From a coaching perspective, the creation of a fartlek session is to achieve two things, one is to give a session that benefits the runner’s development and the second is to provide the person with an environment which is a change to their normal surroundings when doing a quality session determined by their effort.
Athletes by their very nature are often hard task masters and when providing an interval track session they can hammer themselves for not achieving the target times set. Fartlek provides the break from that intensity, it is meant to be rewarding to how the athlete feels. The session is according to perceived effort and is best not timed for distance but specifically duration.
The use of a heart rate monitor during these sessions is also beneficial, as the athlete is able to determine effort according to pulse-rate, which further rules out the chance of overtraining. With that said, let’s mention a few typical fartlek session scenarios.
Fartlek is recognised by the hard and easy running during the session.
The Fartlek session
An unstructured fartlek session would be according to when one feels like running harder and recovery is determined to the runner’s recovery needs [according to how one feels]. A marker can be chosen from where one would start their effort. This marker can be a lamp-post, tree or even rock. The effort is determined according to a percentage of one’s maximum effort or at a set race pace for a distance, eg. 10k pace.
You may either determine the duration by the following landmark or place a specific amount of for the effort. You then jog recover before the next effort. The hard effort can be applied in time from anything from 30 seconds to 12 minutes, noting the longer the time for the hard effort the less the percentage of maximum effort.
Runners are known to do block fartlek sessions where they run 45 to 60 minutes of indiscriminate accelerations at efforts with recoveries they determine during the running. Golf courses and rolling hill courses are popular routes for such sessions.
The application of structured fartlek sessions according to time of effort and the length of recovery according to time are often aimed at achieving a specific training aim. When determining the recovery an elevated pulse rate achieves the various development of the energy system needed for specific events. These sessions are also handy when weather does not permit running on a track or when one does not have a track available to you.
Fartlek training has grown in popularity and has proven to be successful as it can be applied under any conditions, be it weather or terrain. The beginner runner has also benefitted in their development towards structured speed training. Fartlek, as mentioned elsewhere means … SPEED PLAY
It is considered that the original purpose of fartlek training was to serve as a break from the mundane structure of a training program, while still achieving the physiological benefits of the training. The benefits achieved mentally, plus the fitness benefits have made fartlek training a popular addition to an athlete’s routine. The speed, intensity and duration of the training will determine the status of the session. The status is in reference to how tough the session will be, while still achieving the mental benefits.
Further articles under the Fartlek method:
with more to follow
Author: Gavin Doyle