Fartlek Workout

The fartlek workout is a great way to teach yourself how to change pace and include some intervals in your training. 

Introduction

"Fartlek" is a Swedish word, which translates as speed play. Rather than performing formal intervals on a running track for example, you intersperse efforts throughout a steady paced run. You can do this in many different ways, the key point being that both the interval distance and the recovery periods are random instead of rigorously planned, as they would be for standard interval training.

Traditionally, this is an introduction to interval training after a winter of base training.

Something else great about using the fartlek workout is that you can vary the intensity of efforts so that you get closer to the experience of racing than you do when running far more structured intervals.

Finally, on a good day, you might run more or longer efforts, whilst on a day when you're struggling, you simply do what's manageable.

How to do it...

Do a thorough dynamic mobility warm up for at least 10 minutes.

Run at an easy/steady pace for the duration of your workout time.

During the workout, include between 5 and 10 variable length efforts at your target race pace or faster, using one of the following:

  • Pick distinctive landmark ahead of you and run to that point.
  • Run hard up a hill and cruise back down.
  • Run easy up a hill and stride out down the other side.
  • If there are lamp posts on your route, run fast for a random number of lamp posts.
  • If running on mixed terrain, run the road sections easy and the off-road sections hard (or vice versa).

Vary your rest intervals as to suit the terrain. Aim to recover only partially after some of the efforts and fully after others.

Cool down by walking briskly for 10 minutes and include any mobility work for your particular areas of concern.

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Will Newton


In over twenty years of coaching, Will has coached everyone from absolute beginners to world champions. His interest in getting the best results for athletes who compete for the love of the sport, rather than as professionals, drives him to find the most effective ways to get results.

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