Training Time

Have you started training for the 5K Foam Fest yet? If not, it’s time to get ready to conquer obstacles such as the 8 foot wall, the bottomless trench, and the body washer.Wondering where to start? May I suggest fartleks? Check out this awesome article on how fartleks can get you into shape to dominant the 5K Foam Fest.


I know what you are thinking, but the word “fartlek” is not from the English language, so get your mind out of the gutter. I have to admit, though, that the young teen version of me snickered the first time my coach said we were doing a fartlek workout.


Fartleks are an effective method for improving your pacing and speed endurance. The word “fartlek” comes from Sweden and translated means “speed play.” A fartlek is a type of interval workout. The great thing about fartleks, though, is they can be done without measuring distances beforehand. Fartleks are an easy way to do intervals, even spontaneous intervals, wherever you are doing your workout.

Fartleks involve the biker, runner, swimmer, etc going through bursts of speed at intervals throughout the workout. Unlike other interval workouts, though, you do not stop moving at a decent pace after each interval.
That’s right, no slow jog, no coasting on your bike, or any of the other recovery movements you do in between normal intervals. Instead you keep moving at about 70-80% competition pace until it is time for the next fartlek or speed burst. Some say you should make the times in between the speed bursts 2/3 the time you spend on the speed burst, but that really is just a preference thing. I have done fartleks where the time in between speed bursts was as little as 30 seconds while the fartleks themselves were 5 minutes long, which gives new meaning to the term “speed endurance.”

Fartleks can be done over any distance. You can mark out mile speed burst intervals with half or quarter mile lulls in between, or opt for using landmarks such as trees or power line poles to mark when a speed burst
begins and ends.

You can also do fartleks based on time, not distance. For example, you can move at the slower pace for 30 seconds, then go through a speed burst for 2 minutes.

Of course if you are training for a long-distance event you may want to consider lengthening the times or distances you use for your fartlek workout. After I grew used to fartleks, they became a welcome change to workouts that sometimes seem monotonous. Fartleks also helped improve my speed control during distance events, which can be surprisingly useful in competition.

Another distinct advantage of fartlek workouts is it provides you with aerobic and anaerobic exercise at the same time. This will make you a more well-rounded athlete and give you the ability to sustain long and strenuous physical exercise as well as concentrated bursts of activity.

The Marines have incorporated fartlek training into its exercise regimen. In fact, the Marines’ Officer Candidates School in Quantico, Virginia features a hill on the grounds called Fartlek Hill. Marines looking to become officers engage in fartlek training on the hill regularly.

Fartleks will benefit athletes of a wide variety of backgrounds who are looking to compete in a wide variety of events, or people who simply want to get in better shape. Try throwing in a fartlek workout about once every week or two to help add some spice to your routine and give your body the extra push it needs.

Written by: Steve Symes


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