The workout called “Fartlek run” immediately gets young kids and silly adults giggling. In short; Running through the woods at different rates of speed. The word means “Speed play” (Not to get it confused with the bike pedals.) The fartlek run story was about runners in Sweden who would vary their pace and distance. The name, coined by the national cross-country coach GÃ¶sta HolmÃ©. He said this because of Sweden’s teamâ€™s poor performances against their Finnish rivals.
The workout idea is that it doesn’t have to be done on a track but rather on trails or roads without a group or specific intervals like you find during a formal workout. I like to think of them as a long run with some intense, fast periods within that run. The difference between this and a tempo run is that you can vary the distance and the pace you like.
Why do a Fartleks run?
A Fartleks run break up your long runs and allow your body to get used to less structured sessions. They offer faster paces and variety to your runs. If you think about elite marathon runners’ strategy, they might do a surge in a race to psych out their opponent. Because of the faster pace, your fellow runner has to keep up. Doing fartleks runs helps you realize some of those points you can speed up and how long you could and should speed up. Doing the workouts within your long run helps you and your body understand how it will respond during an actual race.
How I do a Fartleks run
Firstly, I have found one of the best ways to do a fartlek run workout is with your dog. It is perfect if you are running through the woods and there are a lot of squirrels! If you don’t have a dog to run with, you can easily do a structured or unstructured format. You can do a fartlek run as a group or on your own.
Structured fartlek run
Begin with some timed intervals to increase your pace. Do something like a 10-minute warmup, then 30 second 400m pace, then an easy jog. Go onto 2 minutes of 5k pace, then easy jog. Mix this up with longer and shorter periods of jogging in between. Part of the slower section’s goal will be to let your heart rate come back down, but I would also do some intervals where you don’t let your heart rate settle ultimately. The idea is that you mix this up and not do an utterly structured workout but add some structure around it to repeat it in the future.
Unstructured fartlek run
Another idea, the unstructured fartlek run can be anything you want. It would be best if you tried varying times and distances. An excellent way to do this is to pick some landmarks that you want to run faster in-between. These could be trees or light poles, or houses. Most importantly, varying the lengths will give you the workout you desire and let you pick and choose how you want to do your workout.
The ultimate goal
In conclusion, the goal of the Fartlek run is to let you choose and let you mix up your runs. You should focus on a specific pace for a certain distance over and over, like in a tempo run, you should focus on having fun and mixing things up.