Fartlek Training

What is Fartlek Training? Unstructured HIIT!

With all the online information on how to lose weight floating around on the web, it’s no wonder one would get confused on different forms of workouts:  HIT, HIIT, Tabata, Body Weights, Plyometrics, Fartlek Training …

Wait … Fartlek, sounds foreign right?! Well it is! Fartlek is a Swedish word meaning “speed play”. Although it was developed back in the 1930’s, Fartlek training is becoming a more popular form of training to runners.

It is a training method which combines high intensity work with less strenuous exercise, blending both continuous and interval training methods. Sounds like another popular workout you may have heard before right?!

High Intensity Interval Training combines high intensity work with less strenuous exercise as well, yet the difference in Fartlek from HIIT is that Fartlek is unstructured. According to Wikipedia on Fartlek, “intensity and/or speed can be varied whenever the athlete wishes.” Meaning that the work-rest intervals are not specifically timed or measured, but instead are more based on how your body is feeling.

This aspect of Fartlek sounds perfect to me, stop and go when your body tells you to, not overloading or overdoing your body beyond. According to an article titled What is Fartlek? at CoolRunning.com, “an advantage of Fartlek is that the athlete can concentrate on feeling the pace and their physical response to it, thereby developing self-awareness and pace judgment skills.”

One of the main reasons many love Fartlek so much is due to the fact that it can be adapted to the individual. Everyone can vary a specific workout to match the strengths and weaknesses of their own. It helps people to develop self-awareness of their running skills.

Helping you to become more aware of your own level and strength, you are able to set your intervals on that. Fartlek is not as demanding as traditional interval training, no set minutes work or set minutes for rest. The intervals can vary throughout the workout as you please.

Another great benefit of Fartlek training is that fact that it is placing stress on both your anaerobic and aerobic systems, it is going to improve your speeds and increase your anaerobic threshold, which makes it a great weight loss exercise. It’s the perfect workout that allows you to run to the edge between aerobic and anaerobic, pushing that threshold but without going over.

Although there is no set minutes off and on for you doing Fartlek, there are a few workouts online you can find to help you get started. You can alter any of these workouts to more of your style and level. Although Fartlek is designed for runners, you could incorporate this method into different forms of exercises as well.

Fartlek can also have its drawbacks though and is definitely not a workout for everyone. According to that CoolRunnings articles, “it is primarily a technique for advanced runners because it requires ‘honesty’ to put in a demanding workload, and also ‘maturity’ to no overdo the pace or length of the intervals.”

So beginning runners, who may still have the mind over matter aspect and not sure themselves how far they can push themselves, might not be able to benefit from Fartlek training. Or beginning runners who have not yet learned how to listen to their bodies, may injury themselves by pushing themselves too hard.

Some find it difficult to run without a set training plan. Those who need set plans and structure will not like the idea of running and stopping when you please. However if you love variety, love pushing yourself hard and are able to listen to your body effectively, this method may be perfect for you.

About Stephen Sammes

Stephen (spelt ‘ph’ not ‘v’) Sammes is a writer and editor with a special interest in natural health and wellness. He’s also keenly interested in food. Of the healthy sort that is! When he’s not researching and writing about health, he can often be found improving his own at his local gym.