What is Fartlek Training?

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  • Written By: Geoff Wakeling
  • Edited By: J.T. Gale
  • Last Modified Date: 29 November 2018
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A Swedish word for speed play, fartlek training was developed in the 1930s as a form of conditioning for both anaerobic and aerobic energy systems. A form of continuous exercise, it involves mixing the intensity of an exercise session, with athletes alternating between running fast, running steady, and running slow. It can be combined into any training program as there is no set time or distance limit for sessions. While most athletes prefer to train for at least 30 minutes at a time, the benefits of fartlek are abundant, even when used for shorter amounts time. A traditional and established form of conditioning, it usually can be added to any athlete's schedule, whether training in general or aiming for a specific competitive event.

Increasing both aerobic and anaerobic capacities, in addition to increasing lactate threshold, training of this form is particularly beneficial due to its flexibility. Mostly used to condition runners, fartlek training programs can also be adapted for those in team sports such as rugby, football, and hockey. While continuous exercise can increase both high- and low-intensity movements, exercise can be altered to become appropriate to a specific sport. For example, instead of simply running in a straight line, those training in group field sports can alter their training to incorporate backward and side-to-side steps.


This form of training is primarily used by runners who want to cover long distances. By altering the body to cope with the distances run during half and full marathons, lung capacity can be greatly increased. In addition, short spurts of high-intensity training can gradually increase an athlete’s average speed, aid in covering distances quickly, and help an athlete achieve better time credentials.

In addition to many personal training programs, a wide range of traditional sessions already exist, including the Astrand Fartlek, the Saltin Fartlek, and the Hill Fartlek. The Astrand, used to train for the 800-meter (about 875 yards) dash, is a session at just under 30 minutes, made up of 10 minutes of steady exercise at each side of the program, with high and slow intensities for seven minutes in the middle. The Saltin, used for 1,500-meter (about 1,640 yards), 3-kilometer (about 1.86 miles), and 5-kilometer (about 3.12 miles) races, uses a similar structure but lasts for 45 minutes with longer periods of intensity in the middle. Hill Fartlek training is exactly that: running over a hilly course for 2 miles (3.2 km), individuals use high-intensity training to run up hills while jogging in between to facilitate recovery.


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Post 11

I like it but it can be intense.

Post 7

@bivie It's not dumb, because most people never experience it. Runner's high is an adrenaline rush. It is the release of endorphins into the blood stream. Their job is to reduce the pain from intense exercise. They produce the same feeling as morphine, and they are many times stronger. The body only releases a very tiny amount of them during a strenuous exercise like running. They make you feel euphoric.

As a beginner runner, it may be awhile before you feel it, if ever. But fartlek is a great way to try to achieve runner's high. Once you feel it, you will want to feel it every day. I know from experience.

Post 6

I don't mean to sound dumb, but what is runner's high? I hear about it a lot, but I've never experienced anything that I think is a runner's high. I'm still in beginner training, though. Does that have something to do with it?

Post 5

@live2shop - Fartlek training workouts are a great way to achieve runners high. The amount of endurance required for a normal running session may not be enough to spark runner's high. Fartlek allows for that extra push a runner needs to get across the line to achieve runner's high. That's because the runner can achieve a very high heart and breathing rate and maintain it even when he is running slower; that is, providing he doesn’t run slow for too long.

Post 4

@Bertie68 - I'm not a long distance runner, but I know a lot of people who are. Some run several times a week, and some have done so for many years. They seem to thrive on the "high of running" and participating in marathons.

Some others have tried running for a couple of years, but the long training sessions seem to wear on them. They say that they just don't feel well after running sessions and competition runs.

I think these people should try some form of Fartlek training. The training sessions are shorter and the chance for your body to recover from the stress of the intensive part of the session, makes you feel a lot better.

I do a walking training session several times a week similar to the Fartlek method. I feel good afterwards and I feel more fit overall.

Post 3

This type of training appeals to me. I didn't know that it had its beginnings back in the 1930s in Sweden. To me, it makes a lot of sense, rather than running for miles to gain strength and endurance. If, instead runners or walkers take short sprints and then go to a steady pace, their bodies will be stressed at a higher level and will strengthen. Then it has a chance to recover during the steady running.

I walk several times a week. I go on a hilly up and down route. I walk a little faster on the hilly parts to promote strength and slow to a steady speed on the down hill or level parts. This gives my body time to recover.

Post 2

amazing workout.

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