Workouts and harder efforts are an important part of any training plan and serve to improve speed, efficiency and mental toughness. And while running intervals, tempo runs and hill repeats are essential for improving your fitness and performance, they aren’t always the most enjoyable to do.
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Enter the fartlek. Fartlek workouts are as fun to do as they are to say and as the Swedish term meaning “speed play” implies, they are a more unstructured and free-flowing form of speed training.
To do a fartlek-style workout, simply run as fast as you want for as long as you want, then rest, recover and repeat. You get to choose the number of intervals, how far or long they last as well as how fast you run them. You can run by time, by distance or simply from tree to tree. You also choose how much rest you get in between and when the workout is over.
You get to choose–either before you start or as you go–the number of intervals you’ll run, how far or long they’ll last as well as how fast you’ll run them. You can run by time, by distance or simply using arbitrary objects or landmarks like trees, telephone poles or even pedestrians you pass along the way. You also choose how much rest you get in between and when the workout is over.
You can do this type of workout almost anywhere, anytime. And because it has no pre-determined structure or form, you don’t need to stress about whether or not you’re able to complete it. Fartleks are also great for those who are preparing or recovering from a recent race because your body and your mind, and not some written workout, will determine how hard you run. A fartlek workout should take into account your current fitness and level of fatigue so you don’t push yourself harder than you should.
Fartleks are also an ideal workout when running and training with others. Each person in the group can take a turn deciding how long/far the next interval lasts and also set the pace. The next person then decides how much rest you get in between and when the next fartlek interval starts.
Enjoying the running you do is an essential way to stick with it and can also provide motivation and incentive to improve. Fartleks are without a doubt a fun and effective way to accomplish all both of these objectives.