Fartlek: More Than Just a Funny Word
“Fartlek” is not just a funny word. Swedish for “speed play,” a fartlek is a type of speed workout that is known (and maybe dreaded?) among runners. Although these runs can be challenging, incorporating fartlek workouts into your training can help you run faster, and will help make the longer runs seem easier.
So, what is a fartlek workout?
A fartlek workout can be as structured or unstructured as you would like, with the main goal of varying your pace by running faster for short periods of time followed by running slower to recover. This cycle of fast-paced and easier-effort pace on and off is repeated many times to create a 40 - 60 minute training run. Although more challenging and taxing, running a fartlek workout with less recovery time in between each interval will help a runner improve their VO2 max and boost aerobic power.
How should I run a fartlek?
First off, these workouts should be incorporated into training only after you have built up a high running stamina or base and feel comfortable running an hour at a steady pace. Also, the type of run or race you are training for will play a factor in how much you incorporate fartlek workouts into your training plan. (For example, those training for a 5k will generally want to do more speed workouts than those training for a marathon.)
Before starting a fartlek, it is important to warm up with a 10-15 minute jog to loosen up your muscles. A similar length cool down would also be a good idea. As far as the meat of the workout, incorporate periods of sprinting, and then jogging to recover. To run this in an unstructured way, try sprinting to objects ahead of you (like a pole or sign), followed by 1-2 minute recovery, and repeat.
For a more structured workout, here are some ideas (remember to warm up before and cool down after):
- 6 minute @ 10k pace, 4 minute @ 5k pace, 2 minute @ mile pace with 1 minute recovery in between (repeat one time)
- 3 minute speed, 2 minute recovery (repeat five times)
- 2, 3, 4, 4, 3, 2 with 2-2:30 recovery in between
Why should I run fartlek workouts?
If you are anything like me, speed may not be your strength. You may be an endurance athlete that enjoys running at a steady pace for longer amounts of time, and not really see the need to run faster or sprint for shorter amounts of time. However, as mentioned before, incorporating speed workouts into your training plan will help you become a faster runner overall and can help improve physiological adaptations such as VO2 max.
Additionally, fartleks specifically are great speed workouts to choose because you can make it as structured as you want, and really adapt it to how you are feeling that day. Incorporating fartlek workouts into your training will improve mind-body awareness by providing a different mental and physical stimulus than you would get during regular runs, ultimately helping you reach your running goals!
Have you incorporated fartlek workouts into your training plan?
How have you seen your running stamina improve?