Fartleks are short intervals of running or walking where you alternate between sprints and long jogs.
They are great for IMPROVING endurance and speed, and they also improve your body composition.
- Fartlek training can improve your endurance and speed.
- Fartleks are a great way to speed up or INCREASE the intensity of your runs.
- Fartlek sessions force you to step outside your comfort zone. The sessions combine warm-ups, speed work, sprints, and cool-downs.
This type of training has become very POPULAR over the last decade because it allows runners to train at their own pace without feeling too tired.
The word ‘Fartlek’ originates from the Swedish language and means “speed play”.
It was first used in the early 1920s as an alternative form of cross-training that would allow athletes to maintain fitness while not competing.
Fartleks are short bursts of exercise separated by longer periods of rest.
A fartlek run is a workout that ALTERNATES between short sprints and longer jogging sessions.
The goal is to complete a certain number of laps within a given time frame.
- For example, if you want to run three miles in 30 minutes, you would start out by running two laps around the track.
- Then, you would jog for five minutes before repeating the same pattern.
What Makes Fartlek Runs Different From Similar Speed Workouts?
Fartlek workouts DIFFER from other types of interval work in several ways:
1) You can do them anywhere. Most people who try fartlek workouts find that they enjoy doing them outside more than inside.
If you live somewhere in cold weather, this may be an advantage.
2) You don’t have to worry about pacing yourself. When you’re doing a traditional interval workout, you’ll usually have to slow down after each set of reps. In a fartlek workout, you can go all out for the entire session.
3) You can use different paces during the same workout. During a typical interval workout, you might only change speeds once every mile or so.
With a fartlek workout though, you can vary your pace throughout the workout.
4) You can choose how many repetitions you perform. In a fartlek, you can either run a specific distance (like 2 miles), or you can simply repeat a certain distance a number of times.
5) You can make up your own rules. There are no strict guidelines when it comes to fartlek workouts.
So after you are comfortable with this style of running, you can twist the rules to suit your style of workout!
Why Should You Try Fartlek Training?
1. Practice Maintaining Good Running Form
One of the biggest benefits of fartlek training is that it gives you a chance to practice maintaining good form and technique on both short and long distances.
Because you aren’t trying to beat any particular time, you will naturally focus on proper form rather than pushing through pain.
2. Develop Your Aerobic Capacity
Another benefit of fartlek training lies in its ability to help develop your aerobic capacity.
By alternating between fast and slower paces, you force your body to ADAPT to both conditions.
This helps prepare your body for the stresses of racing.
This is because Fartlek encourages running during your ‘recovery’ period which in the long run will make you a more effective and efficient runner.
3. Prep For a Race
Fartlek running is designed to imitate the feeling of running a real race.
While it is nice to assume that during a longer race you will be running consistently quickly, this is not realistic.
This is why Fartlek includes periods of SLOWED-DOWN running to imitate how you will need to slow down for some portions of the race and then speed back up again at different points.
When your body gets used to this type of running you will perform better during races in speed and consistency. You are not worrying or panicking if your speed is not the same throughout a whole race.
This is also one of the most ADAPTIVE types of training as you can switch how you want to do it depending on how you are feeling on the day.
4. Have More Fun
You may want to keep yourself to a stricter regimen when you start this style of training. But the longer you do it, the more comfortable and effective it will be to switch it up.
This aspect makes this one of the more fun and adventurous types of running training!
You do not have to stick to a certain type of terrain. It is generally encouraged to try this type of running outdoors, so you are not stuck staring at a treadmill.
How To Make Fartlek Part Of Your Training?
The best way to incorporate Fartlek is to keep in mind that the main focus of this workout is a continuous run.
This of course does not mean you have to be giving it your all constantly.
And it may take a while to get to the goal of periods of running faster to then mid-speed.
But working towards a goal of this is what will make this training rewarding and will get you the results in the long run.
It may not feel like it is getting results IMMEDIATELY. Put in the time, and you will get results if you give this training style time to become effective.
The best way to do this is to be goal-oriented. Even if it is just smaller goals to work towards it will make the process a lot more rewarding.
Benefits of Fartlek Training
Seeing the positive effects of this unique training method will really get you going.
Make Running More Fun: Running can get boring if you follow the same daily routine. A fartlek workout keeps you engaged for a more extended period.
Burn Calories: High-impact cardio has its benefits. When you increase your pace, you increase your heart rate and burn more calories.
Train Other Sports: In sports such as football or hockey, you probably alternate between a gentle jog and an intense sprint multiple times when exercising. When you practice Fartlek, you will find that your skills will improve.
Save Time: Incorporating faster sections into your workout will speed it up.
So that is Fartlek training! A great way to improve your speed for longer distance runs as well as work towards consistency and a better run time.
This method has been used since the 20s and has retained its popularity for good reason, so trust in its effectiveness and dedicate a good amount of time to trying it to hopefully get the results you desire!
If you want to start fartlek running there are multiple styles you can use as guidance if you want a more structured routine.
While most people would recommend starting with a free fartlek style, you can also try bridging sessions in conjunction with interval training (see also: Types Of Running Workouts Explained: Intervals, Tempo Runs, Fartlek).
You can also try the ‘Mona’ Fartlek which is a 42-minute session that is focused on shorter distances if this is more what you are looking for.