My fondest memories of childhood revolve around swimming – winters indoors at the family “Y” and summers in the outdoor city pool through the Amateur Athletic Union age group swimming program.
Even more than the actual competition, I loved the workouts. Socially fun and physically challenging, I was blessed with coaches who worked hard to motivate my teammates and me to reach our full potential as young athletes.
One of the most fun and creative swim workouts I recall used a training technique called fartlek. (Now imagine poor Coach Meyers as he announced the next set would be “fartleks” to a bunch of immature 12-year-olds!)
Actually, when it comes to fitness, the funny-sounding word is nothing to snicker about. Fartlek, a Swedish term meaning “speed play,” is a form of interval or speed training that can be highly effective in improving speed and endurance.
Coach Meyers would blow the whistle and we’d swim 100 percent effort in short spurts. The next whistle meant slow and easy for a minute or so. We’d repeat the process until exhaustion set in. There’s no doubt, fartleks made me a faster swimmer. (And after all these years, it still makes me smile.)
Well guess what? Apparently, what’s old is new again. According to the American College of Sports Medicine, high intensity training tops the list of hot fitness trends for 2014. They no longer use the term, “fartlek,” but the principle remains.
The popular fitness routine has evolved and is now called high intensity impact training (HIIT)… still focusing on short bursts of high intensity exercise followed by short periods of rest. Fitness experts and devotees claim the technique yields twice the results in half the time.
Shannon Fable, with the San Diego-based American Council on Exercise, says the growing trend makes sense for fitness buffs with busy lives. She says HIIT is a regimen that meets needs in the time they have available.”
HIIT (fartlek!) workouts have been around for years, but thanks to intense workout programs such as CrossFit, P90X, Insanity, TurboFire and Tabata training, more and more fitness fanatics are turning to the practice to get fit.
But if all that intensity isn’t for you, no worries The list of trendy routines for 2014 includes everything from ancient yoga practices to new twists on personal training. Also scoring high in the New Year – fitness programs for older adults and children’s exercise programs.
So pick out a workout plan that sounds fun to you and let’s all get moving in 2014!