In a rut with your running? Fartlek training is a playful way to mix up your routine while building strength, endurance and speed. Intrigued? Here’s all you need to know about this fitness trend.
What, exactly, is fartlek training?
Literally meaning ‘speed play’ in Swedish, fartlek training is a kind of freestyle interval run where you “play around” with your speed. There’s not really a structure, but it does involve mixing up fast running with easy (or moderate-paced) running.
How does it differ from other training methods?
With fartlek training, you never stop – you just slow down. Unlike high-intensity interval training, which allows for a short period of complete rest, fartlek training is continuous. For example, you could run at a faster ‘comfortably hard’ pace for one minute, then run for two minutes at a slower ‘easy’ pace. Or you could run at a manageable, consistent pace for say, one mile then crank up the tempo for the next.
How can it help you run faster?
While it may sometimes feel like I-have-no-idea-what-I’m-doing training, there is a science behind its playful spirit. If you’re participating in races more than 5k in length, you’re taking on a primarily aerobic endeavour. So, by forcing your body to keep running (even if it’s at an easier pace) without stopping, fartlek can train your body to reuse lactate as your fuel source, improving performance significantly.
What’s the best way to progress with fartlek training?
Our ultimate fitness philosophy: playful progress. Fartlek is the poster child of this motto – but how your progression looks depends on your goal.
- Want to run faster? Increase the speed of your ‘recovery’ running, so that your ‘easy’ intervals are closer to the speed of your ‘hard’ segments.
- Want to run longer? Decrease time spent in your shorter recovery intervals.
- Want to improve both? Bring both of the above methods together to boost both your speed and endurance.
Any more benefits of fartlek training?
Plenty! Firstly, it’s for everyone. It’s the perfect bridge into more intense runs for new runners who struggle with both physical and psychological barriers (mind over matter and all that). But fartlek training is just as beneficial if you’re a seasoned sprinter looking to supercharge your speed and race abilities. For the latter, fartlek helps you reach a racing mindset since it mimics the faster speeds at different points of the run – from overtaking others to sprinting over the finishing line in time.
The beauty of fartlek training is its diverse flexibility. A session can be done alone or with a personal trainer. It can be done at your own pace, your own distance, for your own set duration of time. You can do it on a treadmill or outdoors (for the latter, it’s always fun to focus on an object and sprint to it, before slowing for the next object). And since this type of training is more intuitive, it gives you the ability to learn more about your body (and how to push it) the natural way. Which is what also makes it the EVO way.