Fartlek: The Fun and Effective Cardio Workout You Need to Try
Are you tired of plodding through your cardio workouts? Breathe new life into your endurance training with Fartlek!
Cardio should be a part of most people’s workout – even if you are a bodybuilder or a powerlifter. Regular cardio workouts offer many benefits, including improved cardiovascular fitness and health, increased endurance, faster recovery between intense training sessions, and easier fat-burning and weight management.
However, unless you are a competitive endurance athlete, you may find cardio boring. After all, most cardio workouts involve exercising at the same average pace. And if you’re doing your cardio at the gym, it can feel like you’re not even going anywhere. It’s no wonder that many of us would rather be lifting weights!
The good news is that there is a lesser-known method you can use to make your cardio workouts not only more interesting but more effective, too – we’re talking about Fartlek.
While this is undoubtedly a peculiar word, Fartlek is actually a relatively straightforward training method that almost anyone can use. In this guide, we reveal what Fartlek is, its myriad benefits, and how to use it for the best results. By the end of this article, we guarantee you’ll be a fan of Fartlek, and it’ll be part of all your future cardio workouts.
What is Fartlek Training?
While you may not have heard of Fartlek before, it’s actually been around for almost a century. The word Fartlek is actually Swedish for speed play, which should provide a hint as to its origins and methodology… This unconventional training method was invented by Swedish running coach Gösta Holmér. He developed it to improve all aspects of running performance, from endurance to speed to recovery, all at the same time. His method proved so effective that it was adopted by several Swedish national sports teams, including distance runners and cross-country skiers.
It has since gained popularity all over the world, and endurance athletes in all sports use Fartlek to give them a competitive edge. However, Fartlek isn’t just for sportsmen and sportswomen; recreational exercisers can also benefit from this super-flexible training method.
So, what does a Fartlek workout entail? As the English translation should suggest, Fartlek is a cardio-based workout during which you exercise at various speeds or levels of intensity. The use of the word “play” indicates that changes in speed are random and not structured like most types of interval training.
Example 40-minute Fartlek workout:
Run fast for 3 minutes
Slow jog/walk for 60 seconds
Comfortable run for 3 minutes
Hill sprints for 5 minutes
Very slow jog/walk for 2 minutes
Run fast for 4 minutes
Comfortable run for 2 minutes
10-minute jog cool down
As you can see, the intensity and duration of each section undulates, and after each hard section is a period of active recovery. This ensures that the entire workout is effective and that you aren’t so tired after a particular section that you cannot continue. All of these sections are (or should be) programmed randomly, and the actual duration and pace are determined by your fitness.
You can use Fartlek training in conjunction with other cardio methods or as the mainstay of your fitness and conditioning training. However and whenever you use it, you’ll be rewarded with an effective and time-efficient workout.
To understand the benefits of Fartlek training, it’s helpful to view this training method alongside more common cardio workouts.
Fartlek vs. Other Forms of Cardio
A lot of people just “do” cardio with little understanding that there are several different training methods available. Knowing a little more about these other forms of cardio will make it easier to choose the best one for your needs and goals.
The most common forms of cardio training are:
Low-Intensity Steady State (LISS) Training
LISS is what most people do when they do cardio. They hop on an exercise bike or head out for a run and cover a set distance at a comfortable pace. This is typically around 60-70% of their maximum heart rate. LISS workouts are typically quite long, i.e., 30 minutes to several hours. LISS is good for building a fitness base, and fat is the primary energy source. However, because of the fitness principle of specificity, doing a lot of long, slow cardio improves your ability to cover long distances slowly. As such, this training method may have limited benefits for athletes or those looking to develop their high-end fitness.
Anaerobic Threshold (AnT) Training
Where LISS is performed at the low end of your heart rate training range, AnT is performed at the upper end – typically 90% of your maximum heart rate. Go any faster, and a rapid rise in blood lactate will force you to slow down or stop. AnT represents the highest sustainable level of aerobic activity. If your heart were a car engine, it’d be redlining! While fat is still an energy source, carbs are also utilized in large amounts. AnT is good for improving your maximal fitness and enhancing your high-intensity activity capacity. Because of the demands of such workouts, AnT is typically shorter than LISS training.
Both LISS and AnT involve maintaining a relatively constant speed. While fatigue may cause you to slow down, the goal is always to keep your pace the same from the start of your workout to the end. In contrast, interval training involves alternating periods of high-intensity work with active or passive rests. There are several ways to do interval training, and work-to-rest periods should reflect your fitness and training goal. However, as a general rule, the intervals remain constant for the duration of your workout.
Run for 3 minutes, walk for 2 minutes x 6
Sprint for 30 seconds, walk for 90 seconds x 10
Run 1 mile, jog ¼ mile x 4
Interval training is very versatile and can be adapted to suit almost any fitness level or goal. Fartlek training can involve all three of these methods, but it is unique in that the changes in speed are random. This randomness keeps your mind engaged and makes your workouts more enjoyable.
In conclusion, Fartlek training is a fantastic way to make your cardio workouts more interesting and effective. Whether you are a competitive athlete or a recreational exerciser, incorporating Fartlek into your training routine can help you improve your endurance, speed, and recovery. So, next time you hit the gym or go for a run, give Fartlek a try and experience the benefits for yourself. You won’t be disappointed!