Do you know what fartlek consists of and what are the benefits it brings to the runner?

It is a type of training widely used especially by long and medium distance athletes. Its primary objective is that there is an improvement in endurance.

Next, we will show you how to introduce it into your training routine and we will reveal all its secrets. Are you staying to find out?

What is fartlek

It consists of a training based on increasing and decreasing the speed for a specific time or distance, that is, it combines different rhythms without interruption.

High intensity is mixed with active recovery. Both the time and the distance will vary depending on the objective of the training session.

During moments of rest, the heart maintains a higher heart rate, thus promoting oxygenation of the muscles. This makes subsequent acceleration performance better.

An example of fartlek would be the following: run 200 meters at a warm-up pace, that is, very soft. Next, we will do 300 meters at a faster speed. This exercise will be repeated 6 times.

Who should practice it

This training can be practiced by any runner, be they sprinter, long-distance runner, or half distance runner. Obviously, the distance or time will be greater or less depending on the discipline that is practiced.

It also comes in handy for other athletes such as footballers, since they need to have good resistance and play with constant rhythm changes.


Where it comes from 

It has its origin in Sweden in the first half of the 20th century. Actually, the person who made “Fartlek” famous and who consolidated him was GöstaHolmer.

Its name is formed by the term “far”, that is, “speed”, followed by “lek”, “game”. For this reason, we usually also refer to it as “speed game”.

Benefits it brings

The fact of adapting the body to different speeds brings a great number of advantages. Let’s see what are the benefits of fartlek :

  • Improves resistance level. Keep in mind that breaks are active, so the body exerts itself for a long time.
  • We will strengthen our muscles. Despite this, don’t forget to do your specific strength session each week.
  • It helps us prevent injuries.
  • Thanks to this training we will learn to control the pace in the race. Surely on more than one occasion you have come out in a competition too fast and have paid for them on the way, right? With the fartlek, you will learn to listen to your body. This will allow you to run in a safer way for your health.
Thanks to this training we will learn to control the pace in the race

Types of fartlek

We can find several types of fartlek, the most common being:

  • By time. It is the most common. It consists of dividing different intervals by periods of time. For example, run one minute easy and two fast. It is very useful to practice it in parks, where it is more difficult to measure the exact distance.
  • By distance. In this case, the intervals will depend on a specific distance. They are usually practiced on the running track. For example, 200 meters fast with a recovery at a jog of 100 meters.
  • By terrain. Attention will not be paid to distance or time, but to the terrain where we run. An example would be going up a long slope and going down it recovering.
  • By pulsations. If you are used to pulsing running, this will be very useful. High intervals are around 180 beats, and during recoveries, it usually reaches around 130.



Some precautions to keep in mind

Before you start doing a fartlek you should do a previous warm-up of at least 20 minutes. This will prevent you from injuring yourself.

During recoveries, you should lower the intensity and go jogging, otherwise, you may not even finish the entire session.

As for speed, increase it little by little. If you start from the first batch with too fast a speed, it will be very difficult to reach the end in good condition. It is better to start more reserved and finish giving it your all.

When you finish the fartlek make a return to calm trotting very soft about 10 minutes. And of course, don’t forget to stretch! Your muscles will appreciate it.

How to introduce it into the training routine

If you want to improve your performance, you should do varied sessions. Keep in mind that if you always do the same training, you will feel stagnant and even unmotivated.

The fartlek is very effective to improve in the race, especially if you are a runner of 10K, half-marathons or marathons. For those who do trail, it is also a good exercise.

Do it once a week and mix in different types of fartlek. In the case that you are a beginner, start with shorter sessions, and if you find it difficult to endure the entire session, you can walk in the recoveries. You will surely learn to control it over time.

Training fartlek can be fun

A lot of runners fear this type of training. They think that these are very intense and boring sessions. In addition, since there is no rest period, it is somewhat complex.

Can you make fartlek a fun workout? Of course! So that it is not monotonous, you can insert the different types that we have explained previously in the same session.

It starts going up some slope and goes down recovering. When you do multiple reps, do another set for time or distance and finish with a pulse fartlek.

However, if you can use your imagination and create slightly more unusual but equally effective fartlek workouts:

‘Street’ Fartlek

This type of fartlek is one of the most enjoyable you may find since it is about adapting it to the streets of your neighborhood, which is interesting.

With this fartlek workout, the intervals are determined by the distances of each street. In this way, you can decide before starting the session in which streets you will run at a smooth pace (recovery streets) and in which streets you will run progressively until reaching a maximum speed, and decelerate in the last meters (speed streets).

You can also determine the sections of maximum effort and recovery using the elements of each street, that is: until the next lamppost, container, car, premises, etc.

Fartlek for speed

This type of fartlek requires a more exhaustive control than the rest and you will need a GPS watch to be able to control the passing times. For example:

  • 3x [400 meters at 3′45 ”/ km].
  • Recovery between series: 600 meters at 5 ‘/ km.

It is very interesting and useful to combine this type of fartlek with the pulsation fartlek.

Fartlek on track

Fartlek on the track has the peculiarity that, along the route, you will have to overcome obstacles and travel sections in which exercises that involve running techniques such as skipping or multi-jumps are performed.

Use imagination for each section. For example series of 400 meters “obstacles” can be alternated according to the previously set circuit, with 400-meter recoveries at a gentle pace and other series of 200 meters increasing the pace.

Fartlek in a training group

Although this type of fartlek follows the same trend in terms of alternating periods of running followed by recoveries, it is a training designed for experienced runners because it is led by a runner.

The goal of the group members will be to catch up with the leader on their escapades. Although this leader is not always the same since when he finishes his fartlek section, he will join the rest of the group and let another runner lead.

The key to this type of fartlek to be executed successfully is that the training group is homogeneous. Otherwise, there could be some more intense intervals than others, mainly due to the difference in the physical condition of each of the members.

Conclusion: fartlek is essential to improve your running

As you have seen, fartlek is a very effective training to improve endurance. In addition, it allows us to know our bodies better.

It also has a psychological factor, since it helps us to maintain the effort for a long time, which is why we increase our ability to withstand adverse situations.

Remember to take the necessary precautions, and if you are a beginner take it easy. At first, it could be a bit complex, but as soon as you do this type of training, you will do it without any problem.

Are you ready for your fartlek session? Take heart for it!

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