Fartlek Training

One of my favourite types of workout is fartlek training. It was developed by the Swedish coach Gosta Holmer back in the 1930s as a method for developing speed endurance (fartlek means speed play in Swedish).

Many runners use this type of training in their routines, but it can be used in cycling, swimming, rowing, or practically any other type of aerobic training.

I like it because it breaks the monotony of a run (which I find quite boring), by making it interesting and challenging in a different kind of way. But from a fitness point of view it has a number of benefits.

It helps increase your aerobic capacity (VO2 Max), which in turn helps you run faster for longer (bringing your running times down!), and is a great fat burner also.

It is very similar to HIIT training in that you perform intervals of higher intensity training. However, there are some differences.

Whereas HIIT training focuses on short intervals of near maximal intensity, often around 90% or maximum, fartlek training focuses on different levels of intensity for differing periods of time. That is, fartlek sessions are less structured than HIIT sessions. Intensity levels can range from fast walking pace through to all out sprinting, and each interval can last from seconds to minutes.

Also, fartlek sessions tend to last much longer at around 45 minutes or more, compared to a HIIT training session of 20 minutes maximum.

Take a look at the example session below.

How to Perform Fartlek Training

Let’s say that you are a runner and you can run 5 miles in 45 minutes. That’s a 9 minute mile pace. You’ve decided you want to progress and bring your times down to become a better runner and generally fitter.

So you’re going to give a fartlek session a shot . . .

After a thorough warm up (as usual) you start off at your 9 minute mile pace for 1 mile. This will get your aerobic system going and get you ready for the session ahead. You then increase your pace to say an 8 minute mile pace for another mile, then ease back off to your usual 9 minute pace for 5 minutes to recover.

Then you increase your pace to a 7 minute mile pace for a further mile.

After this, you are pretty shattered as the intensity is much higher than you are used to. So you walk at a brisk pace for 3 minutes. After this you heart and lungs and legs are ready for another go.

Now it’s time for some sprint work.

For the next 5 minutes you intersperse your usual 9 minute mile pace with 4 or 5 sets of sprints of 50 to 60 meters.

You then finish off with an 8 minute mile run for a further mile.

This will take you 45 minutes and will work wonders on your speed and stamina.

Training Progression and Conclusion

The suggested workout above is not limit to running, as I’ve already mentioned. If you’re swimming lengths, you can do exactly the same. Pick up the pace for 5 lengths, then drop back for 5 lengths, and so on. Same with cycling and rowing, etc.

As you get fitter, your times will come down and your fitness will improve. If your want to progress further . . . continue with the fartlek sessions. You’ll find you can work at a faster and faster pace as your fitness increases.

Free Workout Plans

Below is a growing list of free workout plans. If you know exactly what you want out of a workout routine, whether it’s a weight loss workout program or a bodyweight circuit training routine or anything else, then scroll down the page until you come to the list. There is something to suit all training goals, but we are all different and have our own preferences so modify them as you wish. I am always looking to grow this list of free workout plans to help everyone in the home fitness community reach their ultimate goal. So if you have a great routine that you feel will benefit us all then please add it to the site! You can scroll down to the form below or click on this link to take you straight to it!

The entire home fitness community would be grateful. If fitness and exercise is a little new to you then take a few moments to think about your ultimate goal. What is it exactly that you want to achieve? What is your time frame? You might be after some weight loss workout programs, or even weight gain. You might want to participate in a local charity run. Or you might just want to get fit. Whatever your goal, you have to tailor your workout routines to keep you heading towards your targets. For example, if your goal is to put on 1 stone of pure lean muscle, it’s no good performing basic step aerobics twice per week. So you need to plan your workouts accordingly. Bear in mind though that no single workout routine will make you achieve your ultimate fitness goal. You need a whole suit of workouts. Hopefully, you’ll be able to find exactly what you need below.

Getting Started With Your Free Workout Plans

If weight loss is your ultimate goal then your workout routines will be geared towards burning off those excess calories. This means aerobic training. Interval training has also become very popular for weight loss in recent years. This is because high intensity interval training, or HIIT training, practically eats away at your excess fat and super charges your metabolism for at least 24 hours after a workout! See below for various interval training routines. Or if you are after stacking on some lean muscle, you need to incorporate strength training into your routine. But no matter what your ultimate goal is, you should always practice good eating habits. You wouldn’t expect someone aiming to run a sub 3 hour marathon to be eating and drinking nothing but cake and cola, right? Take a look at the nutrition guide for a brief heads-up on the matter. So to reiterate, you fitness is more than just your exercise. You have to incorporate sound nutrition as well to achieve your ultimate goal. Now, browse through the list of free workout plans below to get started.

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Circuit Training For Weight Loss

In the fight against the flab I always say that circuit training for weight loss is one of your best weapons. It’s one of the weight loss workout programs that should be in every dieter’s fitness plan. I love circuit training for a number of reasons… You get a full body workout, which makes it a great muscle balancer. Muscle imbalance almost always leads to some sort of injury over time, so circuit training will make you much more robust and resilient to injury. The last thing you want is a 2 month layoff whilst recovering from an injury. Because it’s a full body workout, circuit training programs are great calorie burners. This is because you are using multiple muscle groups all at once, rather than simple isolation exercises. So this makes circuit training perfect for weight loss. Again, as circuit training is a full body workout and many exercises you use will require some degree of anaerobic strength, it is a fantastic lean muscle builder. The more lean muscle you have, the greater your metabolic rate. This means a permanent increase in the calories your body uses just to sustain itself. End result…more calories burned, more fat loss! As a dieter, you are mainly interested in the last two points. Basically, circuit training will help you lose weight! But there’s another point which is worth raising before moving onto example circuit routines. And that’s post exercise calorie burn. This is the same for all exercise, but especially so for more strenuous exercise like circuit training. There has been much research in recent years regarding the metabolic rate and exercise. To sum up, for the following 24 hours after exercise (sometime up to 48 hours) your metabolism will be elevated. This means you’ll burn even more calories even though you have finished exercising. This is another reason why every dieter should incorporate exercise into their weight loss plan, and not to solely rely on calorie restriction.

Circuit Training for Weight Loss: Example Routine

You can perform your circuits with a number of different exercises and in a number of different ways. I use two main methods and alternate between these every so often and mix up the exercises for a change. Doing it this way keeps your body guessing and stops your training becoming stagnant. I either perform a steady but continuous aerobic circuit, or perform the circuit as a HIIT routine. (I write often about HIIT training, as it is simply amazing if you’re after a fat burning routine.) Whichever way you perform your circuit you can use the same exercises. The only difference between the two is that with the HIIT circuit you are performing intervals of higher intensity followed by periods of rest or low intensity exercise. The steady continuous circuits are…well, steady and continuous! So let’s take the HIIT circuit as an example. Chose 10 exercises for your circuit (suggested exercises below), and perform each of these exercises for your high intensity intervals. You should be working hard during these high intensity intervals, around 90% of your maximum effort. Perform each interval for 30 seconds, followed by 30 seconds of rest (or light jogging on the spot, depending on your level of fitness). Repeat this procedure until you have performed the 10 exercises. Then, repeat your list of exercises for a second circuit once complete. This will take your HIIT circuit to 20 minutes in length, and you should be shattered afterwards. If you aren’t…then you haven’t worked hard enough! Alternatively, you could perform the steady continuous circuit. Perform each exercise one after the other without rest until you get to the end of the circuit. Each exercise should be 30 seconds in duration. Your effort should be much less than the HIIT circuit, say around 60% to 70% of your maximum effort. Much less and it will be too easy. Much more and you’ll just burn out before you reach the end of the circuit. After the circuit, rest for one minute and then repeat. You should perform 4 circuits, and build up to 6, taking your session time from about 20 minutes to 30 minutes of exercise. Now take a look at the example exercises below.

Burpees

Star Jumps

Squat Thrusts

V Sits

Squats

Crunches

Squat Jumps

Jump Ropes

Lunges

Reverse Crunches

Circuit Training For Weight Loss: Reaching Your Targets

If you want to reach your target, especially if you want to reach it quickly, then you really must add circuit training for weight loss into your overall fitness routine and health plan. Try and get at least 2 circuit sessions in per week but also add another two sessions of other exercise. Preferably some sort of HIIT training. But I’ve always said that fat loss is not only about exercise. You have to follow a dedicated calorie restricted diet. Don’t be daunted. Once you’ve learnt how to count calories, it’s easy! I know what dieting is like, as I’ve been there myself on more than one occasion. You have to keep motivated. Your motivation to exercise is key to reaching your targets. Making sure your workouts are varied is one way of keeping motivated. Take a look at the free workout plans for more circuits amongst other types of training plans. Modify them to suit your own needs. Stick with it, keep motivated, keep with the circuit training for weight loss routines, and your weight loss workout programs will get you to your ultimate goal.

Aerobic Training

By performing aerobic training you will improve your ability to consume and utilise oxygen.

Why is this important to you? Because the more able your body is to consume and utilise oxygen, the better you’ll be able to produce energy and exercise for prolonged periods of steady exercise (this is your aerobic capacity or VO2 Max).

If your ultimate fitness goal is to run a marathon (or even only a few hundred meters or more), you’ll have to work on your aerobic training. End of story! The same goes for any aerobic exercise, like walking, cycling, swimming, and so on.

Your VO2 Max depends on the following.

External Respiration

Oxygen transport from your lungs to your muscle cells

Use of oxygen within your muscle cells

These are all very scientific, but for you, all you need to know is that you can improve your VO2 Max through appropriate aerobic training. Your training will improve the efficiency of your respiratory, cardiac, and vascular systems, which will improve the three points above.

Physiological Adaptations of Aerobic Exercise

Okay, you didn’t actually think I’d get through this article without a little geeky science did you? But I’ll keep it brief!

As your heart is forced to work harder, it responds by increasing in size (this is myocardium hypertrophy). This is good as your heart, being a muscle, will be able to contract with greater force.

This is beneficial as the greater the force or each beat, the more blood is pushed through your heart, which delivers more oxygenated blood to your muscle cells. Bottom line . . . your muscles will be able to work for longer.

Your respiratory system also responds by increasing your lung volume, respiratory muscles, and your diffusion rate (the rate at which the air you breathe is absorbed through your lungs.

This boils down to you being able to take in more oxygen with each breath!

Your vascular system also improves with endurance training. Capillary density in your lungs and muscles increase allowing a greater rate of gaseous exchange (oxygen in, carbon dioxide out).

Muscle changes also occur. They adapt by increasing the number of mitochondria (nicknamed the muscle cell’s power plants as they supply most of the energy), which allows a greater rate of aerobic respiration and use of oxygen. Basically, the more you have, the longer and harder you can work.

But I think that is enough to be going on with. There are many more physiological adaptations, but all you need to know is that by performing appropriate exercise you can maximise the efficiency of all these.

How Do You Improve VO2 Max Through Aerobic Training?

Basically, you have to perform steady exercise involving the whole body for a minimum of 12 minutes. However, you should build up to 30 to 40 minutes of continuous exercise.

Common exercises are walking, jogging, running, cycling, swimming, rowing, and many others. If you want to see long term physiological benefits you should exercise like this at least twice a week, but 5 sessions is not uncommon (depending on your ultimate goal).

If you work like this you should see definite changes after only 3 or 4 weeks, providing you apply a progressively greater workload (for example, run harder and longer). What you found hard on day 1 of your training routine should now be easy!