Speed Play for the Training: Fartlek Run

In Swedish, Fartlek means “Speed Play.” It is a type of training that alternates between running fast and slow. It also means interval running without special pacing and resting time. It can train the athlete’s ability to respond to the continuous changes in speed and terrain.

Fartlek is widely adopted by athletes. American football and basketball players will insert many sprint trainings in a 30min-40min jog. This lays the foundation for physical strength and power. In marathon training, the most famous has to be the Kenyan runners located in the East African Plateau.

In Iten, Kenya’s sacred place for long-distance running, hundreds of Kenyan male and female athletes gather at “Tyre Mbili”, to warm up and jog at 8:40AM every Thursday. The run starts on time at 9:00AM. The main content for that specific day is formulated by prestigious people of the local running associations.

The main content might be an alternation between three-minute sprints (hard) and one-minute jogs (easy), or alternations between two-minute hard and one-minute easy or between one-minute hard and one-minute easy. There’s also a possibility that it’s a mix of these. Runners start off at a very slow speed. During the hard and easy, they’ll gradually pick up speed until the final part where they’ll move at a very fast pacing.

Most people would have completed 15-18km when they finish and the time would be around 50min-60min. For the members who can’t keep up, they’ll switch to mainly jogging and return ahead of time. Most of the roads in Kenya are dirt roads. Uneven road surfaces with slopes increase the difficulty of the task.

What Are the Advantages of Fartlek?

Fartlek is suitable for runners of all levels. Whether you’re an Olympic athlete or just an average runner, from starting at a very slow speed, there must be a training that suits your level. Moreover, the unevenness of the terrain and undulating roads add unpredictability to the training. It is also a litmus test for the will and can build a stronger will. Compared to the traditional set-distance interval running, there is less pressure felt in fartlek. It is also a good way to maintain basic fitness, especially during off season.

Famous Italian Coach Renato Canova

Famous Italian Coach Renato Canova had proposed “Specific Fartlek.” When athletes are not yet ready physically or psychologically for the specialized training schedule, they can use fartlek as the connecting training schedule.

The possible aspects include one-minute hard and one-minute easy at the marathon pacing of 4km-6km x 4, with 1km jog in between. The jogging in this type of connecting training schedule will require the runners to maintain a certain speed and not just simply jogging. For example, in the final part of the marathon pacing training, the jogging within Fartlek is around 20s-30s/mile slower than marathon pacing. If it is converted to the metric system, it is about 12s-20s/km slower.

As the training schedule draws closer to the end, the pacing of the jogging between the sets will also gradually speed up. This can also be used as the introductory training of the marathon training period. Splitting the target pacing that you are unsure of achieving into parts can help your body to gradually get used to the target pacing while under less pressure. This is a very suitable method during the initial stages of the marathon.

How Should Fartlek Be Executed?

Before running fartlek, don’t forget that its original intention is “Speed Play”; therefore, loosen up and enjoy it. The reference basis is quite diverse. It can be through a specific time and number of sets or specific distance. If you don’t have a watch at hand, you can even refer to the number of traffic lights and number of electric poles as a conversion to the number of sets. These are all interesting ways.

Fartlek is usually used during the off-season training or as a lead right before speed training, so as to let the body get used to the feeling of fast speed. Many people have doubts with regard to this training schedule, especially on how to pay attention to the time.

Actually, with Garmin Connect, you can easily set a certain time interval and synchronize it to your watch. What should I do if I don’t know how to use this setting? Let’s go to the page of workouts, and add repeats with 1 min running and recovery. Garmin watches will record the laps you setting and help remind switch your pace on and off.

After sync the setting to watch, turn on “Run” mode and press on “Up” button for a while. You will find the training in “My workouts” of Training. With Garmin watches and Garmin Connect, let’s have the speed play!