fartlek training examples

The 5 Fartlek Run Workouts you Need To Try

The 5 Fartlek Run Workouts you Need To Try

fartlek training examples

If you’re looking to run further or get to the finish line faster, then you should add fartlek runs to your running plan.

In today’s article, I’ll go through everything you need to know about fartlek training so you can start doing it without risking injury or burnout.

By the end of this article you’ll learn:

  • What is Fartlek training?
  • What is the difference between fartlek training and interval running?
  • The benefits of Fartlek workouts
  • The Downsides of Fartlek Training
  • How to do Fartlek workouts
  • 5 Fartlek Runs to Try
  • And so much more…

What is fartlek

It consists of training based on increasing and decreasing the speed for a specific time or distance, that is, it combines different rhythms without interruption.

High intensity is mixed with active recovery. Both the time and the distance will vary depending on the objective of the training session.

During moments of rest, the heart maintains a higher heart rate, thus promoting oxygenation of the muscles. This makes subsequent acceleration performance better.

An example of fartlek would be the following: run 200 meters at a warm-up pace, that is, very soft. Next, we will do 300 meters at a faster speed. This exercise will be repeated 6 times.

Still confused?

It’s actually not rocket science.

When you do a fartlek running workout, you start by running at your usual pace, then you pick up the pace—usually to a medium to high speed—then try to maintain it for a random period of time or distance.

Then, you’ll slow down for a few minutes before ramping up the speed again.


What is the difference between fartlek training and interval running?

But Steffi, isn’t Fartlek training just another interval training variation? ”

Fartlek workouts and conventional intervals, while identical, are not the same things.

You’re following a given training routine when you do interval training, like 400m on a track.

In between the high-effort surges, you often usually pause or walk to recover.

But when you do runs of Fartlek, versatility is the priority.

You’re changing up things and staying unpredictable.

What’s more, fartlek training requires continuous running.

You actually never stop and rest.

The benefits of Fartlek workouts

  •  It will help you to manage your breathing at rapid rates.
  • Better control of changes of pace, which will allow you to be more efficient on races imposing big changes of pace: trails, cross … 

  • Increase enduranceThe continuous changes between effort and recovery increase endurance work. Plus, pushing the body for longer periods of time will boost your overall stamina level.

  • Vary the terrains. The variations in rhythm and surface make the muscles and tendons work more. Changes in the terrain will also strengthen balance and coordination? 

  • By favoring “natural” terrain and softer soils, we necessarily reduce the risk of trauma, and therefore injury.

  • A training in feeling and sensations, which can be a good solution to resume after a cut or an injury

  • Better control of the effort throughout it. The runner listens to his feelings, without relying on imposed gaits. 

  • Develop better self-knowledge and allow you to test your limits in a fun way 

What are the downsides of fartlek?

We have already talked about all the advantages that fartlek provides in training for an athlete who practices running. We know that including it in workouts helps significantly to raise the level of resistance and pace of competition. Now, fartlek also has its contraindications that must be taken into account when training. Knowing these contraindications will allow you to establish whether or not your training is recommended to avoid injuries that later disable you. With the knowledge of the possible injuries that you may suffer, the following aspects can be established contraindications for its practice:

  • When recovering from an injury, this method should not be used unless supervised.
  • It is more suitable for runners who demonstrate some cardiovascular endurance and who have correct running technique. Runners with a lower level can also use it but the results will be lower than those obtained by experienced runners.
  • People with cardiovascular problems should not use this method, generally, it reaches 130 or 180 beats per minute. Neither should the hypotensive practice it because it reduces blood pressure so the ideal would be to perform stress tests.     

How to do Fartlek workouts 

As we said, fartlek involves changes of pace over changing terrain and distances.

Although there are different types of fartlek, let’s see what are the essentials for a good workout.

❱ Do a good warm-up

Any type of fartlek training is really demanding on your body.

Before subjecting your body to the stress of this type of training, you need to prepare it through a warm-up, which allows the increase in body temperature and blood flow to our muscles.

As a consequence of this, we can perform at our best and minimize the risk of injury during the race or training.

❱ Do not exceed the duration

As they are intense workouts that will force you to run at fast rates, even inexperienced runners, this type of training should not be of long duration.

Between 10 and 30 minutes of fartlek (the speed game without considering warm-up and cool-down) will be more than enough to reap the benefits of these workouts.

Always work progressively. The first time you do this type of workout, start at the lowest duration range.

❱ Be careful if you are just starting out

The anxiety of the beginning runner is usually high; they want to improve fast, run more kilometers and “fly” in each of their workouts.

Along with this anxiety, we often observe a number of erroneous beginner runner theories that increase the danger of injury and poor performance.

Among them, there are two that stand out from the rest: 1) believe that “no pain, no gain” (no pain, no gain) and 2) believe that they need to train fast to run faster in races.

The truth is that there are good reasons why a beginner runner should not do speed training like fartlek (you can access a good article on this below).

Therefore, we recommend that you take special care if you are just starting to run.

5 Fartlek Runs to Try

Here we will show you some examples of this type of training so loved by runners.

Each of the following examples should be done after a 10/15 minute warm-up like the one we showed you above.

❱ Swedish Fartlek (Time)

The fartlek has Swedish origin (we will tell you the details below). Let’s look at an example of a true Swedish fartlek.

An example of a Swedish fartlek might be something very unstructured like this: running from one traffic light to another, walking across the street, sprinting one block, walking one block, running again.

Doing that for x time (remember no more than 30 minutes), would be a good example of a Swedish fartlek.

True to its name, this style of running is something to be played with. The idea is to help the body adapt to an increased workload through short bursts of speed and sustained hard exertion amid active rest and recovery.

  • 10 x (3 minute fast + 1 minute recovery).
  • 8 x (2 minutes slow + 2 minutes fast + 1 minute at 5K pace).

 Fartlek uphill (special fartlek)

This run is incredibly valuable, especially if your race is on a hillier course. This workout needs to be frequent during your build stages after you’ve built a solid injury-free base.

You can also structure your run where you “attack” the hill climbs at a faster pace and use the downhills and flat sections to recover and settle into your long run pace. Essentially, you are doing a fartlek style hilly run.

  • 200 meters running uphill at an intense pace + 400 meters of recovery on flat terrain. Repeat 10/15 times.


400 meters of controlled descent + 200 meters of recovery on flat terrain. Repeat 7 times.

These examples are just some of the many variants that can be created. It all depends on the broker and his capabilities and possibilities.

Take advantage of the flexibility of the fartlek to make workouts entertaining and effective.

❱ Hunt the rabbit

For those who have the opportunity to train in a group, this fartlek training is ideal to perform together with another runner (preferably in a similar physical shape).

The name of this exercise fartlek is because, during it, we will become hunters or rabbits in the following way:

    1.  perform a gentle jog for 10 minutes (both runners).
    2. one of the two accelerates the pace in a controlled way (without sprinting) -rabbit- and the other runner maintains the trotting speed for 20 seconds.
    3. After 20 seconds, the runner who maintained his speed – the hunter – must accelerate in such a way as to catch up with the other runner (hunt the rabbit).
    4.  Upon reaching it, both runners should perform a gentle jog together for 2 minutes as a recovery.
    5.  At the end of the two minutes, the hunter will become a rabbit and vice versa, in the same way as in the 2/3 points.

The number of repetitions should be an even number (so that both runners have the same number of fast intervals) and the idea is to do them for about 20 minutes.

❱ Pyramidal fartlek

Nothing could be simpler (and more efficient) than a pyramid: the principle is to gradually increase the distances (and the efforts) with each new repetition, then to return to your starting distance (after having recovered). A recovery time which will be calculated each time according to the distances and therefore adapted to each effort.

To give you a good example of a pyramidal fartlek session 1 ‘/ 2’ / 3 ‘/ 4’ / 3 ‘/ 2’ / 1 (recov = half to 2/3 of the duration of the previous fraction). Once again, level of rhythm we have the choice :
– Progressive rhythm (1 ′ to 100% VMA, 2 ‘to 95%, 3’ to 90%, and 4 ‘to 85%): the difficulty is in the 2nd part of the session in acceleration.
– Constant rhythm (1 ‘, 2’, 3 ‘, 4’ all at 90% VMA): Easy on the 1 ‘, the whole challenge is on the 3′-4′-3’ sequence which is intense!

It is interesting to include any type of fartlek in your routines to improve your marks and to vary from time to time. There are many other types: speed fartlekgroup fartlek, etc. You have already seen that it is a different way of training the race, so we encourage you to practice all the examples and to propose new ways.


During recovery intervals, the goal should be to achieve incomplete recovery.

This means that the recovery intervals should not be long enough to allow full recovery.

The general guideline that you should be clear about is that the harder you run, the more repetitions you are going to perform, and the greater the distance between the intervals, the longer recovery time you will need.

One of our favorite options for calculating our recovery intervals is to never rest more than the same amount of time it takes to do the fast interval.

In other words, if you do quick 2-minute intervals, your recovery shouldn’t be longer than 2 minutes.

Remember that during recovery, you should never be tempted to sit and rest or standstill.

In addition to not promoting blood flow, it is very likely that your muscles will feel stiff later.

Therefore, do not stop moving, either jogging slowly or walking quickly; we prefer the first option in most cases, but it will depend on how you feel after the fast interval.

Finally, remember that these are general guidelines, which you must adapt to meet your individual needs and allow you to meet your short, medium, and long-term objectives.

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