Roughly translated, “fartlek” is Swedish for “speed play.” A fartlek workout is a fairly unstructured session where the athlete runs for periods of time at a faster effort, and periods of time at a slower effort. Those periods of time can be set beforehand (ex: 2 minutes hard, 1 minute easy for 30 minutes) or you can go really old school and simply throw in surges throughout a run based on landmarks (ex: hard bursts from light pole to light pole or city block to city block) or based on terrain (eg: surge on every uphill).
AN EXAMPLE FROM NAZ ELITE team and Coach Ben Rosario: “Over the years we’ve done so many different types of fartleks that it would be almost impossible, or at least way too long, to list them all. One of our staples, though, has been to simply go out on Lake Mary Rd. and knock out 6 miles worth of 2 minutes hard, 1 minute easy. It’s a great session because you get the pace change work that any fartlek provides, you get some work in at at least threshold pace and probably a little faster during the two-minute hard segments, and you get a good overall pace for 6 miles with the 1-minute easy segments being so short–and hopefully not too easy.”
A few other examples that may be making an appearance on Thursday evening Dirtbag run sessions.
- 20 x 1min hard, 1min easy
- 6km of 2min hard, 2min easy
- 3min, 2min, 1min, 1min, 2min, 3min, 3min, 2min, 1min with 2 minute easy segments after the 3min hard segments and 1min easy segments after the 2min and 1min hard segments.
- 12km with a 2min hard surge every 2km (rest of the run done at normal easy run pace).
The Mona Fartlek (we’ve done this a few times!) – Made famous by Aussie star Steve Moneghetti. 2×90 seconds, 4×60 seconds, 4×30 seconds, 4×15 seconds with equal jog recovery after each hard segment.
Fartlek sessions can be easily worked into any structured training plan. They can be done early in a training block as a no-pressure way to build fitness without worrying about exact paces, and they can be done as a sharpening/race sim session in the heart of a hard block to work on handling pace change during races; they can also be done in the taper phase as a low-key tuneup or sharpening type of session. Since the effort is up to you (on both the hard and easy portions), you can make a fartlek into anything you need it to be.
Look out for a few more of these on Thursday nights!