Fartlek Training Advantages and Disadvantages Infographic

What are fartlek training advantages and disadvantages? Where does that word come from and what does it mean? Will it help me get stronger and faster?  Fartlek….Even after 20 years of using that word, it still makes me chuckle a little bit.  I think it’s that little boy inside of me that doesn’t want to grow up.  

I highly recommend using a TomTom Spark 3 when doing fartleks. I use it on fartlek runs, fartlek bike sessions, and a fartlek swim sessions.

If you are interested in learning how meditation helps with your weekly training, take a look at this article about meditation specifically designed for triathletes.

Fartlek Training Advantages and Disadvantages

Advantages

  • Highly adaptable
  • Effective for endurance training
  • Effective for speed training
  • Improves fast twitch muscle responses
  • Improves slow twitch muscle responses
  • Great for group training
  • Easy for individual training

Disadvantages

  • If improperly performed, an injury can occur
  • Difficult to keep detailed metrics 
  • Can be more painful to perform
  • Requires a little creativity

What is a “Fartlek”?

Fartlek is a Swedish term that means “speed play”.  It is a blend of distance training and interval training.  It allows for more flexibility in workouts. Most workouts that we do have a regimented structure to them.  If I do 100 meter repeats on a track with 30 seconds of a walk or jog between efforts, then I will be doing a regimented and structured workout.

What are Fartlek Training Advantages and Disadvantages 

Fartlek training workouts allow us to use whatever we have around you as a way of organizing our workouts.  If you want to do hill repeats from point A to point B, you could decide to go from a stick that is on the ground to a patch of tall grass up the hill.  Then you can adjust where you stop running up the hill on the next repeat. And you can adjust the distance and intensity on how you are feeling at that moment.

Why do I like Fartlek Training?

The reason that I like this type of variability when swimming, cycling, or running, is because it can be nuanced every time.  I don’t have to go to a specific hill or track every time I want to do interval training. I can use the road next to my house.  I can use a park that is bigger or smaller.

Fartlek training is highly individualized, yet also adaptable for a group setting.  As a group, you can be a kid again and switch distances and efforts as the group works out.  The group can adjust the intensity and distances of a particular fartlek training session based on how each member feels on the given day.  And when it’s over, the stories are more interesting than a typical training session.  One person runs farther than everyone else on a given effort.  Your friend stops too soon.  Another person turns at the wrong point.  Fartlek training is are a great way of laughing with our friends.

Performance Benefits of Fartlek Training

From a physiological vantage point, fartlek training advantages and disadvantages allow for fast and slow twitch muscle training.  A solo long distance works on both slow and fast twitch muscles, but the confusion created by fartlek training allows your muscles to be adaptable to changing race conditions.  If there is a pack that you have to wait behind momentarily during a triathlon or a road race, you have to slow down and then speed up pass that group when given a chance. Our muscles will be used to adapting to these variations during race time when we incorporate fartlek training.

Fartlek Training Examples

Mailbox – Fartlek Training

Fast tempo from one mailbox to the next mailbox that you wish to stop at.  Slow to moderate tempo until you get to the following mailbox. Repeat this as many times as you like.


Dog park – Fartlek Training

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You can run at a fast tempo towards a dog in the park (preferably one that one get freaked out).  After you pass the dog, slow down and jog to the next dog that you want to run towards. Just repeat this until you want to stop.  I have not tried this one yet, but I really want to.


Music – Fartlek Training

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This one is easy if you already run, swim or bike with music.  I have a set of Sony waterproof headsets that I like to use. You can go at a quick tempo until the song changes.  When the song changes to an easy tempo. When that song ends and the next begins pick up your speed the quick tempo you had in the beginning.  Continue until you want to stop.


Hear a Bird – Fartlek Training

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This can be a challenge if you workout at night or when its extremely cold.  This workout helps you to do micro sprints. If you hear a bird sing, sprint as fast as you can until you hear another bird, then jog or walk slowly.  Repeat until you can’t do anymore.

White Car – Fartlek Training

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See a white car (or any color you choose) – This one is great if you are working out on the road.  I recommend try to find a busier road. That way you don’t have to wait too long to slow your tempo down.  If you see a white car, speed up. When you see the next white car, slow down. Repeat.


Wave at Me – Fartlek Training

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This one will get you out of your comfort zone.  Wave a stranger and when they wave back at you, you can push to your speedy tempo.  When the next stranger waves back at you, you can slow down. This one will definitely make someone smile or think you are a bit strange.

Fartlek Training Advantages and Disadvantages – In Conclusion

There are so many variations to fartlek training that you can think up on your own.  Just remember the goal is to make it less structured in the sense of interval distance and interval time.  You want variable time and variable distance. You can apply this type of fartlek training to running, cycling, and swimming.  

Fartlek training advantages and disadvantages can be lumped into a majority of advantages. Find a friend or group of friends to do fartlek training with you.  It will make training even more fun that it is now.  It will help you become more adaptable to changing race conditions.  Fartlek training is highly advantageous for anyone who wants to compete at a higher level.

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