Want to improve your running speed and endurance? Have you tried Fartlek training? If not, then it’s time to add it to your workout regime.
Fartlek is a Swedish word, which translates to ”speed play”. The training involves running at varying speeds. You essentially create a mix of sprints, jogs, and speed work throughout your workout session. There’s no stopping between intervals.
While this form of training may appear similar to high-intensity interval training, the workouts have different demands on your body. Read on to find out.
Related: How to Run Your Fastest 5k Ever
AN OVERVIEW OF FARTLEK TRAINING
Fartlek running is designed to push you out of your comfort zone in a more fun way. Here, the workouts are not structured by time.
You can randomly decide to speed up for 20 seconds or go slow for 10 seconds and then sprint for 30 seconds, depending on how your body feels.
Also, you don’t necessarily have to follow specific measured segments.
In other words, runners can make up various fartlek workouts that allow them to freely experiment with their pace and endurance abilities and push themselves a little bit extra.
You can train on roads, hills, trails, or any other type of terrain.
For example, you can choose to sprint to a stop sign and then slow down until the next lamppost before speeding up to a tree you see in the distance. It is entirely up to you how you choose to go about it.
Besides being a more flexible type of speed and endurance training, fartlek is also less demanding than interval or speed training.
BENEFITS OF ADDING FARTLEK WORKOUTS TO YOUR ROUTINE
Whether you are a beginner or experienced runner, consistent fartlek training can steer you to newer and greater heights.
Well, here are some of the benefits you will reap.
BREAKUPS THE REGIME OF MORE STRUCTURED RUNS
Getting stuck in a running plateau is a common occurrence. This is especially true when you run along the same path, tackling the same terrain over and over again. When things get monotonous, you may lose that drive to train and push yourself to new limits.
Adding fartlek to your running routine is a great way to keep things fresh, as it gives you a variety of unique and exciting training variations. The workouts are essentially random and unpredictable because you’re playing with speed.
You can train anywhere. It can be on a treadmill, trails, roads, hills, etc.
IMPROVES SPEED AND ENDURANCE
Fartlek training sessions combine speed and endurance. The workouts train you to adapt to different speeds, helping you tolerate opponent surges and break away from them on the race day.
Continuous and alternating changes in effort and recovery can boost your endurance level. That’s because you work the slow-twitch muscle fibers, making your body push itself harder for longer periods. This can make a whole lot of difference in your marathon or any other race.
With fartlek training, you can also improve your focus, as you’re constantly engaged throughout the workout session.
Since the training is less structured, you will have to make active decisions about your target points and pace while still running.
For example, you may challenge yourself to sprint between three lampposts before switching to slow jogs. And while jogging, you have to gauge your strengths and set new limits that you feel you can beat.
HOW TO DO FARTLEK WORKOUTS
You don’t need a professional trainer for this. When doing a fartlek workout, you simply introduce short sprints to your normal runs.
Try to maintain a steady speed during the short sprints before adjusting to a comfortable pace that allows your breathing to go back to normal. Ideally, this should be below your normal running speed. Once you have recovered, switch to your normal running speed before engaging in the short bursts again.
The sprinting and jogging intervals will vary. As mentioned earlier, it is up to you to decide how to mark your segments. Many athletes usually run to landmarks, such as stop signs, buildings, streetlights, and telephone poles in the distance.
WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN FARTLEK AND INTERVAL TRAINING?
While fartlek is a form of interval training, there are differences you can easily spot. In fartlek running, an athlete runs continuously with varying speeds. The runner may not necessarily have a clear schedule of sprints, jogging, and speed work in mind. So, it’s a more flexible type of training.
With interval training, there are predetermined sprints, and you can take rests. You’re also likely to concentrate less than someone constantly expected to mark their segments and pay attention to their pace.
As initially stated, these speed and endurance training methods engage different muscle groups, with fartlek improving coordination.
THREE SAMPLE FARTLEK WORKOUTS
1. Long Run Fartlek
2. Seed Play
3. Surroundings fartlek
Let’s explain in detail.
LONG RUN FARTLEK
Implement planned 1:00 surges during your long run training session. Ideally, you should inject speed into your running every 6 or 7 minutes. It doesn’t have to be extreme, though.
Making the bursts too fast can affect your recovery and ability to return to a normal rhythm during long runs. In line with that, you’ll want to keep the speeds 15 to 20 per miles faster than your normal running pace.
Start with a 12-minute session of warm-up. You jog while incorporating a few strides and drills.
In the next 3 minutes, build as:
· Moderate (1 minute)
· Moderate-hard (1 minute)
· Hard (1 minute)
· Jog for 2 minutes
· Switch to moderate-hard for 7 minutes
· Jog for 3 minutes
· Adjust to hard for 3 minutes
· Jog for 5 minutes
· Cooldown at an easy pace before repeating
· Start with 5-10 minutes of jogging to warm up.
· Pick a landmark you see ahead. Depending on where you are training, the landmark can be a tree, telephone pole, stop sign, mailbox, lamppost, building, etc.
· Sprint towards the landmark in the distance. Slow down once you get to it. Don’t walk or stop between intervals. Be sure to maintain your normal speed until you have recovered.
· Once recovered, pick another landmark. Then, sprint towards it.
· Repeat as much as your body allows it.
Please note these are just examples. There’s the freedom to create your rules and variations to challenge yourself.
Adding fartlek runs to your routine is an excellent way to shake up things and improve speed and endurance. With regular training, your body will adapt to the rapidly varying paces and engage different muscle groups to give you a well-rounded workout. You can master how to effectively change gears and deal with bad patches during your long races.
Ryan is a former college wrestler and lifelong fitness fanatic. He has run half marathons, done mud runs, placed in body transformation contests, coached wrestling and now coaches girls soccer. Not to mention he has also tried literally hundreds of supplements over the years and has a vast and thorough supplement knowledge. He has written for Muscle & Strength, Testosterone Junkie, The Sport Review and other publications. He is also the editor in chief of this website. Feel free connect with him on his LinkedIn page below.