Printable Version
Pronunciation: fahrt-lik Hear it!

Part of Speech: Noun

Meaning: 1. An athletic training technique for endurance sports like bicycling and running, composed of periods of intense exercise separated by periods of less strenuous effort. 2. An interval in a workout based on this technique.

Notes: The Saltin fartlek is a fartlek for runners. It is made up of a 10-minute warm-up jog, followed by a 3-minute hard stride followed by a 1-minute jog. The word itself has not completely escaped Swedish and so has not produced a family of English derivations, just a plural: fartleks (Swedish fartlekar).

In Play: Fartleks are best suited for sports that require endurance: "Randy Marathon does a dozen fartleks every day when he trains for a major race." Now that Randy is well over 50, he generally runs with a group known as the 'Old Fartleks' and doesn't compete seriously. However, the alternation of vigorous with slower activity sets the stage for some metaphoric manipulation: "Buzzy, you can't study in fartleks; you have to study in long uninterrupted stretches if you hope to graduate."

Word History: The Swedish track coach Gosta Holmer developed an athletic training technique in the 1930s which he called fartlek "running-play", from fart "running" + lek "play". The Swedish word fart comes from fara "go, run", a reflex of the Old Germanic word that produced German fahren "to travel" and English the fare in farewell and welfare. In Greek, the original root emerged as poros "journey", still lurking in English emporium. This word was borrowed from Greek emporion "marketplace", from émporos "merchant", someone who did quite a bit of journeying in ancient Greek times.

Dr. Goodword,

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