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What is Fartlek Training?

Fartlek Training
Fartlek Training

Fartlek training is a physical conditioning training method which mixes basic running at a steady tempo with higher intensity interval training.

The term, which is Swedish for “speed play”, was developed by Gosta Holmer in 1937 and is a well established method used by many individuals and team sports increase athletic stamina as well as endurance.

As the translation suggests, the core principle of this approach is for athletes to “play” or vary with the speed distance and intensity.

The basic premise of the process is to build in higher intensity work that will allow the athlete to perform at between 60% to 80% of their maximum heart rate.

Working at this level of intensity should ensure that it will stretch the athlete without exhausting them and causing any level of serious discomfort during the exercise.

Farlek Running Explained

The content of the fartlek training session should by sport and athlete specific. Whatever the variety of training that is implemented it should seek to address the needs of he sport.

For example a basketball player needs shorter burst over a shorter distance whilst tennis players and soccer players will be different again.

Fartlek training is particularly useful if you are an athlete whose mind wanders during repetitive training as it allows you to set short goals during a longer training session.

It can therefore make running and basic training a little more interesting if you are someone who finds even paced running monotonous and boring.

Fartlek training can be performed in many different environments. The following fartlek workouts are some examples of how to set up a session if you are an individual runner or part of a team group:

Fartlek Workout 1. Park Version

On a regular run in the park jog at a 50 % maximum running pace. Whenever you see a lamppost, dog or other landmark like a tall tree, speed up to 75 % of your pace as you run by the lamppost/dog/tree/other marker. Once you are past the marker, reduce back down to the 50 % rate.

Continue to identify markers throughout your run and increase and decrease your pace accordingly. As you get better at this you will notice that your recovery time and your endurance between markers starts to improve.

Fartlek Workout 2. Music Version

Runners who listen to music during runs can also crank up their pace and slow down for recovery. You can predetermine this by arranging a mix of standard running songs and then throw in the odd shorter faster track. You will find that subliminally your pace tends to follow the basic beat of the song.

You can also just make it as basic as increasing your pace during the chorus of every second song and take a standard pace for the rest.

There are so many permutations to this approach. As always ensure you match your ability with reasonable goals. The idea is to build this up slowly over time.

Fartlek Workout 3. Treadmill Version

You can perform a simple Fartlek session indoors on the treadmill. On a treadmill you could perhaps increase the incline but hold the pace for a minute.

The idea is to change your pace, gradient etc, to work your heart and improve your fitness instead of just running for a set time. Your imagination and ability to try new things is imperative to good Fartlek training.

Fartlek training can also be used more formally for team and performance athlete training. These examples would be overseen by a coach or by using a good athletic wrist watch. Some examples are outlined below:

Fartlek Workout 4.

Following a good dynamic warm-up:
• 3 minutes of steady state running incorporating 1 x 10 second sprint every 60 seconds.
• 3 minutes of steady state running incorporating 1 x 40 metre sprint every 60 seconds.
• 3 minutes of steady state running incorporating 1 x 20 second fast, sustained running followed by 1 x 10 seconds maximal pace running.
• Repeat the above steps x 2.
• Cool down / stretch.

Fartlek Workout 5.

Following a good dynamic warm-up:
• Run at an easy pace for 5 minutes.
• Increase pace for 3 minutes (e.g. 75% maximum).
• Sprint for 15 seconds, followed by 1 x 45 second recovery jog.
• Repeat the previous step (ie sprint/jog set) for 7 repetitions
• Jog for 3 minutes
• Sprint for 10 seconds, followed by 1 x 20 second recovery jog.
• Repeat sprint/jog cycle for 5 repetitions, with a 20 second recovery between sprints.
• Jog for 3 minutes
• 75 % pace for 1 minute, jog for 1 minute (x3 repetitions)
• Cool down/stretch

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