With more and more of our team racing with some regularity, I thought it would be a good idea to talk about one of the widely used training techniques that help develop your racing speed. Today I wanted to revisit my favorite training method, the Fartlek.

20110413170010-FartlekThe Fartlek, which is swedish for speed play, was developed in 1937 by Gösta Holmér, who then coached the swedish cross-country teams. The concept behind the Fartlek was to integrate interval style sprints with endurance training for more efficient training sessions. Each session featured faster-than-race paces with recovery periods built-in, as well as warm up and cool downs. Once adopted, Fartlek training led to several world record performances in the following years and proved to be an immensely successful system.

A while ago my Mom started running for the first time in many years. Her strategy then was to slowly build up her distance, one street light post at a time. The first time out, she ran to the end of our street. Then, around the corner. Slowly but surely she added more running in between walking breaks, adding stretches of runs between light posts. She Fartlek trained. By adding running intervals, running between posts, she built up her speed and endurance, and now is able to complete 5ks on a whim.

Recently, my Mom has wanted to improve her 5k time, and set new PR's with each official race she takes part in. I think she's got the racing bug! What she doesn't realize though is that she already knows exactly how to do this. It is the same way that she got to the 5k distance in the first place! By adding in faster intervals between sets of light posts, she will increase her overall average pace.

One of the major benefits of Fartlek training is that it is strangely fun. It can be spontaneous, and competitive. Set out with a friend, randomly pick a point in the distance and take off as fast as you can to that point. Once there, slow down to a recovery pace until you are ready to pick another spot in the distance, and repeat it until you are tired. There doesn't have to be set times, set distances, set speeds. Just run for fun and freely, and you will see improvements. If you want more structure, there are many resources with set plans too, just google Fartlek!