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2 Fartlek Workouts to Increase Speed | Fartlek Training for Beginners

A fartlek workout might sound more like a noise you’d make when you sneeze than a type of run. However, despite its silly name, fartlek training is a type of running that can actually help you run faster.

Fartlek training can feel intimidating because there are no strict guidelines for how exactly to complete the run. Because of this, many runners neglect to incorporate fartlek workouts and steer clear from this open-ended style of workouts.

What is fartlek training?

The term fartlek is a Swedish word that means “speed play”. And fartlek workouts are exactly that – they incorporate varying elements of speed into a run. The term “play” describes these workouts perfectly.

A fartlek run workout can involve multiple speeds and distances, and is designed to increase a runner’s speed and endurance. Fartlek training might 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.

What’s the difference between a fartlek workout 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, fartlek training involves 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.

You might want to run hard 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 run workouts are fun to complete with a group, with changing group leaders throughout the run, each determining the intensity and distance of the next surge.

Benefits of Fartlek Training

The issue many runners have with completing fartlek runs is that they feel they are doing something wrong or incorrect because the workouts are so unstructured.

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 on a treadmill.

Once they get used to the idea of unstructured speed work, many runners reap the benefits. Fartlek training is great for beginners, as the variety in speed and distance force your body to adapt to different levels of intensity.

Here are some of the advantages and disadvantages of fartlek training.

Advantages of Fartlek Training

  • Easily adaptable to any environment (track, roads, treadmill, etc.)
  • Beneficial for any ability level
  • Can be included in any length run
  • Keeps things interesting
  • Helps runners listen to their body
  • Can help prevent injury

Disadvantages of Fartlek Training

  • Can be easy to run at slower speeds
  • Challenging to mix things up if you always run in the same location
  • Might not get the same benefit if you don’t run a long enough workout or interval
  • Lack of structure can be intimidating

It seems that overall, the benefits of fartlek training outweigh those few disadvantages. However, even while knowing the advantages that come from a fartlek run workout, many runners avoid them due to uncertainty with how to begin.

Here is how to start incorporating fartlek training for beginners and advanced runners alike.

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 Do a Fartlek Workout

If you’re preparing to complete a fartlek workout, it’s important not to overthink or overplan. The best and most successful workouts come with little preparation, but a lot of effort on the run.

  • Begin with a short warm up at your easy pace
  • Once your body feels warm and loose, begin your first surge
  • Run hard for any distance/duration that you’d like: to the stop sign, the tree, around the corner, for 20 seconds, etc.
  • Recover with a short distance at an easy, slow pace (and/or walking)
  • Repeat by beginning another surge, followed immediately with 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 running workouts but aren’t sure where to get started, here are two ideas to help you out.

You can choose to base your fartlek intervals on time, distance or landmarks – there are no right or wrong plans when it comes to fartlek training. Try these two fartlek workout ideas to get started; either exactly as outlined, or by adapting them to your own setting.

Fartlek Workout: Based on Landmarks

Fartlek training is often based on landmarks instead of distance. This fartlek workout uses landmarks on your street to dictate when to start and stop each interval.

  • Warm up @ easy pace: one loop around your block (or down your street)
  • Run hard @ half marathon speed: another loop around your block
  • Recovery @ easy pace: until you pass 10 houses
  • Run hard @ 10k speed: halfway around your block
  • Recovery @ easy pace: until you pass 10 houses
  • Run hard @ 5k speed: until you pass 15 houses
  • Recovery @ easy pace: until you pass 10 houses
  • Run hard @ one mile speed: until you pass 10 houses
  • Recovery @ easy pace: until you pass 10 houses
  • Run hard @ a sprint: halfway around your block
  • Recovery @ easy pace: one loop around your block

Fartlek Workout: Based on Time

This fartlek workout can easily be completed in any setting because it is based on time. Rather than beginning and ending each interval based on distance, like typical running workouts, this type of fartlek training uses time instead.

  • 5 minute warm up
  • 3 minutes @ moderately hard effort
  • 3 minutes @ easy pace
  • 5 minutes @ hard effort
  • 2 minutes @ easy pace
  • 1 minutes @ very hard effort
  • 2 minutes @ easy pace
  • 1 minute @ sprinting effort
  • 30 seconds @ easy pace
  • 1 minute @ sprinting effort
  • 30 seconds @ easy pace
  • 5 minute cool down

The key to a fartlek workout 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, reduce some of the mental stress, and keeps workouts fun and interesting.

Regularly including fartlek run workouts in your training adds variety to help build speed and endurance.

The possibilities with fartlek running are literally endless. Try meeting up with a group or completing some fartlek workouts 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.

Similar fartlek workout ideas:

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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