I’ve got to admit, when a friend told me she’d really improved her running with fartleks, I said “good for you, but that’s possibly a bit too much information, sweetheart.”
Joking aside, once she told me the true meaning behind fartleks, I was intrigued.
The word fartleks actually comes from our old friends over in Sweden (apologies, I know there’s been a somewhat Swedish theme running through many of my blog posts of late).
It’s a Swedish term meaning “speed play” and is a form of interval training, which can drastically improve your speed and stamina, whether you like to pound the pavements or tackle the treadmill.
Rather than obsessing about distance or time as I have tended to in the past, fartlek running is more about building stamina and requires you to vary your pace throughout your run, alternating between fast sprints and slow jogs.
Unlike more traditional interval training sessions with strict timings, fartlek, as you might expect from our Swedish friends, has a more intuitive and far less structured approach.
You can time your fast and slow intervals based on how you feel, not on strict time structures, and experiment with different changes of pace throughout your run. You could even vary from walking to jogging or walking to power-walking pace if you’re just starting out.
To this end, fartlek training is perfect for beginners as you can tailor the speeds to suit your level. It’s also great for the more seasoned runners, such as myself, who have become stuck in a bit of a rut and found themselves in a state of plateau and unable to up their speed. It can be done outdoors on varying terrain or indoors on the treadmill, so it really is for everyone.
I must admit, I found the method incredibly refreshing right from the get-go and it really switched my focus and frame of mind. Rather than stressing over what mileage I was hitting each week, I found myself happier to run fewer miles while introducing the fartlek technique. And despite cutting my mileage, I’ve found my stamina and speed has improved dramatically after introducing a couple of shorter fartlek runs to my weekly routine.
My fartlek workout
tend to run outside as opposed to on the treadmill, so this routine may differ slightly for those of you who prefer to run indoors. However, hopefully you can take something from my routine…
– I start with a five- or 10-minute gentle jog to get myself warmed up.
– Next, I opt for one-minute on (fast pace) and two minutes off (slow pace)
– I repeat this four or five times, alternating between one-minute fast, two minutes slow and vice versa
– Finally, I finish with a slow jog or walk to cool down
You can alter these timings and speeds to suit yourself, but hopefully this provides a rough guide. If you’re able to, it’s a great idea to set a playlist with some really high-tempo dance beats to power you along during the faster intervals.
Whatever your running ability and whatever you want to achieve, fartlek training is a great way to make your running sessions that bit more entertaining.