Other than just being a funny sounding word, Fartlek runs are pretty much my favorite speed workouts to do on the road. Fartlek is a Swedish term that means “speed play.” I like fartlek runs for working on speed because they are super easy and you don’t even need a watch to do them! Last week I decided to go out for a 3 mile run; and since I haven’t really been adding in any speed yet, I decided it was time. I did a one mile warm-up and then decided to pick up the pace for the distance between two telephone poles along the run. In between I would slow down to a normal pace–I repeated this pattern for about 1.5 miles). It doesn’t have to be exact, if you need a longer rest interval, just take it!
Adding fartlek to your run also makes you feel like a kid again–you speed up when you feel like it and slow down when you don’t. Sounds like a pretty fun way to incorporate speed work into your workout if you ask me! Fartlek workouts are basically unstructured intervals. I don’t know about you, but I prefer fartlek to intervals–it just sounds more fun! 😉
When I was working with my old coach, he would often have me implement more structured one minute “surges” at 5K-8K pace into my long runs. For example, I might do a 12 mile run and do a 4 x 1 minute surges with 5 minutes rest between miles 9-11. Adding these surges to your long run forces your body to work harder in a fatigued state–something that comes in very handy when racing!
Fartleks are also fun to add to your group training runs. Each runner can take turns leading the group and dictate the speed and length of the harder effort portion. It’s a great way to keep the run interesting and allow yourself to be pushed a little outside of your comfort zone. If you need some Fartlek workout suggestions, you can check out Competitor and Active.com.