October 15, 2016

A beginner’s guide to fartlek

Ok, stop sniggering at the back. Fartlek might sound like a silly name but it could be a highly effective form of training that allows you to achieve your training goals.

Take a look at our beginner’s guide to understand what fartlek training entails, how you can embrace it and what benefits you can get from incorporating this into your workout regime.

What is fartlek training?

Fartlek means ‘speed play’ in Swedish, the country in which the theory was first developed by cross country coach and former Olympian Gosta Holmer in the 1930s.

In essence it’s a form of interval training in which runners vary their pace in a bid to improve both their speed and endurance. For beginners, this might mean a mix of jogging and walking, building up to a mix of jogging and sprinting for those after a tougher test.

Essentially you can take this theory and apply it however you wish but it might well look something like this:

  • A thorough warm-up
  • A burst of speed – a jog or sprint – for at least a full minute
  • Ease down to a rapid walk or jog for another two minutes
  • Back up to full speed for two minutes
  • Down to a lower speed for a minute
  • Repeat this another four or five times
  • A full cool down.

This is a very basic framework – the timings can easily be adapted to suit the time and distance that you’d prefer for your own workout.

What are the benefits of fartlek training?

Fartlek training is great for people who want to be able to increase their stamina on the sports field.

Consider a team sport such as football, for example. The hardest working top flight footballers, as this Sky Sports article shows, run between 11 and 12km a match. Yet this is a very different form of running to the sort you might be able to replicate with a straight jog. Footballers need to be able to burst into life, with rapid sprints interspersed with slower jogs.

Fartlek helps people to replicate these changes of pace – which are far from unique to football – in a training environment. By helping your body become used to changes of pace, you’ll not only get greater endurance and stamina into your sporting performance but you may also be able to protect your body from the sort of injury that can occur with this form of stop-start activity.

Fartlek is also good for variety. Many people find that they get bored when they run. By changing the pace at regular intervals you can conquer the boredom and push on to get the results that you want. Not only that, but the changes of pace allow for an element of ‘recovery time’ for those not fit enough to start off with long distances who might otherwise be put off from getting their running shoes on.

Finally, it’s also good for those looking to shed some pounds. The changes of pace will boost your heart rate and burn plenty of calories, making this a great way to encourage those looking to slim down.

So, there we go. This is a Swedish theory that is well worth using in order to boost your speed, endurance and sporting performance as well as help you to cut calories and fight the boredom.

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