Advantages of Fartlek Training Session: An Interval Training Workout to Improve Anaerobic and Aerobic Endurance
While I generally advocate a HIIT workout routine for getting in great shape, today I’d like to discuss a Fartlek training session. What is Fartlek? It’s a term that means “speed play” in Swedish and is an interval training workout that involves continuous exercise alternated between low, medium, and high intensity intervals. The main advantages of Fartlek training are that it allows you to burn fat and also improve both anaerobic and aerobic endurance. In other words, it helps you to more efficiently perform really intense exercise as well as improving your overall aerobic capacity.
Fartlek Training Session
How does Fartlek work in practice? Generally, Fartlek is performed through running but you could theoretically customize other activities to incorporate the same principles. You start by running at an average pace and then pick a time to sprint. After you sprint, you may run at a slower pace or the same pace that you started running at. It’s up to you. Then, when your body is ready, you can perform another sprint or simply run at an increased pace. You decide how often to increase the intensity and how far the interval is. You could base distances around landmarks (utility poles, lamp posts, trees, etc.). Maybe one sprint interval is only 100 meters while the next is a fast paced quarter mile jog. There’s no set structure.
Advantages of Fartlek Training
Why are Fartlek workouts a great way to train? First, interval training in general is an effective way to burn fat. It can be much better than simply running at a steady pace. Second, Fartlek training improves anaerobic and aerobic endurance. While steady state running improves aerobic capacity, it doesn’t help with high intensity sprints or other anaerobic activities. Even more amazing, some studies on interval training have shown that it improves aerobic capacity better than steady state running. It’s the best of both worlds. Finally, you’ll utilize both fast twitch and slow twitch muscle fibers meaning you improve power and speed (fast twitch) as well as endurance (slow twitch).
Another great feature of Fartlek training is how flexible it is. Unlike a traditional HIIT workout routine that may involve sprinting for 30 seconds and resting for 90 seconds for a set amount of time, Fartlek allows your body to dictate the amount of rest time you need as well as how long the overall routine is. You choose how often, how long, and how intensely you want to sprint. You can also customize your workout based on a specific sport or activity. For example, a basketball player might want to perform more short sprint intervals alternated with jogging vs. a cross country runner who may perform a series of longer fast paced running intervals. The athlete can essentially simulate the activity involved in their sport. Practice makes perfect!
Here’s a video that describes Fartlek training:
Sample Fartlek Workout
Here’s one of the original Fartlek workouts designed by Gosta Holmer for a cross country runner:
- Warm up: 5-10 minutes
- Hard pace: 1-1.5 miles
- Recovery (fast walk): 5 minutes
- Speed work: 50 meter sprints alternated with easy running until tired
- Easy pace: steady running with brief 3-4 step sprints
- Hard pace: uphill for 200 meters
- Fast pace: 1 minute sprint
- Repeat until tired
Another Interval Training Workout
One of the drawbacks to a Fartlek training session may actually be the discipline required. To get the best results, you have to be honest with yourself and vary your speed and intervals when your body is ready. Don’t get lazy and jog at a slow pace the entire time. For people that fear the freedom of an unstructured routine, then a traditional HIIT workout routine might be a better option. One of my favorite HIIT routines involves 15 second sprints with 45 seconds of jogging repeated for 10 minutes followed by 20-25 minutes of steady state cardio topped off with 1 minute of fast pace jogging alternated with 1 minute of slow paced jogging for 10 minutes. A more comprehensive program is Visual Impact Cardio.
If you’re an athlete, I’d highly recommend incorporating a Fartlek training session. This type of interval training workout will improve your anaerobic and aerobic endurance and also help you get better at your specific sport. For everyone else, one of the biggest advantages of Fartlek training is that it allows you to efficiently burn fat. Plus, a Fartlek workout can add a little variety and provide a nice break from a structured routine. Give Fartlek training a try!
- Advanced HIIT Training: High Intensity Interval Training Workouts
- Aerobic vs Anaerobic Exercise: Low Intensity vs High Intensity
- Functional Strength Training Workout Routine: Compound Exercises to Improve Real World Movements
- Strength and Conditioning Workouts: A Full Body Workout Routine to Increase Stamina and Endurance
- Workout Routines for Beginners: Strength Training Exercises