And What is a Fartlek?

Posted by Beth Hartman

This is a followup to a post which we did a few weeks ago on getting yourself out and running for the New Year.  In the body of the post on exercising for the new year, we mentioned the Fartlek technique which enables those who are either looking for a more intense workout or those who have plateaued and need to shake themselves out of their normal routines which their bodies have acclimated themselves to. Below is a condensed explanation on Fartlek and we think, just like the HIIT (High-Intensity Interval Training program) it can work for you in the same way.

Fartlek, which means "speed play" in Swedish, is a training method that blends continuous training with interval training. Fartlek runs are a very simple form of a long distance run. Fartlek training “is simply defined as periods of fast running intermixed with periods of slower running."

What's the Difference Between Fartlek, Tempo, and Interval Runs?
Fartlek Workouts, are not only fun to say out loud, but they're fun to run. Fartlek is Swedish for "speed play," and that is exactly what it’s all about. Unlike tempo and interval work, fartlek is unstructured and alternates moderate-to-hard efforts with easy, tempo based workouts along with your high intense moves. After a warm-up, you play with speed by running at faster efforts for short periods of time (to that tree, to the sign) followed by easy-effort running to recover, usually for about a 10-15 minute interval. It's fun in a group setting, as you can alternate the leader and mix up the pace and time. And in doing so, you reap the mental benefits of being pushed by your buddies through an unpredictable workout. The goal is to keep it free-flowing so you’re untethered to the watch or a plan and to run at harder efforts but not a specific pace.

Now, we still think using a fitness tracker, especially one that measures your heart rate is an important tool. Especially since you’re going to be subjecting yourself to some intense sprints during your run. You want to make sure your heart-rate is where it should be and in order to monitor this correctly, we recommend the Garmin Forerunner 235 GPS Running Watch 

Benefits: the Stress-free workout that improves mind-body awareness, mental strength, and stamina.

Tempo Workouts are runs, that use some effort at or slightly above your anaerobic threshold (the place where your body shifts to using more glycogen for energy). Again that heart rate monitor is great for monitoring this, once you know that level, you can use it as a mark. This is the effort level just outside your comfort zone—you can hear your breathing, but you're not gasping for air. If you can talk easily, you’re not in the tempo zone, and if you can’t talk at all, you’re above the zone. It should be at an effort somewhere in the middle, so you can talk in broken words. Pace, is not an effective means for running a tempo workout, as there are many variables that can affect pace including heat, the wind, fatigue, and the terrain your running on.

Interval Workouts are short, intense efforts followed by equal or slightly longer recovery time. For example, after a warm-up, run two minutes at a hard effort, followed by two to three minutes of easy jogging or walking to catch your breath. Unlike tempo workouts, you’re running above your red line and at an effort where you are reaching hard for air and counting the seconds until you can stop—a controlled fast effort followed by a truly easy jog. The secret is in the recovery as patience and discipline while you’re running easy allows you to run the next interval strong and finish the entire workout fatigued but not completely spent. Just like rest, your body adapts and gets stronger in the recovery mode.
Benefits: Improved running form and economy, endurance, mind-body coordination, motivation, and fat-burning.

So now that you know just what “Fartlek” training is, start implementing it and spread the word along to your friends and see if they want to join you on a Fartlek excursion. Who knows, you may want to get some t-shirts or sweatshirts made promoting your Fartleking group. If nothing else, you’re gonna be making an awareness statement for a lot of those people that see you and your group pass by and have no idea what the word stands for.

Happy Fartleking!

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