How To Run Faster with Fartleks + Fartlek Workouts

Improve your speed and endurance with the fartlek workout! This fun type of interval training workout will help you break out of running boredom and improve your race times. We included a pyramid fartlek workout for you as well!

Want to run faster and longer? Add some fartlek workouts to your running routine!

Fartleks aren’t another way to say you’re breaking wind or cutting the cheese (cue the fart jokes).

Fartleks are a type of speed workout that are an amazing part of a runner’s toolbox for increasing speed, endurance, and improving your lactate threshold in a manageable workout that is easy to adjust for just about any fitness level.

Let’s dive in to everything about fartleks: what they are, types of fartlek workouts, how to start this type of workout, and a sample workout for you to try.

Improve your speed and endurance with the fartlek workout! This fun type of interval training workout will help you break out of running boredom and improve your race times. We included a pyramid fartlek workout for as well! | marathonhandbook.com #running #racing #fartlek #intervaltraining

What is a fartlek?

A fartlek is a type of interval-based running workout that comprises of intervals of hard work interspersed with recovery intervals. It is very similar to interval training except that fartlek workouts are typically less structured than interval workouts.

This type of running workout was created by Gösta Holmér in the 1930s while he was coaching the Swedish cross country team. Fartlek actually means “speedplay” in Swedish, and his interval technique turned out to be pretty successful with his team and has since then been adopted by runners, coaches, trainers, and physiologists.

How to do fartlek workouts

The key to fartlek workouts is a little bit of unstructured play (speedplay), so to speak.

Intervals can be based off of things like landmarks, effort, or time, but typically isn’t based on specific things like distance or heart rate.

Fartlek workouts are meant to be a little more fun!

There are a few different kinds of fartlek workouts to choose from, but the basis for each is the same: after a good warm up, you’ll do higher intensity bouts of running interspersed with periods of recovery (either walking or running depending on your fitness level).

Improve your speed and endurance with the fartlek workout! This fun type of interval training workout will help you break out of running boredom and improve your race times. We included a pyramid fartlek workout for as well! | marathonhandbook.com #running #racing #fartlek #intervaltraining

You’ll repeat those intervals several times during your workout (the number depends on your goals, time available, and your fitness level) and then you’ll do your cool down.

Types of fartleks

The most basic fartlek is based on landmarks or just how you’re feeling (classic fartlek). For example: you might sprint to a tree that you see a little ways away, then walk or jog to the tree (or stop sign, or another landmark), and repeat.

A classic fartlek can also be done with just perceived effort, so you’d run or sprint hard until you feel like stopping or you can’t continue, then recover. And repeat.

With a classic fartlek, there are no set times to run or pace to meet, so some people leave their tracking devices and watches at home during these workouts. Some other types of fartleks are based on time, so you’d want a watch for those.

Related: The Incredible Benefits of Sprinting

Improve your speed and endurance with the fartlek workout! This fun type of interval training workout will help you break out of running boredom and improve your race times. We included a pyramid fartlek workout for as well! | marathonhandbook.com #running #racing #fartlek #intervaltraining

Here are a few other types of fartlek workouts:

  • Classic aerobic: a classic fartlek where your higher intensity intervals are below lactate/acidosis threshold so your entire workout is within the aerobic range.

  • Classic anaerobic: a classic fartlek where your high intensity segments are above lactate threshold so your high intervals are anaerobic and your recovery bouts are aerobic.

  • Ladder (1-2-3): this type of fartlek is set up so that your sprints/higher intensity segments increase as time goes on. So for example: 1 minute sprint, 1 minute jog, 2 minute sprint, 2 minute jog, etc. You can make this fartlek go as high as you like.

  • 3-2-1 (reverse ladder): The reverse ladder fartlek is opposite the ladder fartlek so your times start higher and decrease. This is a perfect way to front-load your highest efforts for the beginning of your workout when you’re fresh (after a warmup of course!) and taper towards your cooldown.

  • Pyramid: these intervals are like combining the ladder and reverse ladder to go in an ascending then descending pattern (like 1-2-3-2-1) like a pyramid. Your interval times will increase then decrease. This is a great workout for warming up your body with shorter intervals at first, then increasing them, then decreasing intervals as you approach the end of your workout.

  • Fartlek based on music: this is a fun fartlek and a great one for the treadmill! Whether you’re running outside or inside, you can sprint during the chorus of a song, and recover during the verses (or vise versa). Just make sure that if you’re running outside with music, you put safety first.

Benefits of fartlek workouts

Like interval training in general, there are so many benefits to doing fartlek workouts!

Here are a few reasons that fartleks should be added to your running schedule:

  • They’re fun!
  • Helps to increase your speed by raising your lactate threshold.
  • Breaks monotony if you’re stuck in a training rut.
  • Can be done both outside or on the treadmill.
  • Creates a nice break from tracking devices and watches if you’re not doing a timed fartlek.
  • Easily adapted for a variety of fitness levels so it’s accessible to many people.
  • May help improve mental health and depression.
  • Helps you get in tune with your body and paying attention to your perceived effort during running workouts.
  • Increase fat burning due to EPOC (post-exercise oxygen consumption). Interval training (particularly high intensity interval training) is a great way to increase EPOC and calorie consumption after workouts.
  • Improved weight loss and body composition thanks to the increased calorie burn due from EPOC, provided you’re still eating properly after workouts!
  • Can improve confidence and mental preparation for races.

Fartleks can be a great way to break up an otherwise somewhat-monotonous half marathon or full marathon training cycle!

Improve your speed and endurance with the fartlek workout! This fun type of interval training workout will help you break out of running boredom and improve your race times. We included a pyramid fartlek workout for as well! | marathonhandbook.com #running #racing #fartlek #intervaltraining

Pyramid fartlek workout

Want to get started with fartleks? Here is a pyramid fartlek workout for you to try.

If you are new to running or doing interval workouts, you can adjust this workout easily by increasing the recovery periods or decreasing the work periods.

We have this written to have the recovery periods equal to the amount of time for the high intensity periods, but you can make the recovery periods consistent across the board if you like.

You can also increase or decrease this workout based on your fitness level. If you’re advanced, try doing this workout twice instead of just once, or add 1 or 2 more high intensity segments instead of just the 5.

During recovery segments, the goal is to reduce your heart rate, but don’t worry about checking your heart rate. Listen to your body and run fast and recover based on your fitness level.

Pyramid Fartlek Workout

  • Functional warm up with dynamic movement and dynamic stretches (like our runner’s warm up)
  • 5-10 minutes easy jogging to prepare your body for faster speeds
  • Run faster or sprint for 1 minute, recover for 1 minute (walk or jog)
  • Run faster for 2 minutes, recover for 2 minutes
  • Run faster for 3 minutes, recover for 3 minutes
  • Run faster for 2 minutes, recover for 2 minutes
  • Run faster for 1 minute, recover for 1 minute
  • Cool down and stretch

For beginners, try this variation where we’ve shortened the higher intensity periods and made the recovery periods consistently 2 minutes each:

  • Run faster for 30 seconds, recover for 2 minutes (walk or jog)
  • Run faster for 1 minute, recover for 2 minutes
  • Run faster for 2 minutes, recover for 2 minutes
  • Run faster for 1 minute, recover for 2 minutes
  • Run faster for 30 seconds, recover for 2 minutes

Remember, you can do the high intensity segments at your pace, and the recovery intervals walking instead of jogging or running.

Make this workout fit YOU and have fun!

Improve your speed and endurance with the fartlek workout! This fun type of interval training workout will help you break out of running boredom and improve your race times. We included a pyramid fartlek workout for as well! | marathonhandbook.com #running #racing #fartlek #intervaltraining
Sarah Jane Parker

Sarah Jane Parker

Sarah Jane Parker is a food and healthy living blogger at The Fit Cookie, an ACSM Certified Personal Trainer, ACE Certified Health Coach, Revolution Running certified running coach, YogaFit Level 1 certified yoga instructor, and an ACE Certified Fitness Nutrition Specialist.

2 thoughts on “How To Run Faster with Fartleks + Fartlek Workouts”

  1. I have been a keen runner now for 20 years and love it! I have asthma and was a size 18, 11 stone and 9 foot 4 ish when I started. ( thankfully still the same height! No shrinking yet :+))I used to run to the 1st lamp post then home…or sometimes just down the stairs and back again. But since then, I’ve joined running groups, been on running holidays, raced a few 10ks, the great south twice and 3 half marathons. Now, at 43, I run 3 miles 3 times a week and a longer 6 mile run at the weekend. I walk 4 miles for the school run most days and run around with my kids too.
    I have been a size 10, around 9 stone, for the last 18 years and have generally been able to maintain this, but I’ve found this harder recently. I love my food and I suspect often eat more than I’ve burned…but what should I be eating? I’d happily eat the same thing every day if it meant I could maintain my weight and not be constantly seeing the scales creep up to 9 stone 7, again, and having to pull myself back, again! Any thoughts would be welcomed. Thank you
    Katie

    Reply

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