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HIIT – What Are Fartleks And MetCons

HIIT – What Are Fartleks And MetCons
20 Sep

HIIT – What Are Fartleks And MetCons


Fartlek may just be the most ridiculous sounding name for a workout but it’s actually a very useful tool so let’s not judge this particularly rose by its name!

In fact, fartlek actually translates directly as ‘time play’. It is so called because you are going to be dividing your regular cardio workouts in a manner of ways to suit your particular training goals. This way, you can combine steady state cardio withMetabolic’ and ‘Conditioning and build towards a variety of different objectives at once.

To explain it simply, fartlek merely means that you can choose how you want to divide your time between sprinting, jogging, walking and everything in between. And it doesn’t just have to be time that is the deciding factor here either – you can just as easily train so that you switch speed depending on the distance, or so that you watch your heart rate.

For example, a great way to improve your recovery times is to sprint for 1 minute and then jog gradually until your heart rate reaches 70% of your MHR again. When that happens, you increase your speed once more and then go slow until it is back at 70%.

Another interesting challenge is to introduce more outside factors to make things more exciting and less predictable.

For instance, keep an eye on the street lamps you are passing. Each time you go past one, change your speed until the next one. You might sprint, jog, walk, sprint, jog, walk – or find another way to switch things up. The same thing can be achieved with a skipping rope or kettlebell.

Alternatively, you can try to jog for distance and then sprint at the end to burn off the remaining calories and improve your lactate threshold etc. 

Finally, one I find particularly enjoyable is something I call ‘anabolic running’. Here, you simply sprint 100 meters, walk back and then sprint the distance again. This also has the advantage of letting you perform a very intensive cardio workout without needing to travel a long distance – because you don’t always have the luxury of being near a beautiful scenic park and sometimes you need to stay close to home.


MetCon is a portmanteau for the words ‘Metabolic’ and ‘Conditioning’. As this might suggest then, MetCon is a form of workout that is designed specifically with the goal of helping you to strengthen your metabolism in order to improve your energy efficiency, resting metabolic rate and generally your ability to turn food into useable energy.

The aforementioned fartlek example that challenges you to start running again each time your heartrate reaches 70% can also be considered an example of MetCon for instance, as this is improving your ability to clear your blood of metabolites and lactate, as well as your ability to recover quickly back to a steady resting heartrate. This is a good example of MetCon as well as a form of ‘zone training’. If you get the right fitness tracker, then this can actually be used to alert you once your heart rate reaches specific zones – saving you from constantly having to check your wrist every minute or so!

More often though, the term MetCon is used to describe short, focussed bursts of high intensity activity with a minimum amount of rest in between.

A good example is the ‘ladder workout’ which involves performing 10 good reps of a given exercise (such as pull ups, or clapping exercises), resting for 30 seconds and then performing 9 reps. You keep going until you reach 1 repetition, at which point the challenge has ended.


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