What in the world is fartlek?

Fartlek is a Swedish word that roughly translates to “gaseous propelled running.”  Just kidding, despite how it sounds, it’s not a Swedish word.  Ok, it is, but it doesn’t have anything to do with the word gasesous.  Roughly translated “fartlek” means, “speed play.”  The reason you should care is because it is one of the most effective, yet enjoyable, forms of running.  And it’s been successfully used by professional athletes since the 1940s.

Fartlek was developed by a Swedish running coach named Gosta Homer, and his training methods helped improve the speeds of two already quick Sweedish milers.  The fartlek method aligns perfectly with CREUS because it’s a free-flowing form of training that’s centered around play, enjoying nature, and personal intuition.  There’s no rigid training schedule with fartlek.  The runner simply varies his speed throughout a medium to long-distance run as he chooses.

A fartlek run usually includes intermittent sprinting, fast paces, medium paces, and fast walking all within one run.  The runner varies his speed by picking a landmark on the horizon, such as a tree, rock, bush, or hill, then running to it at a predetermined pace.  Having small goals along the way helps the runner forget about his pain or the distance of the longer run and push the limits of his training.

Fartlek runs can be adapted to include more anaerobic or aerobic exercise (by doing more or fewer sprints) depending on the goals of the athlete.  There are also a number of variations of the fartlek, such as a variation that builds full-body strength by incorporating obstacles, push-ups, sit-ups or squats along the run.  This is what makes fartlek fun; it involves the imagination and allows the runner to break away from the confines of the stopwatch and track.   If you want to run faster, you have to run faster, and fartlek helps you do so by breaking fast runs into small chunks.  So, get outside and play with speed.

Primary reference: Run Fast: How to Train for a 5-k or 10k Race by Hal Higdon.

Originally posted 2011-09-14 14:44:00.

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