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Fartlek: A Swedish Training Trick for Better Running

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The term “fartlek” is made up of two Swedish words: fart (speed) and lek (play). So it means speed-play and the fartlek training method is a technique in which you do not follow a fixed pattern. Rather, you mix up the intensity of the sessions instead of running at a particular speed at a fixed distance.

The fartlek training workout is completely unstructured. It blends continuous training with interval training. The variable pace and intensity lay stress on both aerobic and anaerobic systems of the body, making it stronger and more immune.

It was originally associated with running but is applicable to almost every form of exercise now.

The Fartlek Technique: History

Swedish coach Gosta Holmer developed the fartlek technique in 1937. After various defeats in cross-country races, he was able to maintain a running world record for nine years with the help of the fartlek technique.

Fartlek: A Swedish Training Trick for Better Running

While designing the fartlek technique, he took care of individual needs, devising it in such a way that a runner could use 60% – 80% of his or her heart’s efficiency without getting tired.

Understanding that a warm-up session in the beginning and a cool-down session at the end are very important to prepare the muscles for an intense workout session, he structured the entire fartlek schedule in a very proper and planned manner to ensure success.

Benefits of Fartlek Training

Speed, stamina, and endurance are the factors that are improved in running as per the fartlek training method.

  1. It keeps you stimulated and energized and the training is easily adjustable.
  2. For cross-country or marathon runners, it is very helpful to maintain race-readiness.
  3. It keeps the body in shape. Muscles and ligaments are toned and nerves are strengthened.
  4. It helps to reduce fat easily. Burning calories with fartlek workout is guaranteed.
  5. It does not only stick to running, it also helps us to mimic the intensity required in various other outdoor activities and games.

Fartlek: A Swedish Training Trick for Better Running

An Interval Is Necessary for Running

Intervals are basically short and heavy workout sessions which are followed by a suitable recovery time.

Fartlek: A Swedish Training Trick for Better Running

For example, run for two or three minutes with full intensity and then jog or walk briskly for two to three minutes to catch your breath.

It involves a series of low-high intensity workouts followed by rest periods.

How to Do: Fartlek Training/Workout

It is an unstructured method which involves uneven paces of the race. One should be able to respond positively both mentally and physically to the varying paces.

A normal fartlek workout should be 40-60 minutes including the warm-up session.

Rather than keeping the same pace during the whole run, you should try to vary paces. Keep your run flexible.

The first 10-15 minutes should be dedicated to warming up and the last 10-15 minutes should be saved for cooling down.

Fartlek: A Swedish Training Trick for Better Running

Also, read about Changes that happen in our body during a run!

Know About Continuous Training

Continuous training does not contain any intervals in between. It can be carried out at low, moderate or high intensities.

Fartlek training is a combination of both continuous and interval training.

Fartlek: A Swedish Training Trick for Better Running


It involves both aerobic and anaerobic systems, which ensures the development of strength and immunity of your body.

Fartlek in the Base Phase of Training

It is a great method to be incorporated in the base phase of your training. In an unstructured fartlek, the benefit is that you do not need a proper planning or inspection. It is better to run at a comfortable pace relative to the time and distance.

Fartlek workouts can be made fun. You can divide your team members and run at varied paces and see who managed to finish first.

Fartlek: A Swedish Training Trick for Better Running

This will be a great test for your endurance and capacity. It improves your mind-body awareness and stamina.

Structured Fartlek

A structured fartlek first involves a 2-mile warmup. Stretching your muscles before an intense workout is very necessary.

Then 2-4 sets of the following should be applied:

  • 3-4 minutes at a half-marathon race pace followed by a 2-minute recovery jog
  • 2 minutes at 10K race pace followed by a 1-minute recovery jog
  • 1 minute at 5K race pace followed by 30-second recovery jog
  • 30 seconds at 1-mile race pace

A 4-minute recovery jog in-between the sets should be done.

Fartlek: A Swedish Training Trick for Better Running

Finally, end it with a 2-mile cooldown.

In case you have stiff and sore muscles, read about the Foam Roller Routine!

Do you have any more queries? Share it in the comments!

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