FARTLEK – More than just a funny word!
Swedish for ‘Speed Play,’ fartlek is a way to build strength, speed and endurance in a running session, by varying the intensity and length of intervals mixed into a steady-state run based on how you feel and what you’re training for.
You plan to run for 30 mins, and warm-up by jogging for the first 5. From there it’s up to you! You choose the distance and speed of each interval. Sprint 100m to a park bench, then go back to a jog or your usual running pace to recover. Next you might aim for a tree 400m away, and run there at around 70% of your sprint speed, before settling once again into a comfortable tempo. There are no set rules, and you are literally just playing with the speed of the run to suit your whims minute by minute. Repeat this throughout your run to reap multiple benefits.
- improve leg strength and ‘kick’ – great when you need a short burst when overtaking or going for the finish line
- improve lung capacity and VO2 max (the maximum or optimum rate at which the heart, lungs, and muscles can effectively use oxygen during exercise, a way of measuring a person’s individual aerobic capacity).
- improve speed during your usual run – when you add harder, faster bursts into your usual steady, continuous run, that run will ultimately become easier and so your speed should improve with it
- burn more calories – raising the heart rate causes a greater metabolic effect, and you will continue burning calories long after the session has finished
- it’s fun – fartlek can be a great way to add variety to training, with the added advantage that you can choose your next interval’s speed and distance depending on how your body and mind feel in the moment, giving you the opportunity to push yourself in a way that is right for you
Personally, I credit fartlek training as being a major factor in the self-curing of my asthma in my mid to late teens. It’s a shame and stupidity that I later went on to smoke for twelve years, but that’s another story. It’s with great enjoyment that I am returning to fartlek training again, for health, fat loss and the exhilaration of endorphin surges.
FARTLEK – makes you laugh, makes you stronger!
(be sure to consult your doctor before taking up exercise or increasing the intensity of your programme)