What is fartlek and how to run fartlek in training

what is a fartlek run

Fartlek is a type of interval training with an arbitrary set of tempo and recovery segments. Fartlek is translated from Swedish as “speedplay”. This type of training was invented in the 1930s by the Swedish trainer Gustaf Holmér to train cross-country runners. Initially, fartlek had no structure – acceleration and rest alternated chaotically, it was really like a speed play. Now, most runners plan in advance the intensity, number of speed segments, and rest intervals.

Fartlek is used by all long distance runners. It is most effective in groups of Kenyan runners where the leader changes and sets speed sections at his or her discretion. This training format teaches you to keep the pace in the group and pick up the pace in time to avoid catching a break in the race.

The difference between fartlek and interval sessions?

Fartlek and intervals are very similar. The technique of fartlek is the randomness of the speed intervals and recovery. The concepts of intervals and fartleks are so mixed up that it is sometimes difficult to find the differences.

A fartlek is usually called a distance training, where there are areas of increasing tempo along the way. And interval training consists of repeated accelerations in the same area. Accelerations are performed with greater intensity and more relaxed recovery up to walking.

  • The duration of a fartlek is usually the same as a regular workout – if you run 6-10 miles, then the fartlek will be 6-10 miles.
  • The combination of acceleration and rest can vary depending on how you feel. A classic interval workout is performed strictly at a set intensity.
  • Fartlek is more often run on the road, intervals are run on the track.
fartlek workout
Fartlek workouts Eliud Kipchoge

Why the Fartlek is needed?

Fartlek is suitable for athletes of all levels. For beginners – for a gradual transition to a more intensive load. Experienced athletes for a variety of speed workouts and for preparing for starts. With Fartlek, you can effectively improve your form even at the initial stage of training.

  • Trains endurance and speed.
  • Preparation for heavy interval and tempo training.
  • Develops a sense of tempo and feeling of exertion.

How and where to run fartlek

For fartlek, any long route on asphalt in the city or out of town will do. A classic fartlek should be varied, as close to competition conditions as possible.

The intensity and number of repetitions depends on the goals and physical fitness. For example, threshold accelerations from15-30 seconds during an aerobic zone workout develop speed and finishing dash.

Accelerations of 1/2/3 minutes increase aerobic threshold and develop speed endurance. For example, Kenyan runners regularly run for 50 minutes with 2 minutes of acceleration after 1 minute of rest.

Use the Split Calculator to properly distribute your pace during a workout or race.

Fartlek Workouts: Examples for beginners and advanced runners

The fartlek will help you gradually increase your mileage to the target mileage. For example, if you cannot run 5K without stopping, you can use such schemes.

Pyramid Fartlek Workout for beginners

  • 5 minutes walking, 5 minutes running, 5 minutes walking.
  • 2 minutes walking, 5 minutes running, 2 minutes walking.

As your fitness improves, walking will not be necessary. The body adapts to exercise without overloading or health risks. Then you can move on to more complex patterns.

Fartlek workout

Pyramid Fartlek Workout for advanced runners

  1. Warm up 10 minutes with light jogging.
  2. Segments (5 min, 4 min, 3 min) after 2 minutes of recovery run.
  3. Recovery by easy running 5-6 minutes.
  4. Segments (2 min, 1.5 min, 1 min, 30 sec, 30 sec) after 2 minutes of recovery run.
  5. Hitch 10 minutes.

If you are a beginner runner, then try to include a fartlek in your training plan at least once every 2 weeks. For advanced runners, this type of training can be used once a week.

Benefits of fartlek workouts

Like any interval training, it helps to develop endurance and strength and teaches you how to switch your running speed. The alternation of speed within the framework of the average load allows you to run large volumes of mileage. Изначально длительность тренировки составляет примерно 40 минут и постепенно доходит до 120 minutes.

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