11 Oct 2018

What is Fartlek Training?

Fitness and workout advice

Well, amidst the giggles and sniggers from the more juvenile among us – myself included – the word ‘fartlek’ comes from the same language that is home to mega-store IKEA. Yes, we are talking about Swedish.

What is Fartlek training and what does it mean? Let’s find out.

Fartlek Training Definition

Fartlek is a form of fitness training and is derived from the word Fartlek which is a Swedish term for “speed play,” a mix of fast and slow, heavy and light training to give your workout a whole new, outlet that is particularly effective for improving running speed and endurance.

Fartlek training is becoming quite popular among runners, especially beginners, who like it as it involves speed work and still offers more flexibility and is less rigorous than traditional interval training. The training also adds extra stress to your body system, which leads to faster speeds and improves your anaerobic stamina.

Fartlek Training Examples

Fartlek training is ‘lamp posting’ in a more varied form. If you have no idea what lamp posting is, it’s basically this: you jog along at an even pace for maybe two lamp posts, sprint to the next lamp post, and then drop back to an even pace for another two while sucking in the breaths in readiness for attacking the third.

All this assumes you’re running on a road full of clear and regular checkpoints. If you’re running on a beach or through a forest, you clearly need to be a bit more imaginative.

So on the beach, jog ten beach towels, sprint five; in the forest, jog fifty trees, sprint ten; Or you could simply go tech and use your watch – 2 minutes jogging, 30 seconds sprinting and so on.

That’s the basis of a fartlek run.

Does wearing compression socks for running have any benefits? Find out in our previous blog on 'Benefits of compression socks for running.'

Fartlek Training Benefits

Does Fartlek training work? Yes, it does. Here's how:

  • Aside from releasing you from the monotony of a slow, steady jog, fartlek training places new demands on your body and breathing.

  • The sudden changes of pace engage different muscle fibres – slow twitch muscle fibres during jogging and medium to fast twitch muscle fibres during sprints. 

  • It's those medium to fast fibres that get the real benefit here, not only improving your strength and endurance, but your potential top speed as well.

  • During a Fartlek run, your lungs flexibly deal with the extra sprint load and the need to catch your breath, building your cardio capacity builds at the same time.

Quite simply, Fartlek training is a testing, but highly effective way to improve your all-round fitness.

How to do Fartleks?

Once you’ve developed some core fitness with simple fartlek training, here’s a great test to take you to the next level in two simple steps:

  1. Build your run minutes in the shape of a pyramid – 1-minute jog, 1-minute sprint; 2-minutes jog, 2-minutes sprint; 3 minutes-jog, 3-minutes sprint;

  2. Then, back down again from 2 minutes to 1 minute.

It sounds hard but is pretty doable. Also, your sprint pace doesn’t have to be flat out and probably won’t be unless you’re a superhero.

The key is in finding a good fast pace quicker than a jog that you can maintain for the allotted time.

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