Fartlek is an attempt to get rid of the routine in interval training. Routine for the runner is created by tables and charts. I encourage you to focus solely on your own feelings, without direct control over speed, pace, and distance.
In essence, the fartlek method is a kind of interval training, but it is not clearly structured. It also combines different paces of running. Therefore, the translation from Swedish means “speed play.
Basically, the fartlek is designed for you to leave your GPS watch and smartphone with Strava at home, so as not to be distracted from the sensations of the body and the voice of the mind.
There can be as many variations of a speed-play training program as there are runners themselves. So looking for something that suits you is not the case. It is necessary to trust the body. The training scheme itself looks something like this:
- Warm-up, warm-up 10-15 min
- Easy run 2-3 min
- Acceleration by feeling 1-2 min
- Easy run 4-6 min
- Maximum speed 4-5 min
- Repeating intervals in different variations
- Easy run, warm-up
The time figures given here should be completely disregarded. After all, they are given only as an example. Moreover, there is no timekeeping as such. After all, you left your sports watch at home. Remember?
There is another way to do this kind of training. This method already implies counting and control, but is very suitable for beginners, protecting them from excessive strain. Its essence is that we walk 20 steps (or 10, if you count one leg), and then 20 steps run. Then we walk 30 steps and run 30. And so on to a hundred.
Here we’re trying to structure our training, and we want to avoid that. There is a similar, visual method: run from pole to pole at different tempos. This, of course, also has the right to exist.
The Fartlek Philosophy
Over time, interval training without scrupulous control and analysis turned into a separate philosophical direction of running.
The beauty of fartlek is that it unobtrusively prepares you for racing, from the classic asphalt to the trail. But not just for the marathon, but for the variability of the pace over the entire distance.
The fartlek looks most natural in the trailrunner’s natural habitat – the hilly expanse of forest. However, ascents and, even more so, descents, require long physical training and special biomechanics so that such runs do not lead to all kinds of injuries.
Fartlek and Limitations
It is unacceptable to include in your plan any interval training and going into the anaerobic zone if you just started running yesterday. This requires a long preparation of the cardiovascular system. The time required for this, as you understand, is individual and depends on many factors. But on average, you will have to work on endurance at a low steady pace for six months.
All acceleration should not go over the threshold of feeling bad, you must remain in a comfortable condition.