We laughed when we first heard of it, of course, but two days later, at the end of the first Fartlek run, we couldn’t get our breath and we certainly weren’t laughing.”
Ex-Premier league player: ‘The secret footballer*“
Fartlek training is very much in use amongst football players, even within the professional game. It’s easy to see why: it’s simple and effective as a way for players to get fit.
Since it mimics the stop-start nature of the game, it’s much better sport-specific way to train than just going for a straighforward run:
This type of training is something that anonymous ex Premier League player, turned author, ‘the secret footballer’ refers to several times in his book:
Fartlek training, or ‘the Fartlek run’, is still in use today, and is particularly prevalent with teams lower down the divisions that don’t have access to £10,000 training vests or the equipment to carry out more individual testing that is football based.
Assuming that you too don’t possess a sophisticated training vest – and even if you did, you may not know what to do with it – it’s a good idea to consider adding Fartlek training to your fitness regime too.
Fartlek routines for footballers
From here on it’s assumed that you’ve read the introduction to Fartlek training, and that you know it consists of mixing high and low intensity running in routines designed to push your aerobic and anaerobic fitness levels.
This method is a way of improving your fitness more effectively than simply jogging on its own. By ‘playing’ with running at different intensities, many people also find it more interesting than normal fitness training too.
1. The lamppost routine
Fartlek training is so very simple, easy to start, and effective, making it something you can use in your own personal training. As we’ve said, even pro players use it. Here’s an example of how:
Lots of footballers do the Fartlek run on their own throughout June, before they have to go back to their clubs to start pre-season proper on 1 July. If, in the evening, you see a guy in a hoodie running between lampposts, jogging between two and sprinting between the next two, it’s not some kind of bizarre getaway with a nod towards keeping fit, it’s a footballer being busy.
The very simple lamppost routine is one such method of Fartlek training that you can use on an individual basis (wearing of a hoodie is entirely optional).
2. Group Fartlek Sprints
Aside from individual training, Fartlek routines are also used in clubs, as part of group fitness training sessions. Just like the lamppost idea, moderate running speeds are mixed with short bursts of higher intensity work, such as in this example:
The run was always an hour long, and consisted of running full-on for 30 seconds, then jogging for a minute… By the end you are left hanging on for dear life.
That’s a pretty full-on method of doing Fartlek training. An hour of that will leave most people on their knees.
3. Add in Ballwork
Both methods above are ones you can easily use, but as we covered in our overview of Fartlek training, you can make your own routines and use them as part of your individual training. It needn’t be too regimented, or even as gruelling as the ones mentioned above, but you should be pushing yourself.
These days thinking has advanced a little when it comes to getting fit for football. It’s all about making the training more specifically suited to the demands of the game.
Fartlek training is a good start. A game of football demands periods of jogging interspersed with short sprints – so, plan your Fartlek runs accordingly. But you can go a stage further than this.
Why not incorporate some ball work into your routine. Add into the mix any footwork exercise to not only develop your fitness, but also your skills. There are 9 such exercise uses you can use from our sole skills workout (which is in its self a form of interval training and a great way to get fit) but you might have a Fartlek routine that looks like this:
Simple Fartlek Routine with Ball-work:
– Jog (30 seconds)
– Sprint (10 seconds)
– Dribble in and out of markers – 2 sets medium-pace slaloms between 10 markers.
– Sprint (10 seconds)
– Jog (30 seconds)
– Sole taps – (10 seconds) – a ‘sole tap is essentially where you tap the sole of your foot on the ball, alternating feet each time – more details and demonstration here
You can use the above workout very easily to add your own sports specific movements into the routine. So, for example you might choose to add keepy-uppy, jumps, squats, changes of direction, and whatever else you feel like you need to be working on to improve your game.
10-20-30s are a simple, but very gruelling form of Fartlek exercise, which are discussed in more detail on a separate page.
Essentially, you jog at 30% effort for 30 seconds, then run at 60% effors for 20 seconds, before finally doing 10 seconds of sprinting at 90% effort. You should do a number of these sets consecutively – more on how much you should do in our guide to 10-20-30 training.
This routine has been tested on well-trained runners and found to be superior to their normal training routines. But footballers can also make use of it and tailor it to their needs. Try substituting the 30 seconds of jogging for 30 seconds of low-intensity ball-work, such as dribbling.
Fartlek training – A great way for football players to get fit
Use any of the routines above, or make up your own. Fartlek training is used by the pros for good reason: it’s simple, effective and more fun than simply going on long, boring runs.
Try putting it into your routine today and watch your fitness levels improve.