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Fartlek Training: Expected Advantages and Disadvantages

If you are a beginner and you are one of those runners who only run easy or same pace training, it is time to level your game. We offer you to try doing fartlek training. If you have no idea what is this, it is a Swedish term that can be translated as “speed play”. Basically, you are “speeding” from point A to point B and then you slow down again until you decide to repeat the “game” again. What I love about the fartlek is that it offers millions of variations. You can choose how long to be your interval and how long to be your rest/recovery run. For example, it could be a 1min off with 1 min on, or 300m speeding with 700m easy jogging. You can choose how long to be and how often to speed. Moreover, it does not need to be so structured. You can simply do a fartlek during your run choosing random points where you want to increase your speed.

Advantages of Fartlek Training

It is quite flexible

This leads us to the first advantage of fartlek training- flexibility. You can play around with how often and how far to speed. You can do it by seconds, minutes, distances, or just random points you pick during your training.

Less challenging mentally

t is also less challenging mentally – runners often stress too much when doing intervals like 5x1km but if you ask them to do 5×4 min it sounds less stressful to them and often they perform better. This is because when given a certain distance, runners immediately think about a particular pace they have to perform. However, when doing a workout in minutes or just choosing random spots for speeding, your mind is free of “pace duties” and you often run faster because of the lack of pressure that many times sabotage us during running.

Adds variety

Adds variety to our running program. It will be way too boring if we do the same thing every day. Doing fartleks will reduce the boredom of running and it will help us to stay dedicated to running in the long term.

Boosts endurance

Research has shown that by doing fartlek, you are doing good to your endurance. You can improve your VO2max by adding fartlek training to your running routine. This will also result in lowering your heart rate at challenging paces.

It makes you faster

It does make sense- by speeding often during your run you are improving your fast-twitch muscles response. Doing more speed makes you faster as running more often helps you run longer.

It helps you with your final kick

Have you ever been passed by another runner at the finish line of a race and you felt like you couldn’t respond? Well, fartlek is essentially the best practice of learning how to switch paces and kick. It helps you adapt to switch the gear and speed when you have to. Often before races, I recommend runners to do fartlek training and even imagine how they pass other runners during the “speeding”. Then next time when somebody is trying to surprise you at the end of a race, you will be prepared to kick hard!

You need no special place

 It can be literally done everywhere. It does not require anything special, just a desire to “play” the game.

It can be done anytime during your preparation

Even during your race week!  As I already mentioned, it could be a great tool to practice your final kick or just any change in the pace that can happen during a race.

Great for runners of all levels

Although it is super popular among professional athletes, fartlek is great for new runners as well! I can even argue that is one of the best training that new runners can add because it is mentally refreshing and it can be done by feel (you run as fast/ slow as you want).

You are burning more calories

not only during the workout but also after. Fartlek workouts have a similar effect as HIIT workouts. Since you are running fast, then slow, and then fast again, your heart rate is constantly fluctuating up and down. This results in a higher average heart rate in comparison to an easy run. Higher heart rate= more effort= more calories. After that type of effort, your body is still burning calories even when you are done running.

What could go wrong with Fartlek training?

It can lead to injuries

If you are not careful, it could result in injury. For example, switching paces and running fast puts your body under higher pressure. If you are doing too much or you recover too little, you are risking putting yourself in a position to get injured. Moreover, doing fartlek around nature could be a bit tricky. You have to be careful where you step when speeding to avoid falling.

If you are new to running, make sure your fast segments are still COMFORTABLE and your body is adapting nicely to your workout. Increase the speed gradually with the workout like it is a “warm-up” for your muscles. Do not go all in. Running fast also means running FREE without tension.

GPS watches might not be reliable

In fartlek mode, GPS watches often can’t catch your speed and distance exactly, especially when you are doing shorter intervals within your workout. Thus, do not be disappointed if your GPS watch is showing you some weird slow paces, they are likely not accurate at all. It’s a better idea to turn off your GPS and just enjoy the run by running it by feel.

It might be challenging for some runners

Changing paces is not easy for every runner. Some of them avoid doing fartlek because they feel like they are unable to do well. If you are somebody who likes to run at a constant pace, you might dislike this type of workout because does not fit your running style.
However, by doing it more often, you will adapt and may even like it at some point because of all the benefits!

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