Cardiovascular interval training (aka fartlek training) is without a doubt one of the best ways to get in the best shape of your life, shed pounds, increase endurance, increase the number and size of mitochondria, the rate at which you can consume and utilize oxygen, your lactate threshold, and tons more!
Such a plethora of health and fitness benefits renders fartlek training to be at the forefront for anyone looking to improve their overall athletic ability. With this being the case, not much has been said or is said about interval training while swimming. We all know of how beneficial aquatic exercise can be, yet we still don’t think of it when we construct an exercise plan.
Using fartlek training in a pool can help the person who suffers from joint pain who can’t run or jog, the avid swimmer who is looking for a new challenge, or for the average fitness enthusiast looking for a new training method to embark in. Below, I’ve listed 6 awesome fartlek training methods you can use in a pool to help you get in the best shape of your life!
Fartlek training method #1
Freestyle swimming is the most efficient and fastest way that you can get from point A to point B while in the water. Arguably one of the easiest ways to swim also (besides dog paddling) renders it a great technique to use in conjunction with fartlek training. For this method, you’ll need a nice sized pool.
Try swimming the entire length of the pool at a very relaxed pace. Then, swim back to the starting point with the same slow pace. Once you make it back, break out into an all out freestyle sprint toward to other end of the pool. Maintain the same fast tempo on your way back to the starting position. Repeat this fartlek training method as many times as needed.
Fartlek training method #2
With this fartlek training method, you can take what you learned from the 1st method and shorten it just slightly. Try streaming along at a slow freestyle pace toward the other end of the pool. Once you make it there, freestyle sprint back to the starting position. Try repeating this fartlek training method a handful of times or until you feel as though you’ve accomplished the task at hand.
Fartlek training method #3
If you aren’t in the best shape of your life and need to start off slow, then this fartlek training method is for you! Think of this as a way of taking baby steps, or pool steps that is. Try freestyle swimming at a slow pace to one end of the pool and back again.
Then, repeat the cycle again by slowly swimming back to the other end of the pool, except for this time, swim sprint back to the starting point instead of doing so slowly. So, this fartlek training method would look like this: slow-slow-slow-fast.
Fartlek training method #4
Let’s mix things up by combining swimming styles in the same fartlek training method. With this example, let’s combine the butterfly and freestyle strokes. Swim to one end of the pool and back as fast as you can while using a butterfly stroke.
Once you get back to the starting position, use the freestyle stroke with a slow swim tempo to one end of the pool and back again. Using the butterfly stroke will force you to recruit many more motor units and overall force to produce more body heat. So, this fartlek training method should be used for swimmers who have a decent amount of stamina. Try using a butterfly to freestyle ratio of 2:2 with one full cycle being the length of the pool and back.
Fartlek training method #5
With this fartlek training method, we’ll utilize the backstroke and the breaststroke. This is much more challenging than #4 as it forces you to switch from being in a supine position to being in a prone position. Backstroke to one end of the pool with a relaxed tempo.
Then breaststroke back to the starting position with an all out sprint tempo. Then, backstroke to the other end of the pool with a sprint tempo. Finally, breaststroke back to the starting position with a slow tempo. This completes once full cycle. Try repeating the cycle 2-4 times, or until you feel you’ve done enough.
Fartlek training method #6
For this final fartlek training method, we’ll utilize the freestyle, butterfly, backstroke, sidestroke, and breaststroke. You’ll use a fast-slow-fast-slow-fast fartlek tempo pattern. This is for experienced swimmers who have high levels of endurance. Start off the fartlek training session by freestyle sprinting to one end of the pool and back. Then, butterfly to one end of the pool and back while using a slow-relaxed pace.
Then, while using a backstroke, sprint the full length of the pool and back. Follow this with a slow tempo sidestroke toward both ends of the pool. Finally, finish the cycle off with an all out breaststroke sprint to one end of the pool and back. Given the difficulty of this fartlek training method, feel free to repeat one cycle as many times as you feel you can reasonably handle.
Using fartlek training in a pool is a very effective and fun way to get in shape! It can allow you to exercise regardless of joint pain, as well as forcing you to use muscles that would’ve never gotten used with mere running alone.
It can get boring and somewhat monotonous to perform the same workouts day in and day out. This oftentimes leads to burnout and sometimes even quitting all together. To help combat this from happening try to keep things fresh and interesting every once in a while. Fartlek training in a pool can help you do just that!
Using a fast to slow training tempo in a pool is great for allowing you to continue with your efforts without having to stop prematurely due to fatigue. The slow phase of any traditional fartlek training method is also very beneficial as it allows your body to rid itself of lactic acid so it can better withstand the demands put upon it during the fast phase of exercise.
This will lead to an all around better fitness experience for you and lead you closer to accomplishing your goals by allowing you to push through the pain more easily!