What is Fartlek training?

What is it? Fartlek training – this funny word is Swedish for speed play and describes a variable pace workout where you run/cycle/row at different speeds and for different duration based on how you feel and what you are trying to achieve from your workouts. The premise is to do whatever comes into your head with little forethought. It’s speed training at your own pace. Similar to traditional interval training, it differs in that it is unstructured; intensity and/or speed varies, according to how you feel. Fartlek, like tempo training is another excellent means of developing stamina.

How long, how hard? A Fartlek training session should be more demanding than an LSD workout but not as tough as a tempo workout. Indeed it is lies somewhere between true interval training and regular distance training, and so provides a nice bridge between the two. If you boast a good level of fitness fartlek might involve bouts of jogging and sprinting, while for beginners it might be a mix of walking with jogging sections added in when possible. Remember to include a warm up and cool down in your Fartlek sessions and mix both the speed and duration of the efforts in the workout.

Why do it? The variable intensity and continuous nature of fartlek stress on both the aerobic and anaerobic systems. Fartlek is versatile and you can adapt your workout to suit your goal, i.e. whether you want to train to get faster (speed) or to run faster for longer (speed and endurance). Fartlek is also great for fat loss.

Who should do it? Fartlek is essentially a (more fun) version of interval training, so you’ll especially enjoy it if you have artistic, creative and philosophical leanings or if you just like to have fun working out. It’s great for anyone from beginner through to advanced level, as Fartlek is easily adapted to suit your level of fitness. Because Fartlek training is unstructured and unpredictable, it tends to have a ‘feel good’ factor to it, helping to increase confidence and the enjoyment of running.

How to do it? Fartlek works best when you have physical markers to use to control the different speeds at which you intend to work at. Park benches, street lamps, blocks of buildings etc are all good ways to control your workout. Training with a partner can also work well. Take it in turns to challenge one another but remember that your aim is not to run the other fellow into the ground but merely have a good workout!

Example workout – a thirty minute Fartlek running workout might look like this…

Time (minutes) Tempo
0-5 steady jog progressing to a slightly faster run to warm up
6-8 50 faster, longer strides alternated with 50 steps of jogging
9-10 walking to recover
11-15 sustained “tempo” speed running
16-19 jogging to recover
20-25 repeated hill sprints with a walk back recovery
26-30 walk/jog to recover and cool down


What is Fartlek training? was last modified: February 29th, 2016 by the team

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