Fartlek...sounds like a bodily function, but it’s actually a type of training. The word itself is Swedish for “speed play” which is different than interval training because the intervals and higher efforts are not at a specified time frame. So you aren’t doing for example 30 seconds of high intensity followed by a minute of low intensity alternating like that. It’s alternating but in unplanned intervals, you just do it.
This type of training was introduced in the 1930’s and became one of the best training methods, giving people what seemed to be an advantage over others and leading many to breaking world records. It can be done for any kind of sport but is generally looked at when it comes to running. Training this way includes sprints, jogs, speed bursts, and quick changes of pace. The playing around with the speed is the key to this type of training.
Benefits of Fartlek Training
The benefits of this type of training would be to build up consistency as well as training for endurance and stamina, as well as their speed. It’s about freedom. Sometimes when doing interval training where it’s very structured, it’s not about changing things up. So ideally it’s getting boring. You get to run as you please and run longer. Plus you also get to try new things, so running up and down random hills, different terrain, it shocks your body, making those straight flat runs seem like a piece of cake. Another benefit is that you get to listen to your body. When you are taxed you can slow down a bit and when you feel good you can up the pace. It’s all about how you feel and is a strategy used not only by beginners but also by Olympic caliber athletes.
Simple Fartlek Workout for Your First Race
So you have decided to run your first race and want to go with a fartlek style training routine. As a beginner, this type of training will help improve your cardiovascular system and your stamina as well which means better running. A simple starting point could look like this:
- Do a 10 minute warm up jog
- Quicken your pace for 10 strides than slow down for the next 10
- Push yourself for 20 strides then recover with another 20 strides
- Continue 10 stride intervals until you feel a bit taxed or get to 100 strides
- Continue to improve by increasing the 10 stride speed and increasing pace
- Finish off the training with a five minute jog
- Do this once every two to three weeks
That is a simple plan for how to work fartlek training into your routine to help you improve your running. If you are looking to getting into races this would be the ideal place to start to help increase your endurance, especially if you are starting small and have goals to run longer races. The key is to challenge yourself and listen to your body at the same time and do what feels right without being boring.