Fartlek Training

Fartlek Training 101: An Absolute Fun Way to Run Faster!

Runners, especially beginners, are often intimidated by the idea of speedrunning. But do you know there is a flexible and straightforward way of introducing yourself to speedwork? And that is Fartlek training. If you have never heard of it, the goofy word may sound funny, but it is a great way to introduce yourself to speed as you run. Find out more about Fartlek and how it can help you improve speed. Let's get started.

What is Fartlek?

Fartlek, a Swedish word that translates into Speedplay, is one of the most exciting ways to run faster. Back in 1937, the Swedish coach Gosta Holmer developed it as part of the military training. Later, it became a popular training approach that runners around the world use to gain speed and build stamina as they run.

If you look at the definition, Fartleks are specific periods of fast running combined with periods of slower/easier paced running. Technically, it means that you run at a normal pace for, let's say 5 minutes, before you increase your speed for the next 1 minute. Once your fast-paced segment is completed, slow down your pace well below average until your breathing rate returns to normal. Now is the time to go for the next round of regular paced running for a specific time before introducing the fast-paced segment.

One of the best parts about Fartleks is the flexibility this training method provides. You can run at the pace you want and cover the distance you desire. Moreover, you can go for a structured approach or plan unstructured fartleks. Regardless of the method you use, you are bound to improve your speed and enjoy benefits to your health and fitness. In the later sections, find out how fartleks improve speed and what other benefits it brings along.

How does Fartlek Improve Speed?

As a beginner runner or someone with an established running routine, it is essential to bring some variation in your pace. This is because if you run at the same speed every day, your body gets used to the effort. Eventually, it becomes more challenging to accomplish the desired results (especially if you have weight loss goals). Therefore, you need to get out of your comfort zone and push yourself to achieve more. One possible way to go about it is to increase the distance you cover. But one of the best ways is to work around your pace. And when you are trying to work around your pace, fartleks can be of great help.

Since fartleks are introduced periodically, your body gets enough time to adjust to the increase in pace. Moreover, it is easy to fit fartleks into your training goals. Over time, as you continue to incorporate fartleks in your daily running regime, you will notice an increase in your speed, and you will start getting closer to achieving your training goals.  

What are the Benefits of Fartlek Training?

Along with improving your speed, Fartlek training brings along several other benefits including

· Enhanced strength and endurance.

· Improvement in race tactics.

· Increased ability to put on a fast-paced spurt especially when you are about to finish the race or take over a competitor during a marathon.

· More flexibility within the workout.

Is Fartlek a HIIT?

Fartleks are an early form of interval training that has been used to build strength and endurance among athletes. However, since fartleks are casual, unstructured, and give flexibility to the runner, they are often not regarded as a high-intensity interval training.

But if you look at fartleks technically, they are a form of HIIT workout that helps build speed, strength, and endurance. While fartleks are not as sophisticated as a structured HIIT workout, the basics still remain the same, and so do the benefits a runner may reap out of fartlek training.

Sample Fartlek Workout For Beginners

Now that you are fully aware of what fartlek training is and how it helps build speed and strength, it is time to take a look at a sample fartlek workout that you can try and incorporate in your running routine.

Always remember that fartlek training is meant to be flexible and fun, so you don't have to stick to the sample workout, but you can still make changes that can suit your workout regime.

Here is a sample fartlek training workout for a beginner runner. 

· 10 minutes - Start easy with a slow warm-up at an easy pace.

· 1 minute – Give a burst of fast-paced running.

· 2 minutes – Slow down below the normal pace and continue to work with a decreased pace until your breathing returns to normal.

· 1 minute – If your breathing does not return to normal, you can take off time. This step is completely optional.

· 1-2-1 cycle - Repeat the cycle of 1 minute fast-paced running, followed by 2 minutes of slow-paced running and optional 1-minute rest 4 to 5 times.

· 10 minutes – Aim for 10 minutes cool down following the periods of extensive pace and gradual cooldowns.

Over time, as you develop stamina, you can increase the length of fast-paced running intervals. When you do so, make sure you also increase the time you allow yourself to return back to normal.

Treadmill Fartlek Workouts

As mentioned earlier, fartlek training gives you immense flexibility, not just about distance and time but also regarding space. While it seems natural to run out in the open, you can run at home on a treadmill as you watch your favorite show. All you have to do is to incorporate periods of fast-paced running, followed by times of slower running or completely stopping to allow yourself to return to normal.

Again, you can run at the pace you want for the time you like so you can use a commercial break as your fast-paced interval and slow down as the show begins. However, if you are running on your treadmill at home, ensure that you adjust the speed on your treadmill accordingly and carefully.

Final words

Fartlek training is one of the best ways to add speed as you run. Whether you are a beginner or an experienced runner, fartlek running can help you gain the strength and speed you desire. Moreover, it will take you closer to your training goals without overwhelming you physically and mentally.