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What is Fartlek?
Fartlek is a Swedish word for “Speed play”. It is basically a run where there are faster periods of running mixed with slower periods of running. This is not necessarily sprinting and jogging, but could be walking and jogging. The pace of the faster running may also vary between medium efforts to full sprinting. It is often unstructured and improvised. A runner may sprint between lamp posts for example, or up to landmarks on their run at various distances at various speeds. Fartlek can however also be structured.
What is Interval Training?
Interval training is a type of training which can apply to all sports. The principle is that there is a period of high intensity followed by a period of recovery with low intensity or rest. This is then repeated several times. A popular term these days is “HIIT” [high intensity interval training]. The time periods for work and recovery can vary according to which energy system you are targeting [see below].
What is structured fartlek?
A structured fartlek session will have fixed intervals for the faster and slower periods of your run. These intervals may vary in time, but the session has a pre-set framework rather than being more improvised, as with standard fartlek. It differs from Interval training in that for running, interval training may be done on track, or in a gym with other exercises, whereas a structured fartlek session would be incorporated into a distance run.
Why is fartlek so popular?
If you are training for an event or just training for your own health and fitness, there are always days when it seems like a slog. To be able to vary your running training even on your regular route, is a great way of keeping things fresh. You can have multiple different sessions with a variety of timed efforts, even though you are running down those same roads you know so well. Physiologically, you are however also improving both your aerobic and anaerobic energy pathways.
What are the benefits of fartlek running training?
A runner has the opportunity to improve both their aerobic and anaerobic energy pathways during a fartlek session. It can improve speed as well as endurance and the variation in speed during your run not only keeps the session interesting, but keeps you responsive if you race.
Which energy systems do we use during a fartlek session?
The three energy systems our bodies use are:
- The Alactic System.
- The Lactate System.
- The Aerobic System.
1. The Alactic system involves the organic chemical Adenosine Triphosphate (ATP).
During intense exercise, ATP is converted to Adenosine Diphosphate [ADP] + a Phosphate + a release of energy.
ATP is stored in your muscles and those stores last only for approximately 2 seconds during intense exercise. ATP is however quickly resynthesised from Creatine Phosphate (CP) which is stored in the body. If you were sprinting for example, your CP stores in the muscles would be depleted after approximately 4 to 6 seconds. So we get around 5 to 8 seconds of ATP production in total.
The Alactic system is more important to sprinters and power orientated athletes. Training to develop this system is often sets of very high intensity for 4-8 seconds, with up to 3 minutes recovery.
2. The Lactate System kicks in when the CP stores are depleted. The body then resorts to stored glucose to supply ATP. The breakdown of glucose or glycogen in anaerobic [without oxygen] conditions results in the production of Lactic acid.
Interestingly, once thought of as an athlete’s enemy, we now know about 30 percent of all glucose we use during exercise is derived from lactate “recycling” to glucose.
Fartlek training is a fantastic way to improve your Lactate system as it is ideal for Lactate Threshold Training. This is the point at which lactate builds up in the bloodstream faster than the body can remove it. If this is improved through training, an athlete can continue at a higher intensity for longer, without being forced to slow down – or at least further delay that “slow down” point.
3. The Aerobic System [with oxygen] uses fats, carbohydrate in the form of Glucose and sometimes protein, to produce ATP for energy production. Basically, the longer an activity goes on for, the more you are using your aerobic system. Your aerobic system will also help with your recovery during interval work and with lactate removal.
It is of course important to point out the huge health benefits on your heart, blood pressure and respiratory system of having a fully functional aerobic system. Crucially, all areas of recovery, whether it be during training or for your own health, will be better with an efficient aerobic system.
- Fartlek. 73 mins total. Includes 10 min warm up and 5 min warm down. Hard periods are for 10 minutes, 8, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, and 1 minute, with about half those times for rest.
- Fartlek. 36 minutes total with warm up and warm down. Efforts are 2 x90 seconds, 4×60 seconds, 4×30 seconds and 4×15 seconds. Recovery is the same as the work period.
- Fartlek. 10 min warm up then 13 sets of 1min hard and 45 seconds jogging. Then a final 2 minute burst. Finish with 5 min warm down. Total 40 mins.
- Fartlek. 10 min warm up then 13 sets of 1min hard and 1min 15 seconds jogging. Then a final 2 minute burst. Finish with 5 min warm down. Total 47 mins approx.
- Fartlek. 10 min warm up then 12 sets of 1min hard and 45 seconds jogging. 5 min warm down. Total 36 mins approx.
- Fartlek. 10 min warm up then 12 sets of 1min hard and 1min 15 seconds jogging. 5 min warm down. Total 41 mins.
- Fartlek. 10 min warm up then 10 sets of 1min hard and 45 seconds jogging. 5 min warm down. Total 32 mins.
- Fartlek. 10 min warm up then 10 sets of 1min hard and 1min 15 seconds jogging. 5 min warm down. Total 37 mins. approx
- Fartlek. 10 min warm up then 13 sets of 1min hard and 1min jogging. Then a final 2 minute burst. Finish with 5 min warm down. Total 43 mins.
- Fartlek. 10 min warm up then 12 sets of 1min hard and 1min jogging. 5 min warm down. Total 38 mins.
- Fartlek. 10 min warm up then 10 sets of 1min hard and 1min jogging. 5 min warm down. Total 34 mins.
- Fartlek. Half marathon prep. 76 mins total with warm up and cool down. 2 sets of 8, 6, 4, and 2 min hard.
- Fartlek. 62 mins total. 10 min warm up then 2 sets of 5, 4, 3, 2, and 1 min efforts with half those times for jog recovery.
- Half Time Fartlek. 53 mins total incl 10 min warm up and 5 min cool down.
- Half Time Fartlek. 46 mins total incl 10 min warm up and 5 min cool down.
- Sport headphones workout. 40 minute speed play session. 15 minutes steady then 30s hard, 30s jog, for last 25 minutes. Tough.
- 45 minute speed play [Fartlek] session with some steady running. Includes 3 minute warm down. Time based, so any standard.
- 30 minute speed play [Fartlek] session. Steady first half and 30s on 30s off all the way back.
- 30 Minute Speed Play [Fartlek] session with some steady running. Time based, so fine for any standard.
- Running Machine Workout 6. 34 mins total. 7 min warm up then a mixture of 1 minute efforts and 30 second efforts with various rest. Frequent speed changing on the machine. Go at your pace.
- Running Machine Workout 5. 62 mins total. 10 min warm up then 2 sets of 5, 4, 3, 2, and 1 min efforts with half those times for jog recovery. Go at your pace
- Running machine workout 4. 45 mins total. 3 sets of 5x30sec hard with some steady running. Works for all levels who can run for 45 mins. Go at your pace.
- Running machine workout 3. 30 mins total. 13x30sec hard and 1x60sec hard with some steady running at the start. Works for all levels. Go at your pace.
- Running machine workout 2. 30 mins total. 2 sets of 5x30sec hard with some steady running. Works for all levels. Go at your pace.
- Running machine workout 1. Intermediate level. 18 mins plus 5 min jog down. A couple of gradients and 4x30s sprints at the end.