What is fartlek training and how can it benefit your running?
Many runners will have heard of Fartlek training – you know, the speed session with the funny name (!) - some of us at Pro:Direct have even given it a try on a few occasions! However, we know that, done right, Fartlek can be a convenient and effective addition to your training week that will be hugely beneficial to our running. So, we called in some advice from the experts over at adidas Runners London.
What is fartlek training?
Fartlek is the Swedish word for “speed play”, roughly translated as “change of pace”. It is a continuous workout, that blends endurance training, with higher intensity, faster efforts.
Unlike an interval session, where you have discrete, high intensity efforts followed by a period of rest, in a fartlek session, the aim is to continue running throughout.
Will fartlek training make you a better runner?
Fartlek training is a great way of gradually increasing both your mileage and training load; by building in higher intensity efforts to your easy or steady runs, you are teaching your body to adapt to different speeds, as well as challenging yourself to run fast on fatigued legs.
It is great for improving your mental game too; although fartlek sessions can be mentally challenging - running hard on tired legs is tough - many runners find the varied nature of fartlek sessions more mentally stimulating, and interesting, thus easier to tackle.
Fartlek training also prepares us for race day; the faster efforts mixed in with the slower, recovery portions teach your body to adapt to changing intensities, mimicking surges in a race, for example.
Try this fartlek training session yourself:
A classic fartlek workout is the lamp post session! This can be easily adapted depending on your experience and running goals. Find a street or pathway with a number of lampposts. After a good warm up, including plenty of dynamic stretching and strides to get the legs ready for the workout, run hard to the first lamppost, then easy back to the start. For the next effort, run hard to the second lamppost, and easy back, and so on. Start with a total duration you are comfortable with, and gradually increase this week on week.
To make this workout more interesting, you can make the workout more spontaneous and unstructured; substitute lampposts for other landmarks, such as bridges, woods, traffic lights, and change your pace every time you reach the next chosen landmark.
You can also make your long run more interesting by building in faster paced efforts and turning it into a fartlek session. Simply pick up the pace (not much more than 20-30s per km) at the end of each mile (or km), for between 30s and 90s.
If you prefer running to time, you could also turn your classic Fartlek into a structured one - it’ll still involve you alternating between your hard and easy efforts. An example workout could be a 20 minutes block of running with a 4:1 minute ratio of hard and easy effort - 4 minutes at hard effort, followed by 1 minute at an easy effort. You could tweak this based on your ability and current level of fitness.
How frequently should you do fartlek training?
How frequently you do a fartlek session will depend on how frequently you are running overall. If you are running 3 or more times a week, you can build a fartlek into your runs once a week, and more if you are varying the sessions (so a long and a short fartlek, for example).
The key is to ensure you are getting enough recovery time after each run and before the next session; remember, the recovery time is when the real training adaptations take place and without it, you won’t get fitter.
Top 5 tips for fartlek training:
Fartlek can be carried out anywhere from your local park to a stretch of road using landmarks or trees, even on the track if that’s more your style.
Ensure you keep the workout continuous whilst alternating between your hard/easy efforts.
You’re getting a double dose of running improvement with both aerobic and anaerobic engines in action. Fartlek’s are a great way to help transition to faster more demanding race-pace workouts.
This is where the magic happens, ensure your easy effort aids your hard effort. Make sure you allow yourself to recover efficiently during your easy effort.
Choosing the right footwear for your session and ability is really important. Adidas have a fantastic range of shoes meaning this task becomes slightly easier.
If you value comfort, then the Supernova, or brand-new Supernova +, are great options. If you are more focussed on speed, then lacing up one of the adizero shoes, such as the adizero Pro, will really help you get the most out of this session.
Huge thank you to Olivia and Ayo for their insight into Fartlek Training. We can’t wait to get out there and give it a go on our next run. Will you be lacing up and taking on your own Fartlek Training session? If you do, make sure to tag us in your runs on your social channel of choice. You can find us at:
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