Fartlek Training: Speed Workout Ideas for Runners

Fartlek training is a great way for runners to increase their speed. However, fartlek workouts are often confused with interval training. Here is everything you need to know to complete a successful fartlek run and use these running workouts to get faster quickly! #runningworkouts #fartlekworkout #fartlektraining

The term fartlek is definitely a strange one. It sounds more like a noise you’d make when you sneeze than a  running workout. But despite its silly name, fartlek training is a type of running that many runners have found helpful when increasing their speed. Despite the benefits, though, some runners neglect to incorporate these types of runs because of their unstructured nature.

Trying to complete a fartlek workout feels intimidating for many runners, mostly because no matter what they do, they feel like they might be doing something wrong. However, with its unlimited possibilities and endless opportunities, fartlek training is something we should all be including in our running plans.

So what is a fartlek run?

The term fartlek is a Swedish word that means “speed play”. And fartlek runs are exactly that – they incorporate varying elements of speed into a run. The term “play” describes these workouts perfectly. Fartlek workouts can involve many speeds and distances, and were designed to increase a runner’s speed and endurance. They may involve short sprints to the stop sign, a surge until the next turn, or maintaining a new pace until the group leader says to stop.

Fartlek training is a great way for runners to increase their speed. However, fartlek workouts are often confused with interval training. Here is everything you need to know to complete a successful fartlek run and use these running workouts to get faster quickly! #runningworkouts #fartlekworkout #fartlektraining

What is the difference between fartlek training and intervals?

Fartlek workouts differ from intervals in one main way: they are unstructured and free. In contrast to interval workouts, where the distance and speed are specifically defined, fartleks involve any variety of speed and distance that you can come up with. You can sprint, run hard, slightly push yourself, or complete a combination of all three during a fartlek workout.

Related: The Best 30 Minute Interval Run

You might want to run hard just to the stop sign, for 10 seconds, or around the bend in the road. The distance of each surge can be defined on the spot. Fartlek runs are a great workout to complete with a group, where you can change group leaders throughout the run, and let each leader determine the intensity and distance of the next surge.

Fartlek training is a great way for runners to increase their speed. However, fartlek workouts are often confused with interval training. Here is everything you need to know to complete a successful fartlek run and use these running workouts to get faster quickly! #runningworkouts #fartlekworkout #fartlektraining

How to Run a Fartlek Workout

The issue many runners have when completing fartlek runs is that since they are so unstructured, most runners feel that they are doing something wrong or incorrect.

But on the contrary – it is impossible to complete a fartlek workout the wrong way.

Fartlek runs have almost no restrictions. You can complete fartlek training in your neighborhood, through a trail in the woods, on the track or even a treadmill.

Related: Boredom Busting Treadmill Workouts for Runners

Once they get used to the idea of unstructured speed work, many runners reap the benefits. The variety in speed and distance force your body to adapt to different levels of intensity. Each speed workout quickly becomes based on feel rather than a pre-programmed workout.

As you complete more and more fartlek runs, you’ll learn to listen to your body and respond to its signals.

Fartlek training is a great way for runners to increase their speed. However, fartlek workouts are often confused with interval training. Here is everything you need to know to complete a successful fartlek run and use these running workouts to get faster quickly! #runningworkouts #fartlekworkout #fartlektraining

Successfully running a fartlek workout is easier than you might think.

  • Begin with a short warm up at your easy pace
  • Once your body feels warm and loose, start out with your first surge
  • Run to the stop sign, the tree, around the corner, or for 20 seconds – any distance/duration you’d like
  • Recover with a short distance at your easy pace
  • Repeat with another surge, followed by recovery
  • Complete as many fartlek intervals as you would like
  • Finish with a short cool down at your easy pace

While many runners understand the concept of fartlek training, getting started is usually the hardest part. Venturing into the unknown as we head out for a workout that isn’t planned can feel a bit unsettling. If you’re curious about fartlek runs but aren’t sure where to get started, here are two workout ideas.

Whether you choose to base your fartlek intervals on time, distance or landmarks, remember that whatever you choose will be beneficial. There are no right or wrong answers when it comes to fartlek running. Use these two fartlek workout ideas to get you started – whether that means running them exactly as outlined, or taking these ideas and adapting them to your own setting.

2 Fartlek Workout Ideas to Get You Started

Fartlek Workout: Based on Land Marks

  • Warm up at an easy pace – one loop around your block
  • Increase to half marathon speed – another loop around your block
  • Recover at an easy pace – until you pass 10 houses
  • Increase to 10k speed – halfway around your block
  • Recover at an easy pace – until you pass 10 houses
  • Increase to 5k speed – until you pass 15 houses
  • Recover at an easy pace – until you pass 10 houses
  • Increase to a one mile speed – until you pass 10 houses
  • Recover at an easy pace – until you pass 10 houses
  • Increase to a sprint – halfway around your block
  • Recover at an easy pace – one loop around your block

30 Minute Fartlek Workout: Based on Time

  • Warm up at your easy pace – 5 minutes
  • Increase to 10k speed – 3 minutes
  • Recover at your easy pace – 3 minutes
  • Increase to 5k speed – 5 minutes
  • Recover at your easy pace – 2 minutes
  • Increase to one mile speed – 2 minutes
  • Recover at your easy pace – 2 minutes
  • Increase to a sprint – 1 minute
  • Recover at your easy pace – 30 seconds
  • Increase to a sprint – 1 minute
  • Recover at your easy pace – 30 seconds
  • Cool down at your easy pace – 5 minutes

The key to a fartlek run based on time is keeping the intervals random and not planning too much ahead of time. When you head out for a fartlek run, decide the intervals as you go and run based on feel rather than the speed determined by your watch.

Once you begin to feel comfortable with fartlek training, you’ll quickly discover the hidden benefits of unstructured speed workouts. Listening to your body helps avoid injury, take some of the mental stress away from training each week, keep workouts fun and interesting, and teaches us what we are actually capable of accomplishing.

Regularly including fartlek runs into your training brings added variety and benefits to your speed workouts. Mix up your workouts each week between tempo runs, intervalshills and fartleks to keep your mind and body fresh.

The possibilities with fartlek running are literally endless. Try meeting up with a group or completing some fartleks on the track, treadmill and outside. The variety and versatility of fartlek training makes it one of a kind.

Dedicate some time during your next speed workout to try out a fartlek run – and you will no doubt discover a hidden joy to these unstructured workouts.

More running speed workouts:

Fartlek training is a great way for runners to increase their speed. However, fartlek workouts are often confused with interval training. Here is everything you need to know to complete a successful fartlek run and use these running workouts to get faster quickly! #runningworkouts #fartlekworkout #fartlektraining

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