Fartlek Friday

How do you fartlek?! Fartlek is a Swedish word for “speed play” and blends together your typical training with quick burst of intervals. I’ve found it to be a great help in improving my endurance and increasing my speed. A fartlek session is completely variable and dependent on how you feel during the workout. It varies from typical sprints workout since you continue to jog/run after the sprint interval.

I first learned about fartleks while I was playing ultimate frisbee  in college. We weren’t just a casual group, but a competitive team. This means we had a track workout each week on top of our practice three times a week. Our fartleks were timed on the track – 45 seconds jog, 30 seconds run, 15 seconds sprint. Back then I was miserably out of shape and could only manage a very slow jog/walk before my run and sprint. I’m proud to say that I’ve come far since those days!

Using timed intervals is one great way to fartlek, but not the only option. These days I go to the track and use distance to indicate when I should change my pace. The first 200 meters I continue my typical pace, then for 125 meters I pick it up to a quicker run, with the final 75 meters at a full sprint. I’m really enjoying this method because I don’t need any external device to monitor my laps. It also regulates my intervals, which I greatly appreciate, and keeps me honest with  how many I complete each workout.

But some days that isn’t possible. For instance today, as I neared the track, I realized that there was a track meet going on. I was disappointed and realized that I would have to find another method for my fartleks. So I decided to make it up as I went along. While on my route I picked out a pole on the side of the street and decided to sprint from the first pole to another a few behind it.  It wasn’t possible to measure out the perfect distance, but that wasn’t the reason for my workout. After the quick interval I slowed to a jog, catching my breath until I could speed up again. I continued this method of selecting a starting point (usually a pole or tree) then pushing it until one further ahead. Not my favorite method, but I know it was still beneficial.

When it comes to fartleks (or any speed work) It is always a good idea to warm up for 10 minutes and cool down for another 10 afterward. If you go too quickly out of the gate you’re more likely to get injured, and no one wants that! Want other ways to get intervals into your workout? This post explains some other great Fartlek methods.

Do you incorporate intervals into your weekly runs?

About Michelle

I'm an engineer living (and running) in Palo Alto, CA.

Posted on March 29, 2013, in Running and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.

  1. I’ve never thought of the timed way you usually do fartleks as really being fartleks, instead in my mind, they are what you did today. Where you go 100% based on feel, not based on any designated interval. I train with a group and we do the “feel-based” fartleks about twice a month (using garmins for overall distance, but not worrying about speed/easy intervals), they are fun! Glad you were able to make your workout work.

    • I think I had an intense view of Fartleks because of the insanity that was my ultimate team (they were crazy). I don’t mind doing it in a more relaxed way, but I think I push harder when it is quantitative. Hopefully, if I do these weekly, I can be as speedy as you!

  2. I’ve heard really good things about them but have yet to try them. They don’t sound fun lol

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