Fartlek Interval Training for Runners

Fartlek, a Swedish term meaning "speed game," is a form of interval or speed training that can be effective in improving speed and endurance when running. The Fartlek race involves varying the pace throughout the race, alternating between fast segments and slow races.


Unlike traditional interval training that uses specific timed or measured segments, fartleks are less structured. Rest and work intervals can be based on how your body feels. With fartlek training, you can experiment with pace and resistance and experiment with changes in pace.

Many runners, especially beginners, enjoy fartlek training because it involves speed work, but it is more flexible and not as demanding as traditional interval training. Another benefit of fartlek training is that it doesn't need to be done on a track and can be done on all types of terrain, such as roads, trails, or hills.

Fartlek training puts a bit more stress on your system, which eventually leads to faster speeds and improves your anaerobic threshold.

How to do the Fartlek Exercises

To do a fartlek workout, try introducing a few short periods of a slightly higher pace into your regular runs.

Keep your pace faster for a short distance or time intervals such as 200 meters or 30 seconds. The intervals can vary throughout your workout and you can even use landmarks like lamp posts or telephone poles to mark your segments.

After completing a fast segment, slow your pace below your normal running pace until you have fully recovered and your breathing is back to normal. Then, go back to running at your normal pace and incorporate slightly faster intervals later in the race.

Sample training

Here's what a beginner fartlek training example looks like:

  • 10-minute warm-up at a slow pace
  • 1 minute on (fast pace), 2 minutes off (easy), 2 minutes on, 1 minute off
  • Repeat the fartlek game 3 to 4 times.
  • 10 minute cool down at a gentle pace

Remember that fartlek training should be free and fun. If you are setting a timer, it is just an interval workout. Think about the milestones in your career that would result in this kind of pattern. When you're racing with a friend, consider changing your cue point selections to add more variation to your fartlek runs.

Treadmill Fartlek Workouts

When you don't want to enjoy your speed game outdoors, you can do a fartlek exercise on a treadmill. If you watch TV during your time on the treadmill, you can use the commercials as a time to go for a run. At the gym, you can play and run when a new person enters or exits a machine.

It can run during the chorus of songs in your playlist or when certain songs are playing. This can help ease treadmill boredom. One precaution is that you will need to use the buttons on the treadmill to increase and decrease the pace. It may be desirable to use longer durations for each phase so that you have less contact with the control panel.

Enjoy Watching This Video About Running

Source: Global Triathlon Network

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