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What is Fartlek Training?

So, what is fartlek training? Learn all about this Swedish style of training and more here in our latest blog post. Read now!

Published: 1/25/21

What is Fartlek Training?

One of the many reasons we love running is the amount of variety it allows. Running outside is a sensory symphony of sights, sounds, and smells; running indoors is an exercise best suited to a rocking soundtrack, and marathon runners know that there’s nothing like being cheered on by a crowd gaping in awe of the accomplishment you’re achieving. 

The variety that comes with running also gives us the freedom to develop training plans that suit every one of us individually, plans that make us better runners than we were the day before. Some runners prefer endurance training, some focus on power in short bursts, others are more concerned with gaining vertical distance up hills and mountains, and plenty are just getting started at a good old walking pace.  

Whatever your current training preference is, we have a method to share that has the potential to make your running experience a little more fun, a little more intuitive, and perhaps a lot more effective. 

So what is this miracle running regimen? 

Fartlek training. 

What is Fartlek Training? 

Fartlek is a method of training for long-distance running. 

The origins of the fartlek training lie in Sweden in the 1930s, as the Swedish distance running team struggled against their Finnish competitors. To remedy a lack of special training facilities, the idea of training in a way that was more natural arose. 

Fartlek is Swedish for “speed play.” It’s a form of interval training based on the natural world you run in. 

The general idea behind fartlek sessions is using your surroundings to encourage you to run faster. So basically, you go out running at a marathon pace (slow and sustainable), you lock onto some obstacle or landmark ahead of you—be it a building, street, light pole, tree, you name it—and pick up your speed to a 5k pace until you reach that landmark. You’ll then return to that slower pace until you find yourself inspired to pick it up again by something else. 

Fartlek is both a fantastic introduction to running because it isn’t rigid or extreme, as well as a useful tool for lifelong marathon runners who need to shake up their routine in either preseason or sprinkled into a pre-race regimen. 

At any level, the key to success in fartlek running training is establishing your two paces and sticking to them. 

What are the Benefits of Fartlek Training? 

Most things can be both a blessing and a curse, and traditional running training is no different. 

On the one hand, having a strict running regimen can be fantastic—it helps you stay accountable, focus on the tiny details you need to watch in your technique, and gives you a level of control over your body when creating a training plan for a marathon. That watch on your wrist is a vital tool to keep you on your game.

On the other hand, that strict regimen can be a little overwhelming at times. Some days, it feels more like the watch on your arm is judging you than supporting you, and a performance plateau can send the best runners in the world into a state of discouragement. 

This is where fartlek training shines. 

The simplest benefits of fartlek training are for new runners. Fartlek is arguably the most approachable way to start running. You move at a slower pace when it feels right and pick it up when you’re inspired. 

For advanced runners looking to improve performance, fartlek is the gateway to improving speed and endurance. If you want to improve your speed work, you should work on increasing your slower pace. If endurance is your aim, make the slower bouts shorter and shorter over time. To improve both, incorporate both a faster slow pace and shorter slow bouts. 

Anyone who participates in fartlek is training the mind-body connection that is so important to running (and everything else we do); it forces you to put mind over matter and push yourself to your limits without the pressure of a clock. 

What does a Fartlek Running Workout Look Like? 

Fartlek running training is divided, like most runs, into three parts: warmup, intervals, cool down. 

You can parse this in many ways, but a basic fartlek interval workout could be 10 minutes warming up, 20 minutes using natural landmarks to guide the speed of your run, and 10 minutes of cooldown. 

Fartlek is a fantastic approach to running because it makes it less serious and more natural, more fun. You can use music instead of natural landmarks to choose when to pick up the pace, especially if you live in a cold environment and the treadmill is your best friend for cooler months. Fartlek running doesn’t require much preparation, and having a more intuitive approach to running allows you to work with your body to help it support your goals. 

There is room for every runner in fartlek training. All you have to do is put your running shoes on, get outside, and allow yourself to get inspired! If you would like to practice running, we have treadmills at all of our locations. You can also enjoy treadmill training session videos on our virtual fitness platform, iChuze Fitness (grab a free 7-day trial here). We can’t wait to welcome you to the Chuze Family!

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