6 Reasons to Try A Fartlek Run (Plus Training Examples)
The Swedish term for speed play, a Fartlek is a continuous running training tool that uses intervals. Fartleks are great ways to build both overall conditioning and speed.
Please keep reading to learn what Fartleks are, what you can achieve by doing them, and some excellent Fartlek workouts!
What Is a Fartlek in Running?
A form of unstructured speed work, a Fartlek is a continuous run with speed spattered within it. What that means is that you speed up for short amounts of time. In between bursts of speed, you keep running. That’s right. You get easy efforts but not rest intervals.
If it sounds challenging, it is because it most certainly is challenging!
So, although I say “unstructured faster pace,” if you are doing this independently, you probably need to determine some type of structure Fartlek ahead of time. You might try running hard for 1:00 minute, followed by an easy pace for 1:00 minute. After a few of these, you might put in 2:00 minutes of high-intensity training then 3:00 minutes of easy running.
If you decide ahead of time what you are going to do, you can set an interval timer to alert you to the next “burst” of speed.
When coaches control the high-intensity interval, it is often signaled with a whistle sounding. I often used to have my athletes run in a circle around the soccer field to see everyone.
One loud whistle meant to run hard; two short bursts signaled to take it easy.
Do Fartlek Runs Work?
Fartlek running is absolutely effective. Here are 6 Great Reasons to Try Fartlek Runs:
- Fartleks build speed.
- Improves both aerobic and anaerobic fitness.
- It helps you with your mental toughness!
- Great for increasing endurance!
- Awesome training for passing people in tough races.
- Practicing those finish line bursts of speed on tired legs!
How Do You Structure a Fartlek Run?
There are many ways to do a structured Fartlek. The most classic way to be self-driven in the workout is to just go with the flow and run hard when the spirit moves you. A very versatile training plan, you may pick each interval based upon landmarks in the road.
If I am working on simple Fartleks, I might run mailboxes, telephone poles, or lampposts. In my head, I may decide “run hard for 2 mailboxes, then run each for 3.” During those types of workouts, you hope the hard effort mailboxes are super close together.
When left to their own devices or GPS watches, some people struggle and want a clear and definitive structure. If you are like that, you may wish to set “hard” and “easy” intervals on a set time.
Just like any run, a Fartlek run should have some time worked in for warm-up and cool down. These are both essential to keeping your fitness level high and stay injury-free.
Fartlek training examples include:
- Random speed bursts based on points on your route
- Having a friend use a whistle to give you “burst” commands as you run around a track
- Picking speed burst intervals to set into a timer (Example: : 30-second hard x :90 seconds easy)
How Often Should You Do Fartlek Runs?
You should do some type of speed work weekly. Honestly, it depends a lot on what your goals are. I am very fond of the Nike Running App, or Peloton App for my interval runs. Why? Because I like it when a voice tells me what to do.
Since I do some type of speed work weekly, that is my answer.
However, remember that there are different types of speed work. Speedwork options include traditional track workouts, Fartleks, tempo runs, surges, or progression runs. If you do all of these, you sure can’t fit them all into the same week.
Mixing up your speed work is a great way to keep things interesting and your brain engaged.
I am often asked how to run a Fartlek. The answer is “fast then slow, then fast again.” It is as easy as that.
How Long Should a Fartlek Run Last?
When determining how long your Fartlek workout should be, you need to question what your goals are. A Fartlek run workout for cross country who are running a 5K or so, fartlek runs is usually 30-45 minutes.
If you are training to race higher mileage, the duration of your Fartlek run workout could be longer than that.
Does Fartlek Improve Speed?
Yes, yes, yes. Without a doubt. Fartleks can make you faster. Fartlek training is bound to help you get stronger, run faster, and become a better runner.
All you have to do is get started!
What Is the Difference Between A Fartlek and a Tempo Workout?
Okay, so many people confuse the different types of speed workouts. While fartleks are hard running intervals, a tempo run maintains a specific pace for a predetermined amount of time.
If you have a 5-mile tempo run, you might warm up for one mile, run for 3 miles at your 5K pace, then cool down for a mile. The “meat” of the workout is the tempo, which is sandwiched between the warm-up and cool-down.
Can You Do Fartleks Every Day?
You should not do Fartleks every day. Your body needs all kinds of running and workouts. Longer distances, for example, should be done slower than most of your other runs. There is no place for Fartleks on your long run day.
Since Fartleks are a type of interval training, you would be beating your body up much too heavily if you tried to do Fartleks every day.
Remember that in running, there is too much of a good thing.
Fartlek Training for Beginners
Fartlek training examples for beginners are easy peasy to implement.
- Warm-up 7-8 minutes
- Run 1:00 hard x 2:00 minutes easy (repeat seven times)
- Cooldown 5-8 minutes
So, Should You Fartlek?
You absolutely should! Take everything you have learned from the Fartlek definition to the fartlek training advice, and get yourself implementing. Just wait to be able to brag to your friends that you did a Fartlek session.
After your friends giggle like middle school boys at the term Fartlek, you can tell them all about how smart you are as you explain, “What is a fartlek run,” and you tell them why they should join you.