Fartlek Training is a great way to push your limits of speed and endurance in running. Fartlek is a Swedish word meaning “speed play,” (Dictionary.com) and is incredibly simple to incorporate into your running routines.
The basic strategy for Fartlek style training is short durations of higher intensity running followed by longer durations of lower intensities. For example, a Fartlek run could consist of 30 minutes of alternating between 30 seconds of running at a pace of about 85-90% of your all-out sprint pace followed immediately by a minute of running at about a 40-50% pace with no rest in between.
The benefits of Fartlek style running are numerous. For starters, and I know this is something that I really struggle with on longer runs, Fartlek style training tends to take some of the mind games out of running and oddly enough, makes the running sessions easier to handle mentally. Running at a set pace for 30 straight minutes can easily become boring with your mind starting to wander to other things you wish/could be doing. Once this happens, it’s very easy to make excuses and cut your run short, or not push yourself as hard as you could be. Constantly varying intensities and speeds during the run will help keep your mind focused on the task at hand.
Another benefit of this style training is by pushing the pace in short increments, not only are you pushing your body to become faster and more conditioned, but you’re also training your mind to understand just how much you can push your body. The body is an incredible thing and can be pushed much farther than the mind typically allows it to be. Too often, the reason people quit or fail to reach their full potential is because their mind got tired and weak. Fartlek training is a great way to build up your mental strength and push you towards reaching your physical potential.
Lastly, this style of training allows you to throw some creativity into an otherwise boring and mundane run. Some examples of different ways to structure this workout could be:
Run hard 15 seconds, slow for 30, and hard for 15 and repeat this 20 times. (15-30-15)
Run hard for a full minute and slow jog for a full 3 minutes and repeat 5 times (1-3)
Run hard for 30 and slow for 30 and repeat 15 times (30-30)
If you’re running in a city environment, maybe use light poles or stop signs as your gauge; Sprint to the next light pole and slow jog through the 2 poles after, then sprint again