Fartlek Training - The most efficient training principle around

Fartlek Training is without doubt my favourite way to train. I really love the benefits this type of workout can deliver. Although the sessions are challenging, they are extremely rewarding.


What is Fartlek?

The word fartlek is a Swedish term meaning 'speed play'. It can be any kind of training session which may combine various types of terrain with speed and endurance.

The principle behind fartlek training is to enable the body to adapt to various speeds, conditioning the body to move and recover faster over longer distances. However this training is not exclusively used for top level marathon preparation, as it can also be used to successfully improve your speed for any distance. 

It’s important we avoid continuously running at the same speed over the same distance and terrain as the body quickly adapts to it, and your progress will plateau. In order to improve your speed and endurance you should vary your training routine and keep pushing just beyond your comfort zone. The best way to achieve this is through a Fartlek training session about once per week.

running on road fartlek training

Fartlek sessions have the ability to improve both aerobic and anaerobic fitness by forcing you to both run faster and recover faster from exertion (at the same time). In other words, you are building stamina and speed while improving your recovery times all in one session. For this reason I would recommend that you only perform one of these sessions per week.

The use of Fartlek Training, or interval training as it is commonly known, involves alternating between periods of hard exercise and active recovery. The timing during a Fartlek session between levels of high intensity and recovery tends to be in the ratio of one third speed : two thirds recovery. If you are using this type of training method it can also be very useful to change from running on a level surface to using an incline. It is also very easy to adapt a session to suit your needs

Here, I've put together three handy tips to help you get the most from your Fartlek sessions and to insure that the intensity of these workouts continues to meet your needs as you progress.

tying laces of blue running shoe before fartlek training

3 tips to help you make the most of your Fartlek Training sessions

1: If you are looking to increase your speed, you can decrease your distance.

2: If you want to increase your capacity to recover, ie. lung function, you should reduce the amount of time you allocate to the recovery portion after each intense repetition.

3: You can run at a higher tempo but instead of doing 10 sets you reduce the sets down to 6 and then you start to build the number of sets back up.

There are lots of ways of keeping the Fartlek sessions challenging and I can guarantee that you will see massive gains if you can commit to building just one of these tempo sessions into your weekly routine. 

Typically, you should allow a 40 minute duration for this type of session. A 10-minute pre-workout stretch followed by about a 5-minute jog will get you ready to start the tempo running.

If your goal is general fitness or a 5K then you should aim for about 3 miles. However runners tackling longer distances should do longer tempo runs during their peak training weeks. About 4 to 6 miles for the 10K and if you are aiming for a half-marathon you would need to be working towards 6 to 8 miles and about 10 miles for the full marathon.

Fartlek training tips for running

There is a great added bonus to training in this way and that is it will spike your metabolism - which means that you will be able to burn fat quicker. The last thing to remember is that because this is a high octane training session it is imperative that you perform the correct post workout cool down routine and make sure you take a good quality protein source within about 15 minutes of finishing your session.

These sessions demand high levels of physical and mental commitment and will therefore also help to build your confidence levels which will serve you well in daily life as well as on race day.

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