Best Running Tips

Fartlek Run Workouts

The Best and Fun Way to Improve Your Overall Speed and Endurance

By Arthur Smith       September 25, 2021

Fartlek Running


What is Fartlek Running Workout?

Fartlek is a Swedish term. It means speed play. It is one of the dominant training techniques in any training session whereby blends of enduring speed runs are integrated at intervals. Gösta Holmér, a Swedish coach, developed this technique.

Fartlek running is an unstructured form of speed workouts. The paces vary without rest. It is all about challenging the body to a variety of speeds over a long distance. Unlike interval running, there is no stopping for a rest. Instead, slow jogs or moderate-paced running are employed between speed runs. The jog means that the heart rate does not drop as low as in the recovery period. Most importantly, the speed runs must trigger your unusual heart rate.


How to Do Fartlek Running

There are many ways you can do a Fartlek workout. The structure depends on your preferences or the training environment. For example, you could be living and training around the blocks, hilly terrain you prefer, or doing all your workouts indoors; on a treadmill. The most important thing about the concept of the Fartlek workout is to run slightly higher than your comfortable pace and at intervals of distance or time.

You can also decide to use landmarks like electric posts, blocks, street lights, or uphill for every segment like strenuous, medium, and easy efforts. There is also an option to use a set of distances for every Fartlek component.

After completing a fast circuit, reduce the pace to lower than your traditional running pace until you regain strength and breathing is back to normal. Then switch to your average pace for some time or a distance, and then turn it up to a slightly higher speed at varying intervals.

An easy illustration can be running a faster effort for a minute, switching to a leisurely pace for about 3 minutes. Fartleks are also great on hills. On the other hand, you can race up the heel and come down jogging before switching to a higher pace.

Whichever way you do it, the bottom line is to toy around with speeds at different intervals according to your training preferences and based on the prevailing training environment.

fartlek training


Why Fartlek should be in your training program

 Development of strength 

When breathing fast and the muscles are burning, the only thing that can keep you going is the will to do so. Fartlek plays a significant role in strengthening willpower through prolonged and repeated efforts. The more a runner does speed variations over time, the body responds positively to the new routine, and the mind is tuned to believe that you can run faster and longer.  

Enhance Endurance

Since Fartlek entails consistent running without a complete stop for a rest, the technique prepares a runner for the physical and psychological demands over prolonged running. It also trains the body to different running paces for a long time, especially when running a short or long marathon.

Improve Speed

With Fartlek, you are going to stretch beyond your average speed and improve your overall speed.

Prepare You for the Actual Race

Unlike other running techniques involving racing, in Fartlek, you don’t have the luxury of stopping for a rest. Instead, running is a continuous process that entails exerting surges into the paces and preparing you to overtake your competitor or knock off the remaining seconds to the finish line.

A fun running technique

Fartlek is enjoyable because it is unstructured. You choose how you want to run and place. You can mix routes and terrains and push yourself to your limit. It is also a technique you can do with a group of friends.

Related: How Far A Beginner Should Run: Quick Guide

 Types of Fartlek

Free-form Fartlek

Fartlek running becomes natural when you venture into different terrains and use specific landmarks as the target for switching from one running pace to another. One example is running on hills.

Speed play

When the focus is on enhancing speed, the speed play Fartlek is the option. The interval sequences revolve around jogging, about six to seven minutes of moderate to hard running, then three minutes of jogging. Afterward, you should transition to three minutes of hard runs to about 5 minutes of jogging, then finalize with a repeat or cool down.

Mona Fartlek

It is a 42-minute running session whereby you slow down the “off stage” for a short distance, while scaling up the “on paces”. For long-distance running, you only steady the “off stages”.

Fartlek Running Tips

There are no strict rules for fartlek workouts. However, although it is unstructured, some good tips will go a long way to make your training engaging and effective. The tips include:

Non-Stop Running

The goal is to keep running until you complete all the intervals. The secret is to avoid pushing the fast paces to a point you have to stop or walk. Instead, the goal is to be able to jog after the ‘on’ stage.

Don’t give up

Fartlek workout by itself is unstructured. For this reason, you may find yourself on the offside. However, choose to learn from the mistakes but don’t stop trying. Always do several repeats of the initial plan until you get it right. The bottom line is not to give up.

Choose an environment of your liking.

Make good use of your environment. Look around; that hill, trail, or road route is what you need. You don’t have to rely on your GPS watch. Instead, use the landmarks available to determine the next running variation. Besides, you will be running on feel, not heart rate.


Fartlek workout is strenuous, like tempo runs. So embark on it after a day of easy exercises. It will ensure that you run a fartlek relaxed and feel its effectiveness after a short period.


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