Running Fartleks, Pardon Me?

Running Fartleks, Pardon Me?

Fartleks. No, it’s not a rude word and has got nothing to do with any bodily functions. Fartlek is a Swedish term meaning “speed play” and in running terms it’s a form of interval training. Let me explain.

I came across Fartlek training while reading a running magazine. It was still early in my running life, but I had entered my first ever 10k so was looking to step up my training. Interval training seemed to be something that could help me get faster. So I gave it a go.

The fact is that if you Google Fartlek you will find a plethora of advice out there about this form of training. I’m no running coach, but I’ll explain how I do it.

Interval training and Fartleks

There are many forms of interval training.

On a track it could be a 400m (1 lap) sprint followed by a lap of walking or slow jogging to recover before going again. With a stop watch it could be 20 seconds of sprinting and 40 seconds of recovery, repeated numerous times. Then there’s the 30-20-10 interval training method too which is something I have tried and it’s brutal!

Fartleks don’t rely on a set distance or time interval. It’s more random than that. That’s why I like doing them and you see how it fits into running in both urban and country environments.

How I do a Fartlek session

First I warm up. Although I do wear my TomTom running watch, I don’t check it very often whilst I am out running. So my warm up is usually 5 minutes of running at a low tempo. This also gives Duke (our Labrador) time to do his business before things get going.

Once warmed up it’s time to get going.

Type of interval speed

It helps to think of 4 speeds you could run at:

  • Easy – slow running/joggin/walking
  • Regular – you regular comfotable running pace
  • Fast – maybe running at 65-75% of your flat out pace
  • Sprint – something like 90% of your flat out pace
  • Flat out – you can’t go any faster than this

It’s important to remember that flat out pace is as fast as you can possible go at that time. Natually, later in a run this will be slower than at the start.

Varying the intervals

I pick a landmark, such as a lamp post or tree, ahead of me and another a distance further along. I then choose either fastsprint  or flat out as the pace I will go at between them. I dop back to regular after the session and pick another landmark to go again.

I vary the distances between the landmarks and the speed I choose each time. Some shot, some long. It really is very random. This is where the speed play comes into it.

Why interval training

Running coaches the world over include interval training into their athletes programs. There is good reason for this.

Running intense intervals helps to improve both your aerobic and anaerobic endurance. Intervals also assist with increases your VO2 max and improves your overall running performance.

Another added bonus is that the stimulus on your muscles from interval training is higher. Subsequently, the muscles require more energy for repairing and building muscle tissue during the recovery. This afterburn effect also burns additional calories.

Running Fartleks, Pardon Me?
Me, enjoying a winter run during my “bearded” days

So now you know about Farleks. Are you going to introduce them to your running?

Thanks for reading.



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