I tell you in detail what the Fartlek Training is, how to do it, its benefits and practical examples. It will help you give variety to your training sessions and improve endurance!
What is Fartlek?
Fartlek is a Swedish word that roughly translated as “speed play”.
That’s to say, within extensive continuous resistance training, the frequency, amplitude and intensity of strides are alternated, thus constantly varying rates of effort.
Fartlek Training, unlike interval training, has no rests.
Who invented it?
It was popularised by the Swedish athlete Gösta Holmer (1891-1983), in the 30s, training with the Swedish Cross team.
Their concept was to work at a faster rhythm than in competition, concentrating on the simultaneous training of speed and endurance.
Fartlek is a running-endurance method involving running different distances at different rhythms within a single training session.
Difference between Fartlek and continuous running
Fartlek is different from continuous running as, despite being a continuous method, the changes of rhythms are predetermined.
What is the purpose of Fartlek training
Fartlek training is a training method for developing and improving aerobic endurance.
The fact that in Fartlek you play with different rhythms and intensities helps athletes to develop qualities like speed, power and tolerance, which are required for such changes, improving adaption capacity.
This type of training brings variety, compared to races with continuous and maintained rhythms, i.e. it is less monotonous and the athlete enjoys the session considerably more.
- Improves maximum oxygen consumption (VO2max.).
- Increases the lactate threshold.
- Increases running economy and the use of different energy sources.
- Also improves muscle capillarisation and nervous system adaptions.
- Capacity to handle higher loads and adapt to the needs of different energy routes.
- Improves aerobic efficiency.
Who should practice it?
All endurance athletes should include Fartlek training in their training programme, combining it with other methods.
It’s widely used in sports such as football, where running and changes in pace and speed play a predominant role in the game.
How to do Fartlek training?
Fartlek, as we have already seen, consists of performing changes of rhythm, intensity and frequency within the same training session.
For this, as in any other session, the warm-up is essential to prepare the musculoskeletal and articular system.
Both technical exercises and dynamic stretching can be alternately combined with periods of running at a gentle intensity and finished with some progressive straights.
- By Distance: once warmed-up, training blocks are performed alternating different distances with different intensities.
- By Time: on other occasions, it can be performed with time intervals at a given intensity.
- Often the terrain itself can determine how Fartlek training looks: slopes, rough terrain, sand, snow.
- The total time of Fartlek training, being a method sometimes called continuous extensive, can last between 45-65 minutes.
- As mentioned above, there are changes in intensity across the length of the exercise.
- By alternating intensities between high and medium-low, the total trianing volume can be high.
Speed of training
On top of speed, we can talk about intensities.
As “X” speed for one person might involve training below their aerobic threshold, while for another it might mean training above this threshold.
So, the variables we can play with in Fartlek training are:
- Distance (which will depend on the specificities of the sport, whether endurance of a team game).
- Intensity at every change of pace
- High, close to and above maximum oxygen consumption [therefore exceeding the ventilatory threshold known as anaerobic (VT2)];
- Medium, in the training zone known as the “Steady State” (VT1-VT2) (a rhythm slightly below the anaerobic threshold but which the athlete can maintain a long period of time with great demands and effort); and
- Low, with rhythms close to the most aerobic zone of the first lactic threshold (VT1).
Types of Fartlek
In this case, the times or distances to be covered in each interval will determine the Fartlek training.
It might be the trainer in some cases or even the ground itself that determines these changes in rhythm and intensity.
Likewise, the demands of the sport itself will also affect those working times at each change of pace. That’s to say, the modality the athlete works in: 400-meter runner, long-distance runner, long-distance cyclist, football defender or midfielder, for example.
How to incorporate it into your training?
For runner, whether short or long distance, the ideal is to include some type of Fartlek training at least once a week.
As we have seen, it’s a method that allows the addition of training volume while working at different intensities and rhythms, offering a variety of stimuli and diversity to continuous training.
- During pre-season: longer distances can be performed, but at less demanding intensities, along with other continuous running sessions and some occasional interval training sessions.
- During in-season and competitive stages: you can introduce one of two sessions of this type at more demanding rhythms closer or above competition levels.
In what other sports can you include Fartlek training?
Given that it’s an endurance training method, and for the benefits stated above, it’s great to introduce Fartlek into training sessions for all types of endurance sports.
And also in sports or activities that feature a significant aerobic-anaerobic component, such as football, rugby, skating etc….
Football and Fartlek
Football is a sport in which running is implicit, although the position of each player on the pitch will mean their running requirements will be more or less important.
On the other hand, due to the duration of a football match the aerobic component is also a fundamental physical quality to be trained
Because of this, fartlek training is widely used in the physical preparation of football players.
To do so, after a phase of adaptation for the players to continuous running, sessions involving changes of rhythm can be introduced; that’s to say, Fartlek sessions with distances that oscillate between 1000 and 5000 meters, depending on the time of season.
However, the duration of this Fartlek or continuous training should be at least 45 minutes.
- Álvarez del Villar, Carlos. “La preparación física del fútbol basada en el Atletismo” (1992), Gymnos Editorial.
- García Verdugo, Mariano. Y Leibar, Xavier. “Entrenamiento de la Resistencia”, (1997), Gymnons Editorial.
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