What is Fartlek training?

If you’re pounding the pavement but your running routine feels as flat as week-old soda, it’s time to fizz things up with Fartlek training. Born from Swedish ingenuity, this playful approach tosses the rigid intervals aside and spices up your runs with speed that surges like an unpredictable wind.

As a seasoned runner who’s tackled everything from 5Ks to marathons, I can attest to the transformative power of integrating these dynamic bursts into my workouts; they’re game-changers for athletes chasing that elusive personal best.

Fartlek is more than just a funny word—it’s a serious strategy that turns ordinary runs into extraordinary adventures in pace. It shuffles calm jogs with heart-thumping sprints, teaching your muscles and lungs to handle whatever race day flings at them.

Dive into this article and uncover how switching gears on the run could be your ticket to breakneck speeds draped in newfound stamina. Ready for swift strides? Keep reading!

What is Fartlek Training?

Fartlek training is a form of running workout that involves varying the speed and intensity of your runs. It originated in Sweden and is known as “speed play” in Swedish, emphasizing the unstructured nature of the workout.

This type of training differs from traditional interval or tempo workouts because it allows for more flexibility and creativity in your running routine.

Definition and origin of fartlek training

Fartlek training is like a game where runners change their speed for different parts. This type of workout makes you run fast, then slow, and mix it up how you want. It comes from Sweden and means “speed play.” Runners love this because they can decide when to sprint and when to rest.

This training started in the 1930s by a coach named Gösta Holmér. He made it for his cross-country running teams who needed to race better on hills and tough ground. Now, many runners use fartlek workouts to get stronger and faster while keeping things fun.

How it differs from other speed workouts

Fartlek training differs from other speed workouts in its flexibility and unpredictability. Unlike traditional interval training, which involves fixed periods of high intensity and rest, Fartlek allows runners to vary their pace and intensity as they please during the workout.

This means that runners can adjust their speed based on how they feel, the terrain, or even external factors like traffic or weather. In contrast to tempo running that mandates a constant fast pace, Fartlek lets runners change speeds at will, challenging both physical and mental adaptability.

It’s not just about sprinting; it’s about freedom to play with speed throughout the run.

This type of training also stands out from repetitive sprint workouts by offering versatility and adaptability. While sprint intervals have specific distances and recovery times for each repetition, Fartlek is more unstructured and open-ended.

Benefits of Fartlek Training

Fartlek training offers numerous benefits, including improved speed and endurance, enhanced mental strength, and versatility in training. This type of workout challenges your body to adapt to varying paces and terrains, ultimately leading to overall improvement in running performance.

Improved speed and endurance

Fartlek training is known to enhance both speed and endurance. It helps in improving your race tactics, conditioning the muscles, and making you adapt to various speeds. This kind of workout can be beneficial for runners of all levels because it allows flexibility and manageable intensity while challenging your body for better performance.

The varying pace during fartlek running helps in building stamina, mental strength, as well as cardiovascular fitness, ultimately leading to improved overall speed and endurance.

By engaging in fartlek training, you constantly challenge your body to adapt to different intensities which helps condition your muscles and cardiovascular system. Additionally, it can lead to improvement in mental strength as well as stamina.

Enhanced mental strength

Fartlek training can enhance mental strength by challenging your mind and body to adapt to various speeds, improving your race tactics and mind-body awareness. It allows for unpredictable changes in speed and intensity, which helps build mental resilience during races and tough workouts.

This stress-free workout with its versatile nature also encourages a strong mindset, preparing you for the unexpected challenges that may arise during running competitions or events.

Furthermore, Fartlek’s flexibility and manageable intensity make it beneficial for beginners, allowing them to gradually improve their mental tenacity while adapting to varying speeds and distances.

Versatility in training

Fartlek training offers versatility in your workouts by allowing you to adapt the intensity and speed based on your fitness level and goals. Since it doesn’t follow a strict structure, you can easily modify the workout to fit different terrains, such as hills or trails, making it suitable for various running environments.

This flexibility also enables you to incorporate fartlek training into your routine regardless of whether you prefer short or long-distance runs, helping you progress at your own pace while keeping your workouts engaging and challenging.

Additionally, fartlek training lets you mix things up by integrating different forms of exercises like sprints, jogs, or walks without rigid time constraints. By doing so, it prevents monotony in your training sessions and keeps both your mind and body stimulated.

How to Incorporate Fartlek Training into Your Routine

Incorporating fartlek training into your routine can be as simple as adding short bursts of speed during your regular run. You can also vary the terrain and intensity to keep things interesting and challenging.

Sample fartlek workouts

Fartlek workouts can be a fun and effective way to improve your speed and endurance. Here are some sample fartlek workouts that you can incorporate into your running routine:

  1. Warm up by jogging for 5 – 10 minutes at an easy pace.
  2. Increase your speed to a moderate pace for 2 minutes, then slow back down to an easy pace for 1 minute. Repeat this cycle 5 times.
  3. Sprint for 30 seconds, then jog or walk for 1 minute to recover. Do this 8 times.
  4. Run at a comfortable pace for 5 minutes, then pick up the speed for 1 minute before returning to your comfortable pace. Repeat this cycle for 20-30 minutes.

Tips for beginners

When starting Fartlek training, it’s important to begin with shorter intervals and build up gradually.

  1. Start with a gentle warm – up to prepare your muscles for the speed variations.
  2. Incorporate short bursts of higher intensity running followed by slower-paced recovery periods.
  3. Focus on your breathing and stay relaxed during the faster segments.
  4. Pay attention to proper form and technique to minimize the risk of injury.
  5. Gradually increase the duration and intensity of the fast segments as your fitness improves.
  6. Listen to your body and adjust the pace and intensity according to how you feel.
  7. Consider incorporating Fartlek training into your routine 1 – 2 times per week initially.
  8. Ensure that you have suitable running shoes to provide support during speed challenges.
  9. Embrace the unpredictability of Fartlek workouts as it can make training more enjoyable and engaging.
  10. Stay consistent with your training, but also allow for flexibility in adjusting the workout based on how you feel on any given day.

Fartlek training with a specific goal in mind

When incorporating fartlek training into your routine with a specific goal in mind, consider the following:

  1. Identify Your Goal: Be clear about what you want to achieve with fartlek training, whether it’s improving speed, endurance, or race tactics.
  2. Tailor Intervals: Adjust the duration and intensity of your fast segments and rest periods to align with your specific goal.
  3. Focus on Technique: Use fartlek workouts to work on running form, breathing techniques, and mental focus related to your goal.
  4. Mix Terrain: Incorporate varied terrains into your fartlek training to simulate race conditions or challenges specific to your goal.
  5. Monitor Progress: Regularly assess how your fartlek training is contributing to your goal and make adjustments as needed.
  6. Stay Consistent: Commit to regular fartlek sessions that align with your specific goal for sustained improvement.


In conclusion, Fartlek training is a dynamic and adaptable approach to running intervals, involving constant speed variations for improved endurance and mental strength. Its practicality lies in its stress-free nature and versatility, making it easy for runners of all levels to incorporate into their routines.

How will you integrate this effective training method into your running regimen? Consider the impact of enhanced speed, stamina, and overall performance. Explore further resources or expert guidance to maximize your understanding and implementation of Fartlek training.

Embrace the challenge with Fartlek – it’s not just about running; it’s about pushing boundaries and achieving greatness!


1. What is Fartlek training?

Fartlek training is a kind of speedwork for running where you switch between fast running and slow jogging without stopping.

2. Why do runners do Fartlek training?

Runners use Fartlek to get better at cardio conditioning, push their speed, and mix up their interval workout routine.

3. Can anyone try Fartlek or is it just for racers?

Anyone can try Fartlek! It’s good for new runners and those who run races too because it makes your heart strong and improves your speed.

4. Is Fartlek the same as normal interval workouts?

No, Fartlek is different because it’s more like a game of ‘speedplay’. You change speeds whenever you feel like it instead of having set times like in traditional interval workouts.

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