Fartlek training can be a helpful way of increasing your speed during workouts, contributing to a better overall pace come race day. Essentially, fartlek training is a more unstructured form of interval training. In my last post about this topic, I covered some of the advantages and disadvantages of fartlek training. In this post, I want to share some practical workouts for you to include!
Below are 9 different examples of fartlek training sessions that can be incorporated in any runner’s routine. Use your current fitness level to guide your pace. Running fast/hard might mean a 6 minute mile pace for some people and a 13 minute mile pace for others. Go by your own body and fitness level and don’t push yourself too hard.
Also, it’s important to remember to start all of your workouts with a minimum of a 10-minute warm up. This may be a slow-paced run, jog, or power walk depending on your current fitness level. Similarly, be sure to do a 5-10 minute cool down at the end of your workout as well.
9 Fartlek Workouts to Help You Run Faster
1. Landmark Fartlek Workout
This is probably the most traditional example of a fartlek training session. Plan to run along a sidewalk where there are a decent number of mailboxes or signs along the street. After your warm up, run fast to the next mailbox (or a few, depending on how close they are to each other). Slow down and recover for a few mailboxes/signs, then repeat. Continue for about 20 minutes, then cool down.
2. Friend or Foe Fartlek Workout
This is one of my very favorite fartleks for the treadmill. It’s especially for you social media fans out there. While warming up, post a status on Facebook that you’re on the treadmill and want some variety. Provide a range of speeds and inclines (for example, “anything between 3mph-7mph and 0-3 incline”) and ask people to give you their combination. You do that speed and incline until the next person comments with something new. If you have an active social feed, it’s a really fun way to get complete variety – and find out who is a friend vs. foe! 😉
3. Pyramid Fartlek with Strides
You can do a pyramid fartlek in a few different ways. One of the easiest is to run a fast pace for 10 strides (counting on one leg), then slow down for 10 strides. Repeat with 20, 30, 40…increasing in 10’s until you hit 100. Then work your way back down.
4. Pyramid Fartlek with Time
You can also do a pyramid fartlek with time. Run at a fast pace for 4 minutes, 3 minutes, 2 minutes, 1 minute – then back up to 2 minutes, 3 minutes, 4 minutes. Between each one of these, include a 1-2 minute recovery jog/walk. In other words, the start of this workout (after your warm up) would look like a 4 minute fast run, 1-2 minute jog, 3 minute fast run, 1-2 minute jog…and so on.
5. Roll the Dice
Go to a track and leave a pair of dice at a starting point. After your warm up, roll the dice. The first one represents your speed on a scale of 1 (very easy) to 6 (hard). The second one represents the distance. Depending on your fitness level and what you’re training for, it could be meters – i.e. 100 meters to 600 meters – or it could be laps – i.e 1 to 6 laps. Repeat several times to piece together a fun, unexpected workout!
6. Music Fartlek Workout
Alternate your running pace based on the music you’re listening to. For shorter course (5K/10K) athletes, you might change up your pace every time the song reaches the chorus. For longer course (half/full marathon) athletes, you might change up the pace each time you get to a new song.
7. Field Farlek Training Sessoin
Go to a soccer field. After your warm up, start in one corner of the field. Run 1 length hard, and 3 lengths easy (each length makes up the rectangle of the field). Then 2 hard/2 easy, 3 hard/1 easy, 4 hard, 3 hard/1 easy, 2 hard/2 easy, 1 hard/3 easy. Jog comfortably for a lap or two and repeat as desired.
8. Partner Fartlek
Grab a partner who runs around the same pace as you and has a similar endurance level. After your warm up, partner 1 decides the fartlek interval (to a landmark, a time, a distance, etc). Partner 2 then decides the amount of active recovery, as well as the next fartlek interval. Alternate back and forth!
9. 10-20-30 Training
OK, OK – this is really considered more of a structured interval workout than a true Fartlek, but it’s one of my favorites for improving 5K training speed. After your warm up, go 30 seconds at a comfortable pace, 20 seconds at race pace, and 10 seconds at an all our sprint. Repeat 5x, then recover for 2 minutes with a jog or walk. You can then repeat for 2-4 more sets. You can find more details about this workout in my 10-20-30 training post.