How to Plan a Fartlek Session: CV Training System Explained

How to Plan a Fartlek Session: CV Training System Explained

We often get asked how to plan a fartlek CV session, when it is just random?

That’s the issue:

A Fartlek is not random

Fartlek is a specific training system that has very clear outcomes, however it looks like a random selection of intensity

I’ll let you into a secret

Nothing in planning is RANDOM

^^Read that again^^

Here’s why it isn’t random…

How to Plan a Fartlek Session: CV Training System Explained

In this blog I’ll explain How to plan a fartlek Session, but first, let’s explore what it is …

What is a Fartlek?

A fartlek is a CV training system, that translated as “speed play” in Swedish. It involves alternating between fast sections and slow sections within the same workout.

Some peeps get it mixed up with interval training, as it features changes in speed. However, an interval session has strict work: rest timings that repeat in a regimented pattern.

A Fartlek doesn’t repeat in a uniformed way like an interval.

What are the benefits of a Fartlek?

A fartlek set is a level 3 CV training system, we’ll show you how to plan a fartlek session in this blog, but first… why should you do it?

  • A transition system: If your client has been using interval training sessions to progress their cardiovascular fitness, you can use fartlek as an intermediate stepping stone between an easy interval and a harder interval. The fartlek is perfect here because it doesn’t require a strict work: rest interval the whole way through the session.
  • Variety: Fartleks add a great amount of variety to a session as they feature variations in timings, speed, incline…  
  • Specific: Fartlek’s can be specific to races, events, and even functional improvement. For example, a typical cycle race will include a “randomized” mix of slow hill climbs, fast descents at varying time frames. An obstacle course race will have a mix of speeds and a range of intensities throughout the race. You can plan your fartlek workouts to specifically prepare for the race or event’s terrain.
  • All Clients: bThe intensity and timings are specific to the client and the session so you can make this appropriate for all client levels and most goals.

How to Plan a Fartlek Session

Here are 4 steps to create a Fartlek:

STEP 1: Start with the end in mind

Start by considering what your client’s goal is, and then choose the relevant intensity range for their goal and current ability.

You can use Heart Rate or RPE to track intensity. I prefer the simplicity of a 1-10 RPE scale, with the RPE 8 being the equivalent to ANaerobic threshold.

Chose the intensity range based on the physiological adaptation required for the session and the client’s logical progression from their start point.

For example, a beginner client with a health-related goal could have an intensity range of RPE 4 – 7 as it is aerobic and allows for plenty of recovery. This would also be a good progression from a session that was RPE 4-6.

However, an intermediate client with a fat loss goal would benefit from an intensity range either side of the anaerobic threshold, i.e. RPE 7-9

STEP 2: Timing is Key

Now chose the duration of the whole session, based on your client’s goal and logical progression.

You will be programming clear time intervals, so you will need a method for measuring the time, use a stopwatch, your smartwatch or even the CV machine timer

STEP 3: Minute by Minute

Sit down with a pen and paper and plan the desired intensity for every single minute. Remembering to stay within your intensity range as per step one and to apply logical progression from previous sessions.


Min 1 = RPE 4
Min 2 = RPE 5
Min 3 = RPE 5
Min 4 = RPE 7 etc

[NOTE: remember you can’t plan for a client to be anaerobic for more than 3 mins in any one duration]

STEP 4: Measure and Monitor

Now you have the plan, you can instruct your client to follow it. The whole aim is to hit the desired RPE at the planned times.

You do this by sticking to the plan, but varying speed and incline/ level until your client gets to the desired RPE. It is great practice to jot the “Actual RPE” next to the plan, and any other notes you wish to write about the speed/level and changes to posture/ technique.

Give this to go ready for your portfolio and practical assessment and if you have any questions drop them below.

There’s not just one Cardiovascular Training System

There are over 16 Cardiovascular training systems that are taught in the Level 3 PT syllabus which can be overwhelming to distinguish which system to use and when to plan them. Our FIT-Progressions online programme breaks down each of these in detail with clear protocol to follow for each one.

Plus you learn how to periodise your planning of these systems to allow for logical progressive overload so your client can get their goal every time.

>>>> Join us for FIT-Progressions here

Become a knowledgeable and confident FITPRO, with a clear strategy to get results with your clients every time.

There’s no more self-doubt. There’s no more guessing what to plan or how to get client results. FIT-Progressions has 8 modules and 18 video tutorials that guide you through every stage of your Level 3 Personal Trainer case study, and how to work with clients effectively.

This is for you if you’re…

  • struggling to complete your coursework for PT, Yoga, or Pilates
  • a newly qualified FITPRO that feels stuck or overwhelmed
  • unsure where to start when planning a client session
  • worrying about applying your course knowledge with a real client
  • doubting you could get results and lack structure to client packages
  • anxious and confused about how to get found and get busy

Click the link to find out more and join us:

Dedicated to More

Hayley “How to Plan a Fartlek” Bergman

Parallel Coaching

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