Fartlek Training Workouts & Benefits

by John Staughton last updated -

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Many people rely on fartlek training to improve their endurance and speed, among various other benefits of this simple, yet unique approach to exercise.

What is Fartlek Training?

Fartlek is a workout style that combines interval training with continuous training, meaning that the level of intensity of your workout will increase and decrease over a set distance or amount of time. This method was first developed in Sweden, from which the name originates – meaning “speed play” – and is primarily practiced by runners. This could mean combining jogging with periods of sprinting or walking with periods of jogging. What many enjoy about this approach is that the intensity, distance, and variability of the workout can be decided spontaneously, and adjusted accordingly by each individual.

How Does it Work?

This effective training style consists of altering your intensity, which can train both your anaerobic and aerobic systems to be more flexible. For example, you may begin jogging for 1/4 mile, then sprint for 100 meters, walk slowly for 100 meters, and then jog for another 1/4 mile, completing a designated loop with a final sprint. As mentioned, every aspect of this workout style is controlled by the individual, making it endlessly customizable and dynamic. This constant fluctuation of intensity can have impressive effects as a cardio exercise, while also forcing your body to stretch its limits and boost endurance.

Fartlek Training Workouts

There are a number of different fartlek training workouts, including 5K training method, the landmark fartlek, and the music fartlek, among others.

5K Training Fartlek

In this style, your goal will be to improve your 5K racing speed and final time. You want to include about 8-10 gentle increases in speed, lasting for about 60 seconds each, with a 1-minute jog to recover in between. You should not stop until you’ve run a 5K distance, and this should help you work on your end-of-race surging.

Landmark Fartlek

A popular variety of fartlek training is to choose a landmark in the distance on your run, whether it is a building, stop light or tree, and gradually speed up until you reach that point. Once you get there, you can return to your normal jogging pace until you are recovered. You can then choose your next distant landmark and begin to speed up again.

Music Fartlek

Create a playlist of music where the songs go back and forth between fast and slow beats. Basically, you want to vary between just below your normal jogging pace and just above your normal jogging pace. By alternating your running speed to match these alternating songs, you can have an enjoyable and dynamic workout!

Benefits of Fartlek Training

The top benefits of fartlek training include increased speed and endurance, improving cognitive focus, and burning fat, among others.

  • Strength: The intensity of this workout will help to increase strength by creating micro-tears in the muscle, which will be repaired better and stronger than before, e.g., muscle growth.
  • Fat Burning: The fluctuation between anaerobic0 and aerobic exercise is excellent for fat-burning and speeding up your metabolism to make it serve you better!
  • Injury Prevention: Since the body is given adequate time to recover between intense intervals, the injury is less common and easier to prevent.
  • Speed and Endurance: This approach to running is known to boost both speed and endurance, making it popular for a marathon, half-marathon, 10K, and 5K runners/racers.
  • Variability and Control: Leaving all intensity and duration decisions up to the individual runner means less pressure to stay within a rigid framework, which means a lower chance of injury or overexertion.

Fartlek vs HIIT vs Tabata

These three approaches to training have certain similarities, but also differ in key ways.

Fartlek

  • Easy or moderate active recovery periods between intensity intervals (30 seconds to several minutes of work and rest)
  • Heart rate – 70-85% of max level
  • Can be spontaneously controlled or altered by the individual
  • Can range from 30-60 minutes

HIIT

  • Passive recovery time (standing) between periods of intense training (1-2 minutes for work and rest)
  • Heart rate – 85-90% of max level
  • Typically lasts for 20-40 minutes

Tabata

  • 4-minute total structure – 20 seconds of intense training followed by 10 seconds of rest
  • Heart rate – target is 100% of max level
About the Author

John Staughton is a traveling writer, editor, and publisher who earned his English and Integrative Biology degrees from the University of Illinois in Champaign, Urbana (USA). He is the co-founder of a literary journal, Sheriff Nottingham, and calls the most beautiful places in the world his office. On a perpetual journey towards the idea of home, he uses words to educate, inspire, uplift and evolve.

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