Just the word Fartlek is enough to make you giggle, but Fartlek is Swedish for Speed Play and is a popular running technique combining interval running and endurance. Developed in Sweden in 1937, Fartlek was designed to assist cross country runners better their times. Today Fartlek is a popular training technique for runners of all distances, all across the world.
How to Fartlek
In Fartlek training sessions, runners vary their speed and intervals throughout their run alternating between sprints, recovery speeds or gentle jogging. Unlike strict interval training or tempo runs, there are no set times or distances for high intensity bursts. Often runners will use landmarks as a guide. For example, sprint to the next lamppost, jog to the end of the road, brisk walk until you see a stop sign and repeat.
The benefits of Fartlek training:
- Improves speed by driving the runner to increase their normal pace for a period of time
- Increases the anaerobic threshold and encouraging a quicker recovery from fatigue and sore muscles
- Develops the ability to adjust pace and speed to last the distance
- Improves mental toughness encouraging the runner to push themselves and recognise their limits
- Enhances running performance which can be carried across the board into a variety of other sports
Fartlek session plan
Like any normal training session, start with a warm up and conclude with a cool down period and recovery stretches.
Determine the speed of your three paces
Recovery pace allows you to catch your breath but without coming to a complete stop. It can even be a brisk walk if necessary.
Normal pace is the average training pace you can consistently maintain for the distance you're running.
Faster pace is a short burst of intensity where you run as hard as you can.