What the Heck is a Fartlek Class??

Stephen Holt, Timonium personal trainer

Millions of readers of national fitness magazines including Shape, Women's Health, Fitness. Woman's Day, Family Circle, Runner's World, (and many others) have made their exercise programs both more effective AND more efficient with fitness and nutrition advice from "America's Baby Boomer Expert," Stephen Holt.

First, grow up and stop that snickering.

One of my clients told me she’d taken a Fartlek Class and asked what I thought.

Me: “A Fartlek CLASS?? What’s a Fartlek CLASS?
(Politely, in my head) “How can Fartlek even be a class?”
(Less politely in my head) “What kinda’ crap …?”

Fartlek is a Swedish term that means “speed play” and has been around as an official training technique since 1937 as a way to work your aerobic (easier, you can still talk) and anaerobic (you’re out of breath) energy systems.

[When you think about it though, it’s been around forever.]

Here’s how you do it …

Pick a running (cycling, rowing, swimming, etc.) speed you could maintain for 20, 30, 45 – whatever – minutes. With that speed as your base, speed up every once in a while for as long as you want, then slow back down to your base speed for as long as you want.

Yep, it’s that simple.

Unlike Interval Training, there’s no need for regimented times or distances of when to go fast and when to go slow.

The “play” in speed play is that you go faster when feel like going faster. And you go slower when feel like going slower. That’s why Fartlek is often defined as “training as you feel.”

Again, training as feel.

That’s why you can’t have a Fartlek Class. Your fartlek workout is completely up to you. There’s no need for an instructor with a stopwatch telling you what to do. You’re in charge.

Mere semantics? Kinda. Clearly, a Fartlek isn’t a bad thing at all. It’s just a mislabeled thing.

As always, just moving more is far more important than the minutia of training terms and techniques.


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