Fun While You Run : Fartleks


As the full heat of summer approaches, sometimes we need something new in our running plan – something different, something unstructured, something fun.

Something like Fartleks.

Fartlek directly translates into speed play. Fartlek workouts are slow running and fast running combined in the same workout, but not necessarily having specific times or distances associated with each interval.

Fartlek workouts can be performed no matter what your run/walk level. You can alternate between slower and faster walking. You can alternate between walking and running. Or slower and faster running. You get to set the pace of each interval, just identifying one as slower and one as faster based on your individual effort.

Depending on where you are running, identify landmarks. You may use street corners or trees or lightpoles or mailboxes. Use whatever is on the course you are on. Warm up at an easy effort for 5 minutes. Then alternate slow and fast effort based on landmarks for your desired workout in time or miles. Finally, cool down for 5 minutes.

Let’s say you are getting miles in your neighborhood. You have warmed up for 5 minutes. Pick a tree within your line of vision and then run/walk at fast effort toward that tree. When you reach the tree, back off to your pace to your slow effort and allow yourself to recover. Pick the tree where you will start running at a fast effort again. Repeat this cycle for your typical mileage or time then cool down and you are done!

Fartleks can be good to break up your training because they don’t require the pressure of math. You don’t have to be concerned about pace or distances or splits. You are able to get the benefits of a variable intensity workout without the internal pressure that often comes with them.

Fartleks can be utilized by anyone who runs or walks. Your effort is up to you. Run hard for a certain distance and then back off until you feel good. Then run hard again. There is a freedom in fartleks that has a childlike feel. You decide when to run easy and when to run hard. It teaches you to trust yourself and your ability to trust your effort. And fartleks give you an idea of what is possible from your body on race day.

Other ways to run a fartlek workout:

  • Use other landmarks to identify length of intervals. Mailboxes, driveways, stoplights.
  • Base effort on music. Easy effort during the verses and hard effort in the chorus.
  • If you are on a treadmill, use music and increase incline instead of pace.

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