Fartleks: What They Are, and Why You Should Do Them

© Yanlev | Dreamstime.com

© Yanlev | Dreamstime.com

Fartlek, or “speed play” in Swedish, is a form of interval training for runners. It is an extremely versatile way to add speed into any kind of run and is a great workout for both beginners and experienced runners.

The idea of a fartlek is to incorporate a variable amount of speed into a run. This can be as short as a few fast strides or as long as a few faster miles. There are no specific rules about the speed itself or the distance.

By picking up the pace during a “normal” run, you can break up the monotony of the run, strengthen leg muscles, and prepare your body for more structured speed work sessions.

Here are a few ideas on how to incorporate fartleks into your running:

  • Classic fartlek — Choose an object such as a mailbox or telephone pole and pick up the pace until you hit the next one. Run at an easier pace in between the intervals.
  • Progressive fartlek — Use similar markers as in the classic fartlek, but go faster with each interval. Maintain the same easier pace in between the intervals.
  • Distance fartlek — You can use markers as in the classic fartlek if spaced fairly evenly apart or count strides. Run further with each interval and maintain the same easier pace in between the intervals.
  • Buddy fartlek — If you run with a friend or a running group, let each person set the tone for the fartlek. Each person will determine the pace and the distance for each interval.

Have you tried them? How have they worked out for you when you train? Let’s hear from you in the Comments below.

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