Running Workouts

Fartlek Running: A Fun and Effective Way to Boost Your Running Endurance

9 Mins read

Are you ready to take your running to the next level with some fartlek training?

Look no further because I’ve got everything you need to know right here.

Fartlek training, which means “speed play” in Swedish, is a fun and effective way to mix up your running routine and improve your overall fitness.

It’s like adding some spice to your favorite dish – it adds some excitement and variety to your workout.

In this article, we’re going to explore everything you need to know about fartlek training. We’ll delve into the differences between fartlek and interval running, the benefits and downsides of fartlek workouts,and how often you should incorporate them into your routine.

Plus, I’ve got some delicious fartlek training examples that will leave you feeling satisfied and accomplished.

So lace up your shoes and get ready to unleash your inner speed demon with fartlek training. It’s time to add some zest to your workout and take your running to the next level.

Fartlek Training Defined

Fartlek is a Swedish term that translates as “Speed play.” Think of it like a game of cat and mouse with your own limits. You’re chasing your goals but also keeping them on their toes by mixing up your pace and distance.

During a fartlek run, you’ll perform bursts of fast and slow running over varying distances, like a symphony of different tempos and melodies.

There’s no set structure, no rigid rules. It’s a speed game, literally—a playful and dynamic run during which you change up your pace multiple times without ever getting bored or predictable. It’s like a chef experimenting with different ingredients and spices, testing the limits of their culinary creativity.

You start by running at your usual pace, then add in a dash of speed—usually to a medium to high tempo—then try to maintain it for a random period of time or distance. And just when your legs start to feel the burn, you’ll slow down for a few minutes before ramping up the speed again, like a roller coaster ride that never gets old.

And don’t worry, fartlek training is not rocket science! You don’t need a degree in physics to master it.

But if you want to learn more about the history and evolution of fartlek training, check out these sources:

Fartlek Training Vs. Interval Training –What’s The Difference?

“But David, isn’t fartlek training just another variation of interval training?” you might ask. Although similar, fartlek workouts and traditional intervals are not the same things. When you do interval training, like 400m on a track, you’re following a defined training pattern.

It’s like following a strict recipe, measuring every ingredient to the exact gram. You also typically stop or walk to recover between the high-effort surges, like taking a timeout on the sidelines. But when you do fartlek runs, flexibility is the priority.

You’re like a free spirit, dancing to the rhythm of your own heartbeat. You’re changing things up and staying unpredictable, like a jazz musician improvising on the fly. What’s more, fartlek training requires continuous running. You actually never stop and rest.

Benefits Of Fartlek Workouts

Here’s why fartlek training is good for your athletic performance.

Speed & Endurance

Fartlek training stresses both the aerobic and anaerobic energy pathways.

Fartlek training is a bit like a rollercoaster ride for your body. It takes you on a thrilling journey of fast and slow, high and low, and keeps you guessing every step of the way. By playing with your speed and intensity levels, fartlek training puts your aerobic and anaerobic systems to the test, challenging your endurance and speed at the same time.

That’s why it’s one of the best ways to help you improve running endurance and speed at the same time.

Ideal For Sports Training.

And it’s not just for runners. Fartlek training is perfect for any athlete looking to improve their speed and agility, whether you’re on the basketball court, soccer field, or football pitch. Even racers can benefit from this type of training, as it teaches your body how to recover faster and keep up with the unpredictable nature of races.

Kills boredom

Fartlek training offers a creative, less structured, and on-the-go form of interval training that’s guaranteed to shake things up with your training program.

Sheds Mad Calories

Fartlek is one form of HIIT workouts.

The typical fartlek workout session will force you to work at a higher energy level, leading to greater calorie burn and energy expenditure.

Let’s not forget the calorie-burning benefits of fartlek. This form of HIIT workout will leave you shedding mad calories and feeling energized. Just be aware of the downsides, such as the potential for injury if you’re not careful or if you don’t have a strong cardio base.

The Downsides of Fartlek Training

Fartlek workouts, just like another workout method, has its own disadvantages that you need to pay attention to if you want to make the most out of it.

Here are a few things to consider before you start fartlek training.

Running Experience

You don’t need to be an elite runner to do fartlek training, but a running base is required.

If you’re still a beginner runner, take a few months to build your cardio base before start counting lamp posts.

Injury Risk

If you’re recovering from injury or have underlying health issues, consult with your physician first before you try fartlek running.

Not buddy friendly

Sure, this is up to your pace, but if you and your running buddy have a fairly different pace, it’s going to be hard to keep up the pace—unless one of you is the leader and the other one is willing (and capable) to follow.

How Often Should You Do Fartlek Training

I recommend that you do at least one Fartlek run every two weeks, depending of course on your current fitness level and training goals.

As I have already explained, fartlek workouts require no real structure. 

If you want to give it a try, simply warm-up, and then start inserting some surge effort every few minutes.

Still confused?

Do the following:

To start doing speed-play workouts, try adding some short periods of faster-paced running into your normal runs.

Keep the higher pace for a short distance or time, such as 300 meters or 45 seconds.

The faster pace surges can vary throughout your run, and you can even use streetlights or houses to mark your segment.

The word key is play.

Once you complete a surge, slow it down until you’re fully recovered, then speed up again.

Note – Here’s how often should you run per week.

Fartlek training

The Fartlek Training Examples to Try

Here is a list of 7 Fartlek training examples you need to be doing.

You can perform one of these workouts once or twice per week—depending on your fitness level and training goals of course.

1.The 5K/ 10K Specific Fartlek Run

One great place to start is with the 5K/10K specific fartlek run. This workout will help you build your endurance and speed at the same time. During this workout, aim to perform at least 8 to 10 gentle, controlled surges, lasting for one minute to 90-seconds with one-minute jog recovery between each.

But don’t let the word “gentle” fool you – these pick-ups should still challenge you. Aim for roughly 10 to 15 seconds per mile faster than your 5K pace race. That’s around 85 to 90 percent of your maximum effort. And according to studies, running at this intensity for no more than 10 minutes each session can lead to vital increases in VO2 max, your body’s ability to con utilize oxygen during exercise.

The Workout

To perform this workout, begin with a proper warm-up, running at a comfortable pace for 5 to 10 minutes. Then, increase your speed for one minute, followed by a drop back to normal speed for one minute. Next, increase your speed for one minute to 90 seconds, then take it down again. Repeat the cycle for 20 to 25 minutes, then perform a final 2-minute surge at maximum speed before wrapping up your workout with a 5-minute cooldown.

Want to run a 5K in under 20 minutes? Try my sub 20 5K plan.

2. The Fartlek Run Surges

If you’re looking to improve your endurance and speed for longer distance events like half-marathons and marathons, the Fartlek Run Surges is perfect for you.

Aim for 20 to 25 seconds per mile faster than your normal long-run pace, and if you feel too tired after the surge, take it slow and gradual. Remember, it’s all about building your strength and endurance.

The Workout

During your longest run of the week, after a thorough warm-up of 10-15 minutes, it’s time to lift off! Blast off with a one-minute pace pick-up every 7 to 8 minutes, shooting for at least eight surges. And don’t forget to hit the brakes with a 10-minute cooldown to bring yourself back down to Earth.

3. The Pyramid Fartlek Run

If you’re looking for a more structured workout, the Pyramid Fartlek Run has you covered. The goal of this ladder workout is to mimic the ups and downs of a race, especially during 5K and 10K events.

The Workout

After a a proper 10-minute warm-up, complete the following intervals:

  • Two-minute at 5K pace,
  • Two-minute easy,
  • Three-minute at 10K pace,
  • Two-minute easy,
  • Four-minute at half-marathon race pace,
  • Two-minute easy,
  • Four-minute half-marathon race pace,
  • Two-minute easy,
  • Three-minute at 10K pace,
  • Two-minute easy,
  • Two-minutes at 5K pace or faster, then
  • Finish off the session with a 10-minute cool down.

4. The “Surroundings” Fartlek Run

This fartlek run is your chance to let loose and run free like a kid! The “Surroundings” Fartlek Run is ideal if you’re looking to maintain fitness and speed without feeling the pressure of a structured workout.

The Workout

After a 10-minute warm-up, pick a landmark in the distance – whether it’s a telephone pole, a mailbox, a tree, a building, or anything else you can think of – and run towards it at a faster pace. Once you reach it, slow down and recover at your normal running pace for as long as you need.

Then it’s time to run wild again to a different landmark. Remember to stay safe and be aware of your surroundings. And if you’re running with a partner, make a game of it by taking turns picking the next landmark. Who said speedwork couldn’t be fun?

5. The Music Fartlek Run

Get ready to jam out and sprint like a rockstar with this workout! Use music as your guide and change your pace and intensity with each song – slow it down during the recovery tunes and crank it up to max speed during the high-tempo hits. It’s like conducting a symphony with your feet!

The Workout

Come up with a predetermined list of songs by putting together a mix of standard running songs that alternates between songs around 120 BPM for the recovery boots, and songs around 160 BPM for the surges.

Here is one of my favorite playlists to try out.

I encourage you to come up with your own.

The Warm-up

  • Raise Your Glass – Pink (120 BPM)
  • Blow – Keisha (120 BPM)

First Surge

  • Hey Ya! – Outcast (160 BPM)

Recovery

  • Blurred Lines – Robin Thicke (120 BPM)

Second Surge

  • Forever – Drake, Kanye West & Eminem (160 BPM)

Recovery

  • Lights – Ellie Goulding (120 BPM)

Third Surge

  • Pain – Three Days Grace (160 BPM)

Recovery

  • Bleeding out – Imagine Dragons (120 BPM)

Fourth Surge

  • In Pieces – Linkin Park (160 BPM)

Cool Down

  • All these things I Have Done – The Killers (120 BPM)
  • Sail – AWOL nation (120 BPM)

6. The Multi-Sprint Sports Fartlek Run

If you want to improve your performance in sports that require varying levels of intensity, such as soccer, basketball, or football, this workout is for you. It’s like doing a Fartlek dance with your favorite sport!

The Workout

After a throughout warm-up, perform the following intervals:

  • A 60-second run at 70 percent maximum effort
  • A 90-second hard run at 80 percent maximum effort
  • A 45-second jog at 60 percent maximum effort.
  • A 20-second sprint at 90 percent effort
  • Run backward for one full minute at the fastest pace you can run.
  • A 45-second jog for recovery
  • Run hard for one full minute
  • Repeat the above cycle for two to three times.
  • A 10-minute cooldown.

7. The Treadmill Fartlek Run

Who said you couldn’t do fartlek on the treadmill?

When weather conditions prevent you from enjoying your speed play outside, you can hop on the treadmill instead.

For example, if you watch television during your treadmill running, you might use commercials as a time to pick up the pace.

Can’t do that?

Then here’s how a fartlek treadmill workout should look like:

  • Begin with a 10-minute warm-up at 7 MPH
  • Speed to 10 MPH for one minute
  • Keep the same pace but increase the incline to 6 percent for 30 seconds
  • Recovery by jogging at 7 MPH for 3 minutes
  • Speed up to 11 MPH for two minutes
  • Reduce speed to 9 MPH but increase the incline to 7 percent for one minute
  • Reduce speed to 6 MPH for 3 minutes
  • Keep the same speed but increase inline to 7 percent for two minutes
  • Keep the same incline but increase speed to 9.5 MPH for as long as you can run with good form.
  • Finish the session with a 5-minute slow jog at your cool down pace.

Fartlek Training Guide  – The Conclusion

There you have it!

The above fartlek training examples and guidelines are all you need to get started with fartlek training in no time.

Now the ball is in your court.

Please feel free to leave your comments and questions in the section below.

Thank you for dropping by.

Keep running strong.

David D.

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