaerobic level.

Tempo runs can be run in many ways. Keep your heart rate below your maximum heart rate zone. Try to maintain a steady heart rate throughout the entire tempo.

You can also keep track of your speed and average pace. Keep the pace steady. To help with this, you can adjust your fitness tracker to show your pace during a run.

Tempo run example:

Warm-up: 10 minutes jog

Tempo run: 15–30 minutes, continuous run at the same pace or heart rate.

Cooldown: 10 jog

Fartlek training

Fartlek means “speed play” in Swedish – speed (fart) and play (lek).

As opposed to focusing on a specific distance, fartlek runs focus on varying speeds. You change your rhythm and pace during your run.

In other words, you’ll mix fast and slow running parts.

If you want to learn how to finish strong races, Fartlek is an excellent training method.

Female runner doing fartlek training on a road

Fartlek runs can be done in any way you like! Mixing speeds and distances is up to you.

But the fast sections of a fartlek workout should not be sprinting! You need to keep running and going the whole exercise.

Beginners may mix walk and run: walk the slower sections if you feel fatigued after faster parts.

Fartlek workout example:

Warm-up: 5 minutes walk

Fartlek: 20 minutes. Repeat sections of 1-2 minutes of slow running followed by 30 seconds – 1 minute faster running. Repeat until 20 minutes are up. You can also use natural landmarks, such as lamp posts, as a mark to change your speed. Speed past a few lamp posts faster, then continue slower for the next few.

Cooldown: 5 minutes walk

Once you’ve mastered the basics, you can experiment with fartlek variations such as hill repeats, track repeats, and speed drills.

Tips for Incorporating These Types of Runs Into Your Training Program

If you have any health conditions that might prevent you from exercising vigorously, you should first consult with your doctor.

If you experience pain while sprinting, stop immediately and talk to your doctor about what you should do next.

Make sure to drink plenty of water while you’re working out. Consider carrying a water bottle on longer runs if needed. Dehydration can cause cramps and fatigue.

The Bottom Line

Intervals, tempo runs, fartleks, hill repeats, speed work, and long slow distance training are all different types of workouts that will help you improve your endurance, build muscle, and burn fat. Variety can also make running more fun!

But which one should you choose? Well, that depends on your goal.

For example, if you want to gain strength and power, you might want to stick with interval training. On the other hand, if you’d like to shed pounds, you may find that fartlek training works better for you.

If you are going for a long run, there are some steps of preparation you will need to take if you want your run to go smoothly. Here you can read 10 simple steps to prepare for a long run.

And remember, when it comes to exercise, variety is key. Try mixing and matching different exercises until you find the routine that suits you best.

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