I was originally introduced to Fartlek training by highly-respected Swindon Supermarine rugby coach, Steve Bartlett.  It was very much in keeping with his no-nonsense approach to fitness training.  The beauty of Fartlek training lies in its simplicity and intensity. If you are looking for a straightforward but highly effective way of improving your running speed, then look no further.

The name "Fartlek" literally translates from the Swedish as "speed play".  It is deliberately less structured than sprint interval training.  You can Fartlek anywhere, with no equipment - you don't even need a stopwatch.  In Fartlek training, the key is intensity variation and interval randomisation.  Sessions use different paces - e.g. sprint, jog and walk, to complete a series of relatively short and varying distances. For example, you could jog 20m, then sprint 50m, then walk 30m etc.  But you don't need a tape measure - you can use any objects to segment the intervals.  Lamp posts make excellent markers as they are a suitable distance apart.  For example, you could jog from the first to the third lamp post, sprint to the forth and then walk to the fifth - turn around and repeat the pattern in the opposite direction.  Alternatively, on a rugby pitch, you might start at one try line, jog to the 22, walk to halfway line, sprint to the next 22 and then jog the remaining distance to the opposite try line.


Fartlek training is popular amongst sports coaches as it mimics the demands of many sports in which short sharp bursts of activity are separated by periods of slower running.  However, it also has huge fitness benefits for anyone wanting to improve their running speed of simply looking to lose weight. To run faster in a race you have to train faster - and Fartlek training is a great way of improving speed endurance - the ability to maintain a faster pace for longer. By taking you to the limits of your anaerobic threshold, it develops superior lung capacity. This positively impacts our health in a myriad of ways, including

- enhanced metabolic function
- decreased risk of heart attack and stroke
- greater energy and reduced fatigue
- improvements in general focus, concentration and memory
- decreased inflammation

Indeed, lung capacity is considered to an extremely important general indicator of health and longevity. 

Like other forms of high-intensity interval training, such as our Metafitâ„¢ bodyweight training group fitness classes, Fartlek forces the body to use not just the aerobic system (where muscles are supplied energy by burning glucose with oxygen) but also the anaerobic system, a faster but less efficient way of producing ATP (the form of energy used by muscles).  This inefficiency is a great thing as far as weight loss is concerned, as triggers a state known as "oxygen debt", forcing the body to complete additional internal processes to replenish its energy stores for several hours after exercise has finished.  This raises the metabolism and means that you will be burning additional fat long after your workout is complete.


JB Personal Training's running group, Run JB, offer incorporate Fartlek training into their club sessions throughout the year.  For details, see our website.