Types of Running Workouts: What is Fartlek Run Training?

Sport & Activity

Fartlek running is a fun way to switch up your training, while still making notable improvements to your performance. Here's how to do it.

Last updated: 30 June 2022
4 min read
Learn the Method Behind Fartlek Run Training

Many runners stick to the same running routine for years. And then they wonder why their time isn't improving on their 5K. Or why their sprint speed isn't improving on the track. If you want to run faster and improve your performance, it's time to switch up your training plan and workout.

Fartlek running is a popular style of running training that focuses on playing around with speeds. It can give you a boost of motivation by helping you enjoy each workout session, while still making improvements in your performance. Here's what Fartlek is about and why you should give it a try as part of your workout.

Fartlek Training

Fartlek is Swedish for "speed play". This training method is unstructured and effective. A Fartlek workout is unlike traditional interval training, although Fartlek training does involve switching between periods of faster running with easy-paced running.

Fartlek is a continuous running style that doesn't allow for breaks or rest periods. But that doesn't mean you'll be gasping for air after one round. The goal of Fartlek is for a runner to adjust their pace accordingly with their energy levels to keep running.

Instead of maintaining a speed for a set distance or duration, a runner doing Fartlek training is free to play around with speed. That's why it's called speed play. You might hit the road and set a goal to sprint to the nearest telephone pole, and then jog to the next one. Your next sprint might be slower, but that's part of the process in building endurance and stamina with Fartlek.

In a Fartlek session, a runner has the autonomy to choose how to run, based on individual preference. This can help you to learn when you can push yourself and when to slow down. This more accurately represents what happens in real races. You don't have time to stop running and take a walk. Instead you keep pushing, adjusting your pace when necessary. It'll teach you how to monitor your running pace in a fun, unstructured way.

The Benefits of Fartlek Training

For a runner, the benefits of Fartlek runs on performance can include:

  • Better race performance
  • Better mental stamina and discipline
  • Increased endurance
  • Increased speed
  • Better cardiovascular fitness

Aside from the benefits that Fartlek has on your performance, there are also other benefits associated with the training style including:

  • Offering a boost of motivation to break a training rut
  • Helping beginners learn how to monitor pace
  • Adding variety into a training schedule
  • Putting the runner in control
  • Giving a fun, unconventional twist to a workout
  • Being accessible to anyone and easy to incorporate into any training phase
  • Working in alignment with your body and its daily needs

Example Fartlek Runs

You have speed control on a Fartlek run, so try it out in the following formats. Make sure you start each Fartlek training session with a warm-up. Aim for a five to ten minutes warm-up with an easy jog.

Workout 1: Time-Based Fartlek Training

  • Set a timer to notify you every two minutes.
  • Each time the timer goes off, adjust your pace.

Workout 2: Distance-Based Fartlek Training

  • If you're running on a track or treadmill, monitor the distance. Run for 100 to 200 metres before switching your pace if you're training for a 5K or shorter. Run for 400 to 800 metres, then change your pace, if you're training for a half-marathon or marathon using Fartlek training.
  • If you're running on the street, set your own distance goals based on what you can see. For example, a stop sign, a parked car or a tree. Once you get there, set your sights on another landmark in the distance for your next Fartlek period.

Other Types of Running Workouts to Incorporate

Once you've tried and tested Fartlek running, you can expand your options. Check out the Nike Run Club App for more running workouts, Audio-Guided Runs and training plans to add variety, consistency and fun into your training.

Originally published: 24 November 2021

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