Fartlek is a form of road running in which the runner varies the pace significantly during the run.
It is regarded as advanced training technique for the experienced runner who has been using interval training to develop speed.
Fartlek provides a means to introduce speed work to train schedules in a way which makes your training runs both varied and enjoyable. The fartlek is related to interval training.
The interval training purpose is to develop speed by running for short distances at a speed significantly higher than the normal strong race pace. Short runs are separated by intervals of easy running or jogging.
In fartlek running, there are no set distances. Fartlek is effective and satisfied form of training when it is done properly. A good distance runner needs to have endurance, strength, speed and racing tactics. Fartlek contains all these qualities in the same workout.
The technique of fartlek is to introduce into your normal runs some short periods of slightly higher pace. Maintain the pace for short period, and then drop your pace back below your normal running pace until you have fully recovered and your breathing has returned to normal.
This method puts extra stress on your system which leads to an improvement in your speed and anaerobic threshold. This approach develops more self-awareness by concentrating on what you are feeling while running at different paces.
Avoid rock and hard surfaces like concrete sidewalks and instead aim for grass trails. Locate surfaces where ground will absorb more shock, instead of passing it along to your legs. Be consistent as sudden change to new running surface can cause injury.
At the end of fartlek workout, athlete should feel satisfaction and feeling that he has more to offer. After the workout, the athlete should not feel fatigued or completely worn out. It is less stressful than other workouts because of its free spirited form of running.
Other running types measure time or distance, while fartlek measures neither of them. Therefore, athlete’s efforts cannot be measured or judged. Feeling of satisfaction builds athlete’s confidence and motivation.
The session should be pre-planned or can be totally unstructured. In pre-planned session, the set out can be known to you and what exactly you are going to do.
Pre-planned session is hard and requires discipline, particularly if you are running alone. This type of session can be good for groups. Group uses a pre-set route and incorporates a series of pre-determined easy, moderate and hard sessions.
But group running can be fairly unstructured. If you run in a group, each runner takes turn to act as pacemaker and decides how long each hard effort or recovery session should last. With this type of sessions, the group will be at same ability levels or slower athletes are responsible to suffer.
Use fartlek technique regularly if you are not doing any form of speed work. In the beginning, start with one time a week and increase to twice weekly slowly. Do not do too much and listen to your body. Do not expect immediate results.