Fartleking Fun

We all want to improve our performance to some degree and I imagine most of us want to become the best that we can in running and life. To get better we have to stretch ourselves, take our mind or body someplace where its not been before.

In running as in life, there are many avenues to pursue improvement.  Probably one of the quickest ways to improve your running performance is to incorporate speed workouts.  Speed work provides three primary benefits:

  • Helps improve form,
  • Trains your body to handle Oxygen debt, and
  • Helps push through mental barriers that may be holding you back.

Under speed work there are three broad umbrellas:

    1. Hill Workouts
    2. Interval Training
    3. Fartleks

Each has a unique benefit and purpose and will help you overcome mid-race fatigue, poor finishing stretch, and overcoming oxygen debt. In my opinion Fartleks are the easiest way to do incorporate speed training into your workout schedule. Note: You should have a decent base before incorporating any speedwork into your training.

Fartlek, Fartlek, Fartlek

The word almost sounds profane, I mean who wants to lick a fart? It actually is a Swedish word meaning “speed play.”  That is precisely what you should do with a fartlek: play and have fun!  When the Europeans first popularized this aspect of training they didn’t base their “intervals” on time, but on random points during a run.

Basically a fartlek is adding a short period of acceleration, followed by a recovery, and repeating it.  Most runners generally do Fartleks by time 1 minute on, 1 minute off, etc. Fartleks train you to push through your fatigue and help you during a race when you need to put a surge in to catch a passing competitor. Your off or rest pace should ideally return you back to your regular pace.

Fartleks are great because they can be done anywhere and at anytime, they are also more fun than running repeat intervals at a track and can produce some of the benefits.  Fartleks can be done if you need to throw in some speed work but your base is a little weak, it is also done a lot towards the beginning of a training schedule to help get your legs use to running fast.

How do I do it?

It really depends on where you run, what your training looks like, and what your goal is.  I’ve done fartleks at Mounds and on the road.  Here is a sample fartlek on the road while training for a 10K:

Warmup – 10 minutes

1 minute at 10K pace – 1 minute recovery

2 minutes at 10K pace – 2 minute recovery

3 minutes at 10K pace – 3 minute recovery

2 minutes at 10K pace – 2 minute recovery

1 minute at 10K pace – 1 minute recovery

Cooldown – 10 minutes

I usually extend the cooldown to finish the course that I’m running, but you could also extend the warmup to get your mileage.  You can add more accelerations, make them longer, or do whatever you want (remember to have fun).  I would also note that when I say 10K pace, that should be goal pace, not your most recent 10K pace. In reality, pacing on a fartlek is about how you feel, it shouldn’t be 100% effort but maybe closer to 85%. Hard but not too hard.

Good luck and I’d like to hear your comments about Fartleking!

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5 thoughts on “Fartleking Fun

  1. slrobertruns

    Great article! Can't wait to try this on the trails in my area. I do something similar, but only go for 1 minute or less when I pick up the pace. This is done during a 45 minute run where I pick up the pace 10 to 12x. Is this considered a fartlek run? It's my most favorite training run.

  2. Anonymous

    Great article! Can't wait to try this on the trails in my area. I do something similar to this where I run for 45 minutes and pick up the pace for 1 minute or less 10 – 12 x during the run. The pick-up pace is faster than my 5k time. It's my favorite training run.

  3. Anderson Runner

    I would say that is a version of a fartlek, any time you are picking up the pace for a longer run is a type of fartlek in my opinion!

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