What is a fartlek? Run faster with this training technique


When I first started running a few years ago, I would run from one telephone pole to another and then walk past two, three or four poles until my heart rate came down and my legs recovered. . Then I would add another pole-to-pole jog segment and take another walking break. I started with three to five of these cycles in my first few “runs” – it would be more accurate to call them steps.

But slowly, over the weeks, my joggers got longer and my walks got shorter. In no time, I was able to run a mile without stopping, and I worked up to 5Ks, 10Ks and, once, a half marathon.

It turned out that I had come across a training technique called fartlek. The term comes from the Swedish words for “speed” and “game”, and it was developed by a trainer who wanted to help athletes perform better.

“The fartlek workout is a fun workout where we run fast, and we don’t care how fast we run, and we run slowly, and we don’t care how we are. slow. There are literally no rules except faster and slower, ”said TODAY Randy Accetta, director of coach education at the Road Runners Club of America.

In a fartlek race, you can choose a tree, lamppost, or traffic sign and run faster until you reach it, then run slowly until you come to another marker. On a track, you can walk around the bends and run in the straights. Or, you can create a playlist where you run faster during verses and slower during choruses. If you change your mind and want to go faster or slower for longer, that’s okay. You decide how far and how fast you want to run during your workout.

“It’s done based on how you feel. Psychologically, you can adjust to how you’re feeling quite easily, ”said TODAY Anthony Wall, Certified Personal Trainer and Senior Director of Global Business Development for the American Council on Exercise. “Feeling is very important to someone who is just starting out because if they focus on structure they may feel like they haven’t finished training, and maybe they’ve got it. feel like he didn’t do what he was supposed to. With fartleks there is always a sense of accomplishment and accomplishment.

What are the benefits of fartlek workouts?

Fartlek workouts are good for you in a number of ways. They can:

  • Improve your cardiovascular fitness. Fartleks teach you to breathe harder and process oxygen more efficiently.
  • Develop muscle strength. Working your legs harder makes them stronger.
  • Improve your form. Running faster often makes your running form more efficient.
  • Increase your speed. Your overall pace may improve when you add faster segments to your workouts.
  • Make fun part of your routine. “Fartleks lets us play that inner child where we don’t mind living up to someone else’s interval standard,” Accetta said.
  • Help you improve in the race. “To be a better runner, you have to be able to organize your own race and not worry about what other people are doing. This style of training allows you to familiarize yourself with shifting gear depending on the terrain, ”Wall said.

What is the difference between fartleks and interval training?

In a fartlek race, you are not bound by any structure. Nobody tells you what to do and you aren’t working towards a specific goal. “In many interval training, the overall goal is to cover a specific distance at a specific pace with a specific recovery,” said Accetta. “Interval training is deeply structured. “

Add some structure if you want

The point of fartleks is the lack of structure. But that said, a lot of people like to have a plan. So you can jog or run for 15-30 seconds, then walk or run slowly for a minute. “Give yourself some guidelines and go for a pace that you think is comfortable,” Wall said. “You can run for 15 seconds at your highest intensity, and if that’s too much, you just slow down. “

And if you need to give yourself more time to recuperate, go for it. “You don’t have to force yourself to maintain a pace or intensity for a certain distance, because [fartleks are] sensation-based, ”Wall said.

Let yourself be played, enjoy the game and don’t worry about the outcome.

“You can run the risk of feeling bad about yourself, thinking ‘I should have run towards this tree instead of this tree,” “Accetta said. “But my advice is to live the concept of playing. Let yourself be played, enjoy the game and don’t worry about the outcome. You can still get the physiological and emotional value of training with play versus structure.

Can fartleks work for you if you are not a runner?

You can incorporate the principle of fartleks into many different workouts. “The notion of playing with effort is very rewarding,” said Accetta. You could go faster and slower in a pool or on a bike. You can even do weightlifting exercises like push-ups until you want to rest, take a break, and come back to do more. “Think of it in terms of courage and discipline – we go back, then we start again,” Accetta said.

Here’s how to try out fartleks

Fartleks can work for you, whether you are new to running, recovering to running after a break or injury, or are an experienced long distance runner. How you incorporate fartleks into your running routine depends on how fast and how far you are used to running.

For a 30 minute fartlek run, you might want to:

  • Warm up for 10 minutes at a comfortable pace.
  • Work about five bursts of faster running in the middle of the 10 minutes.
  • Return to your relaxed pace for the last 10 minutes.

Your quick segments can last anywhere from 30 to 45 seconds, and they don’t have to be full sprints. Wall recommends playing in the zone between 60% and 80% of your maximum heart rate. If you’re not tracking your heart rate, think about how you are feeling instead. On a scale of 1 to 10, your low intensity might be a 5, and your fastest segments might be a 6 or a 7, and when you slow down you drop back to a 5.

“If it feels good, do another one.” If that feels a little too harsh, maybe you go for it for less time or lower that intensity, ”Wall said. “Start easy and learn how your body works. “

Try out the fartleks and you will likely find yourself running faster and farther. It worked for me.


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