Fartlek training can be just as fun as it sounds! It’s a fantastic session for runners of all abilities training for virtually any event. You can make them as hard or as easy as you want. Run to distance or run to time, during the Summer or depths of winter, that’s the beauty of fartlek training, it really is one of my favourite all round versatile workouts.

So, what is fartlek training?

The word “fartlek” is a Swedish term which meaning “speed play.” It is a training method that blends various speeds, conditioning you to run faster over longer distances. Unlike a traditional interval session, where you stop or walk for recovery, fartlek training is a continuous run. 

You might not go as fast during a fartlek run as the ‘float’ or jog recovery between efforts means your HR doesn’t drop as low meaning you don’t fully recover between repetitions. 

Fartlek running

Why I love fartlek training

For it’s simplicity and versatility. Fartlek training is brilliant at various stages of a training plan and fitness levels. It can be used as a introduction to interval work, a way of maintaining fitness between key sessions or races, a session to run more to feel. This is also really useful when the weather is bad and specific splits go out of the window due to high winds as an example. 

There are endless possibilities to fartlek training. I’ve used fartleks as part of marathon training plans and also utilised them when training for the 5k. There are no rules when running a fartlek. You can run them structured or based on feel and inspiration. For example, run hard to the next set of traffic lights and jog to the bus stop, your next effort might be to the big tree with your recovery making the most of the down hill section back down to the railway crossing. 

Repetitions can be short such as 12x1mins with 1mins float recovery or varied in length such as one of my favourites, 5mins, 4mins, 3mins, 2mins, 1min with half the effort recovery between. Another amazing fartlek run is the mona fartlek, 2x90secs, 4x60secs, 4x30secs and 4x15secs. This can be used for 1500m runners during the off season to maintain turnover or marathon runners looking to keep their legs moving in the middle of high mileage training periods. 

If you’re running with your buddy who might be a bit slower than you, you can use the float recoveries to re-group and enable you to train together when normally you might not be able to. 

There’s also no rules when it comes to terrain, you can run undulating fartleks or run them on trail and off road. Our local favourite spot for fartlek training is the Middlewood Way. It’s an old disused railway line that provides the perfect setting for a structured fartlek run. 

I’d highly recommend introducing some fartlek training into your training programme. If you’d like help or to checkout a range of training plans that include an element of fartlek’ing head over to my TrainingPeaks store here or view the training plans available on JM Coaching.