Fartlek: Play with Rhythm to Improve Performance

The term “fartlek” originates from Swedish, literally meaning “speed play.” It represents a type of training characterized by variations in intensity and pace. Unlike interval-based workouts, fartlek does not have a specific distance or speed to adhere to but instead alternates between intense and less demanding periods.

Sensation-Based Practice

In its original form, fartlek involved entirely random changes based on the sensations of the moment. However, in today’s training plans, specific periods are established to bring structure to the workout. For instance, a typical fartlek might involve 30 seconds of intensity followed by 60 seconds of recovery. The coach typically indicates the intensity of the variations while leaving room for individual interpretation. Personally, I enjoy interpreting it in the “old-school” way: a sprint from one lamppost to another or suddenly picking up the pace towards a particular plant along the route.

The Advantages of Fartlek

This type of training proves to be useful for various reasons. Primarily, because it’s sensation-based, it allows for playing with intensity, making the workout more engaging. Performing fartlek in a group setting is particularly intriguing, creating a playful atmosphere where members challenge each other and recover together. The absence of a specific distance allows diverse groups to engage, adapting to individual abilities while staying united in the beginning and end.

Goals and Benefits

The primary goal of fartlek is to improve the anaerobic threshold. To achieve this, managing intensities is essential, avoiding maximal exertion and recovering at a not-too-slow pace, consistently maintaining the limit between aerobic and anaerobic phases.

Accessible to All

One of the most appreciated aspects of fartlek is its inclusivity, being suitable for everyone without requiring specific equipment. Even beginners can experiment with it by adjusting recovery times. It doesn’t demand particular routes, as it can be executed on flat terrain or hilly landscapes, utilizing inclines and declines to vary intensity.

Fartlek represents a unique training opportunity suitable for all levels, allowing individuals to play with rhythm and make physical activity a dynamic and engaging experience.