Although strange in name, Fartlek training is a Swedish term meaning ‘speed play’! Typically integrated into running, Fartlek training consists of fast, medium, and slow running over a variety of distances. More recently, Fartlek training has been integrated into swimming, cycling, and hiking/walking. We also have a few creative twists to the traditional Fartlek workout to make it even more fun!
The basic Fartlek (Speed): After a steady warm-up, simply pick a landmark –for example a tree, lamp-post, or phone box — and run to it hard, then jog/peddle/speed-walk until you’ve recovered. Then pick another landmark, run hard to that, recover and so on.
Fartlek with a twist (Play): Instead of just changing speed, if you are running or hiking, change your footwork. For example, do a karaoke, side step, or run backwards to a landmark. You can try some high knees or some heel kicks, just get creative. If you are cycling, push with just one leg for a short time or hop off your bike and run it uphill for a stretch. Fartlek intervals can be even more fun with a partner as you take turns calling out the next task and endpoint.
By changing your pace, you change your stride and the muscles you use. You are able to get away from the monotony of a workout that can quickly cause overuse injuries. Varying footwork drills in the midst of your workout also helps add extra muscle activation to your workout, thus building more balanced strength which can help minimize injury.
The best part of a Fartlek is that you get to call the shots, and you don’t need any fancy equipment. There doesn’t need to be a set structure to the workout and it is entirely up to you how hard or easy you make the session. Unlike track intervals, Fartlek doesn’t require you to set a distance to run or a time to recover. A watch isn’t necessary. So get out there and have some Fartlek fun!