Fartlek Training; what is it?

March 23rd, 2011 by Lou Leave a reply »
Strength Training Circuit 1

Image by Phil Manker via Flickr

Wikipedia’s definition of Fartlek Training:

Fartlek, which means “speed play” in Swedish,[1] is a form of interval training which puts stress on the whole aerobic energy system due to the continuous nature of the exercise. The difference between this type of training and continuous training is that the intensity or speed of the exercise varies, meaning that aerobic and anaerobic systems can be put under stress. It differs from traditional interval training in that it is unstructured; intensity and/or speed can be varied whenever the athlete wishes.[2] Most fartlek sessions last a minimum of 45 minutes and can vary from aerobic walking to anaerobic sprinting. Fartlek training is generally associated with running, but can include almost any kind of exercise.

Orginally it was developed in the 1920′s for Sweden’s cross country running teams with an emphasis on running, sprinting  and walking . The modern version also incorporates calesthenics and resistance training. So where does one start? With your goals in mind, pick, say 4 to 5 exercises that will challenge you both aerobically (meaning “with oxygen” such as running) and anaerobically (meaning “without oxygen” such as pushups).

These exercises can be done at a gym or home. The best however, are those done outside, preferably in a park where there might be “obstacles” such as fallen limbs, steps, a track or a hilly walking path. You’ll be amazed how energized you’ll feel outdoors, weather permitting. Stagger your exercises, doing one aerobic then one anaerobic. By doing this you won’t burn out one system and you can go longer. When I lived in NYC, I would pick a semi crowded sidewalk and start running! Dodging people’s backs, packages, pets, etc, now that was exhilerating. (Ahh! The pleasures and foolishness of youth)

Certain communities have designated portions in parks for this type of workout. For instance there may be a walking/running path with “stations’ along the way. In one station you may have a chin-up bar; the next a platform for pushups. The variety of exercises can be endless. Call your local parks and recreation center for info.

It’s usually easier to exercise with a partner or in a group. When at a gym and if it’s at all possible, exercise during off peak hours. You can move readily between exercises and not be labeled a “gym equipment hog”

If you train outdoors, in a group and there are no stations, have participants bring dumbbells, jump rope, exercise tubing (to wrap around a post), whatever they have. This way you have equipment and this burden won’t fall on any one person. I always say though, “everyone, please work at your own pace” Nothing wrong with friendly competition but if you feel unsure about a “feeling” better to err on the side of caution.

The idea is to challenge your body in ways it hasn’t been…or perhaps…years.

ps: Do warm up, warm down (cool down), and include flexibility in your routines. You don’t have to have ballerina-like flexibility but joints and muscles should be able to move thru normal range of motion (R.O.M.) as much as possible.

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