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Fartlek: how to integrate this fun training method into our sports sessions?

Progress while having fun, this is the principle of fartlek. It is a fun and effective training method that improves athletic performance. But what does this technique consist of? What are the advantages ? How to practice it? We take stock with sports coach Kevin Priol.

“Fartlek”. Behind this term are two Swedish words: “fart”, which translates to “speed” and “lek”, which means “game”. This group of words thus means “racing game” or “speed game”. It corresponds to a training method , which consists in using the terrain at its disposal to work and “play” with its race, namely to vary the paces.

This technique was developed by Swedish athlete and trainer Gustaf Holmér in the 1930s, at a time when running tracks were scarce. The first to have experienced this way of training are the long-distance runners from northern Europe. But some athletes have also taken this method and started practicing fartlek. What is it exactly?

What is fartlek?

Fartlek involves pushing the body past its aerobic threshold (i.e. the point where the body burns a higher percentage of fat and carbohydrates ) for a period of time and then returning to a normal condition to improve performance. (speed, strength, endurance ).

Clearly, this method consists of varying intensity and speed during the same session. Throughout the training , the athlete alternates periods of short and intense efforts, such as sprints, and moments of active recovery, such as slow jogging . Slow and fast changes and intervals are random. They are determined by the nature of the terrain and by the feelings of the athlete.

According to sports coach Kevin Priol, the idea is also to take ownership of the field. This is why this method is tested in a natural environment on varied reliefs and on all types of terrain, namely in fields, forest, on sand, in mud, on a stony path, with coasts or even hills. slopes. “The practitioner can, for example, sprint during a climb and slow down during a descent to recover,” says the sports coach.

Fartlek is generally practiced as part of running . However, it can also be used in different sports, such as cycling or swimming . Interval training is part of the fartlek method, according to Kevin Priol. “Unlike the fartlek, which is done in the middle of nature on varied terrain, the fractional is practiced on relatively flat terrain , ” he explains.

Who can practice fartlek?

“Anyone can practice fartlek. You just have to adapt it to their physical abilities. You can run at your own pace and then sprint, but you can also jog and then walk faster. The idea is to change the pace so that the training is not monotonous “, explains Kevin Priol.

What are the different types of fartlek?

There are two types of fartlek. The first is called the “free fartlek”. In this case, the athlete has no real goals . He sets his own rules for the pace of the race as well as for the effort and rest time . “The practitioner can decide to challenge himself while he is running. For example, accelerate to the next tree or make a full descent and then resume his rhythm”, indicates the sports coach.

The second form is the so-called “codified” fartlek. In this case, the athlete sets goals. To reach them, he must respect a time of effort and recovery . A certain pace must also be maintained. This can be monitored with a watch showing the runner’s pace and heart rate in real time . “In this case, the athlete performs a programmed and timed training to increase his maximum aerobic speed (MAS), which is the running speed reached by a runner when his oxygen consumption reaches its maximum,” explains Kevin Priol.

But how do you calculate your MAS? According to the sports coach, the simplest technique is the half-Cooper test. After warming up well, the runner must cover the greatest possible distance in 6 minutes. “To obtain your MAS, we divide the distance traveled by 100. If we have run 1,200 meters in 6 minutes, our maximum aerobic speed is thus 12 km / h”, he explains.

What are the advantages of fartlek?

The fartlek has multiple advantages, according to the sports coach. This technique would be effective and would allow progress in particular because it is fun. It encourages the athlete to get out of his comfort zone, which motivates him. “The heart rate changes, the athlete pushes the heart and works areas that he does not usually work”, he emphasizes.

This training method would also improve your cardio , gain strength, be in better shape and develop muscles . “Fartlek also helps burn fat and therefore lose weight. But be careful, the weight can remain unchanged, because thanks to this technique, you can gain muscle,” says Kevin Priol.

Fartlek: how to practice it?

The sports coach advises people who have not run for several months to practice fartlek directly, when they start jogging again . “You have to have a fundamental endurance base , ” he insists.

He recommends that those who want to go for free fartlek to change their training first . Runners can run for 20 minutes instead of 40 minutes. But during the 20 minute run , they can sprint to the next pole and slow down once they reach it, then do a light jog, and so on.

Athletes, who are preparing for a marathon , must turn to the codified fartlek to develop their MAS. “They can sprint for 30 seconds and return to a normal pace for 30 seconds,” recommends the sports coach.

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