Fartlek running workouts: run smarter and faster

Are fartlek running workouts part of your training routine? Sounds kinda strange if you’ve never heard of it before, doesn’t it! So what is it?

A system of training for distance runners in which the terrain and pace are continually varied.

Fartlek, literally “speed play” in Swedish, is something you should consider adding to your training if you haven’t already. Whether you’re a beginner or a pro, there is a fartlek fartlek running workoutsworkout that will work for you.

Fartlek is an unstructured session, where you vary your pace as you choose during the run. There are no rules with fartlek. Fartlek is different to interval training, which tend to be more structured (interval training would be more like run 400m at race pace, do the next 400 jogging, repeat sequence 6 times).

How fartlek skyrockets your training

First and foremost, it adds variety and interest to your routine, making your runs more enjoyable.

HOW? Take one of your regular running routes, and run faster along one block, then slower on the next. Or run faster until you see a green house, then stay running more slowly until you see a yellow one. Get the idea? This will add a bit of spice to that regular run you’re usually able to do without thinking.

Strength and endurance: varying the intensity of your run in a fartlek session gives your muscles a better work out, and they will learn to adapt to running at higher speeds.

Fat burning: the combination of the strenghtening benefits and higher calorie expenditure with the varying intensity of fartlek  means you’ll burn more calories in a fartlek session than you would if you ran the route at a steady pace.

Everyone benefits from fartlek

Everyone can reap the benefits of fartlek training, whether you’re a total beginner or a regular half marathoner.

Beginner: try mixing walking with jogging.

Experienced: try mixing jogging with faster running.

Change it up completely: why not use three speeds during your fartlek workout?

How to get started

Here are my three best tips to start incorporating fartlek running workouts, no matter what your fitness level.

  1. Mail boxes: once you’ve warmed up, jog for 5 mailboxes, then run faster for 5. Or walk for 5, jog for 5. You can choose whatever number you want.
  2. Vary your pace between blocks.
  3. Vary your pace between songs. You might like to build a playlist to have a mixture of faster paced songs for running and slower paced ones for jogging (read more about great playlists here)

Keep the length of your fartlek session to between 20-50 minutes, the increased intensity of it means you don’t need to run for hours to see results.

Have you tried fartlek? Let me know what you think of it in the comments.

Wanting to read more posts on improving your training? You’ll find them here. 


Your running buddy,






image one by Chris Hunkeler, CC 2.0, https://flic.kr/p/oqGcSv

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