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Fartlek Training: What Is It and How It Is Done?

Fartlek training is considered one of the methods athletes use to attain greater endurance and speed. Learn all about it in this text.

Developed within the early Nineteen Thirties by Gösta Holmer, Fartlek training remains to be considered one of the most generally used methods for athletes to enhance their performance. It’s primarily utilized in athletics, although other disciplines have also adapted it to their training regimes (comparable to soccer).



The sort of system was developed in parallel with interval training, or HIIT. Although they share similar principles, their foremost difference is that Fartlek is less structured. Thus its practitioners are freer to decide on the best way to apply it in accordance with their goals, performance or weekly plan.

Its translation from Swedish is speed game. It consists of including abrupt changes in speed, direction, or terrain based on intervals. Over time, these changes generate quite a lot of advantages, including increased endurance and decreased running time. It’s utilized by sprinters, middle-distance and distance athletes.

Forms of Fartlek training

Although designed exclusively for skilled athletes, this doesn’t prevent any sports fan from including Fartlek training of their exercise routine. To accomplish that, you possibly can select different variants, amongst which we highlight the next.

Fartlek by times

That is the classic variant of the training, the one with which it gained worldwide popularity. It consists of focusing the objectives on speed changes at time intervals. These, unlike HIIT training, are usually not structured categorically. The athlete chooses them in accordance with his or her endurance, strength, and race pace.

For instance, run two minutes at low to moderate intensity after which include one minute at maximum intensity. The times are chosen on a customized basis, so long as you have in mind that the utmost intensity period must be shorter than the medium or low-intensity period. It is because through the latter the body can recuperate to face the subsequent change of pace.

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Fartlek by distances

Using running tracks to perform Fartlek training is a wonderful choice to benefit from its full potential.

If there isn’t a technique to measure the time or you’re thinking that this method is impractical (you could have to be timing your progress on a regular basis), then you definitely can select Fartlek training by distance. Because the name suggests, the paces are determined by changes made every few meters.

The popular terrain for this variant is the athletics track, because it’s possible to make a precise measurement of the meters. Nevertheless, considering the informal nature of this training, there isn’t a obstacle to adapting them to other contexts.

In this manner, you should use objects to delimit how often to alter the pace of your speed. For those who are training around town, use a parked vehicle, a tree, a signpost, a bench to sit down on, or anything to guide you on when and where to alter your running pace.

Fartlek training over terrain

On this variation, distances or time are put aside and replaced by changes in terrain. It’s well-known that you could have to make a greater effort on inclines, while on descents you are inclined to calm down just a little more.

The trick lies in planning a route that accommodates ascents, descents, and flat terrain. With the assistance of those, you possibly can integrate speed changes, preferably when the terrain tends to be steeper. Fartlek for terrain could be perfectly adapted to trail running,  mountaineering, etc.

Fartlek training by heart rate

Lots of the track and field fanatics are accustomed to keeping track of their heart rate. For those who wish to train with a heart rate monitor, the Heart Rate Fartlek is for you. It consists of integrating pace variations in accordance with the character of the guts rate.

All of it relies on what your physical condition, age or competition aspirations are. Normally, during sudden changes, try to maintain your heart rate at or barely above 160 beats per minute. Within the recovery phase, attempt to bring them right down to 130 or barely lower.

Free Fartlek training

There may be also the free Fartlek, a variant that brings together all of the others and makes them coexist in a single training day. You’ll be able to change the intensity of the run based on time, distance, terrain, or heart rate, and even mix all of them at the identical time.

For instance, you possibly can select a steep terrain, mark out an object in the gap, aim to achieve it at a certain time, and do it along with your heart rate at or above 16 beats per minute. As you possibly can see, that is essentially the most versatile variant that permits you to experiment more along with your body’s capabilities.

As for the running time, it’s often determined in accordance with the form of athlete. The next values can serve for example:

  • Sprint athletes: between 10 and 20 minutes.
  • Short middle-distance athletes: between 20 and 40 minutes.
  • Long middle-distance athletes: between 40 and 60 minutes.
  • Long-distance athletes: greater than 60 minutes.

These times are only referential, as they must be adapted to the capabilities of every runner. Even so, have in mind that the race ought to be shorter since the speed changes will weaken you more in contrast to a continuous race. That is not less than until you assimilate the technique completely.

Advantages of the Fartlek training method

For those who feel encouraged by this training method, just wait until you discover its advantages. 100 years have passed since its inception and it’s as relevant today as ever due to the next.

Improve speed and coordination

There have been several studies that corroborate the effectiveness of Fartlek training in improving running speed and coordination. An article published in Journal of Physical Education and Sports in 2014 suggests that the changes are noticeable in non-specialized runners as well, on this case, soccer players.

By including improvised variations of your speed you improve the coordination of your muscles along with your brain. As you set it into practice you discover that you just don’t need a stopwatch to time your run or to be continually checking your heart rate monitor, in case you develop the time and pulse variant, respectively.

Your speed can even experience considerable improvement. Continuous running may cause runners to turn into so accustomed to a pace and cadence that they eventually turn into sluggish. This could be modified with the assistance of Fartlek.
You increase

your endurance

Studies suggest that Fartlek can be useful for improving endurance. Maintaining a pace at maximum capability for set distances, times or terrain is just not easy, but as you train, your muscles construct up the endurance needed to finish the course without major changes.

Endurance is a highly valued quality in long-distance athletes, especially those that specialise in running marathons. Even amongst short middle-distance competitors, it’s an amazing help, as they turn into accustomed to maintaining a repeatedly high pace.

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Improve your overall aerobic capability

Aerobic exercises are very positive for cardiovascular health. Combining or alternating them every few periods with strength training can be excellent.

Evidence indicates that Fartlek training improves lung capability and thus increases the utmost oxygen consumption that the athlete can process. At the identical time, a continuous program of several weeks is helpful for cardiac modifications. Amongst them, decreasing the resting frequency.

You increase your explosive strength

Very useful for sprinters, wherein the delay of a millisecond can lose a race. Research has been done on how Fartlek improves explosive strength; that’s, the facility with which a runner can move from a resting state to considered one of maximum capability.

Other ways wherein a change-of-pace routine of this sort can profit you include the next:

  • It helps tone your muscles.
  • It prevents stagnation of results after you’ve been following a plan for a very long time.
  • It may possibly make you drop some weight or, in any case, keep it off.
  • It contributes to enhance your running times and ends in the short and medium term.

Disadvantages and contraindications of Fartlek training

As with all routine, Fartlek training is just not without disadvantages and contraindications. The primary of those is the danger of injury. Even amongst experienced athletes, improvised changes of pace can have a negative effect on the muscles.

These are exposed to emphasize and demand for which they are usually not prepared, which may result in muscle tearing or other similar injuries. It’s for that reason that it is best to perform deep stretching and warm-up exercises to reduce the danger. Even once you do them, you need to be cautious and increase the pace by listening to your body.

The terrain variation may cause you to suffer from ankle sprains, especially should you practice it in nature. For those who are usually not trained, the alternations in pace can have a negative effect in your heart, which can begin to work abnormally and cause episodes of arrhythmias or angina pectoris.

For all these reasons, it’s advisable that you just do a stress test before you think about including this method in your routine. While you do, don’t increase the pace greater than obligatory. Start with short changes and increase them as you progress. It won’t take long so that you can assimilate the technique and experiment with the liberty of Fartlek training.

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