Fartlek: What is it and what are the benefits?

Developed in Sweden in the 1930s, fartlek training is a Swedish term that roughly translates to ” speed play, ” and describes a variable-paced workout where you work out based on how you feel. Fartlek is essentially unstructured interval training, alternating between slower and faster speeds.

The premise is to do whatever comes into your head with little foresight. It’s speed training at your own pace. This free-run is done for an indefinite time and distance. The intensity, pace, and length of the intervals vary based on how you feel, instinctively if you will. It could be the hardest workout you’ve done all week or the easiest.

Although often associated with running, fartlek training can be applied to a variety of cardiovascular activities, including cycling, rowing, and swimming.


The fartlek workout is a great workout for any runner, from beginner to advanced, as it is versatile and easily adapted to your fitness level. Use it to improve performance in 5K or marathons.

Fartlek benefits include:

  • It’s fun, liberating, and stimulating, and can relieve the boredom or monotony of other types of training. It has a “feel good” factor that helps increase confidence and enjoyment of running.
  • Improves speed and endurance. The variable intensity and continuous nature of fartlek emphasize the aerobic and anaerobic systems. Although there is a dearth of research on fartlek training, it most likely also raises the lactate threshold and improves energy utilization and running economy.
  • A more gradual and organic way to introduce more intense running into your training.
  • It helps you to be more in tune with your body, as it forces you to control your effort.
  • May be associated with fewer injuries compared to interval training. A combination of fartlek and interval training seems to achieve better results and reduce the risk of injury.
  • The unstructured and random nature of fartlek training can help you cope with changes of pace during races and overcome physiological and psychological barriers.

Fartlek is essentially a (more fun) version of interval training, so you’ll especially enjoy it if you’re artistically, creatively, and philosophically inclined, or just like to have fun working out.


Let yourself be guided by your senses and by the sensation of hardness. Pick up the pace when you feel like it, for as long as you want. Then slow down and recover until you’re ready for another fast interval.

Where. You can train on different types of terrain. Run-on flats or over hills. Run-on roads, paths, grass, or even on the treadmill. Run through the countryside or on winding roads. You can even include some bodyweight exercises, like push-ups and lunges. The clue is in the name: speed game. So do it your way and have fun. The more variety, the better.

Objectives. The fartlek is versatile and you can tailor your training to your goal, i.e. whether you want to train to be faster (speed) or to run faster for longer (speed endurance). You can create your fartlek entirely on the fly, but you should have a general idea of ​​the basic type of fartlek training you’ll be doing:

  • speed resistance. Early in the training cycle to increase efficiency and build resistance against fatigue at faster rates. Use: Longer intervals (between 90 seconds and 3 minutes).
  • Speed. Later in the training cycle, when preparing for a race. Usage: Shorter and faster intervals (up to 1 minute).

Markers. Fartlek works best when you have physical markers to control the different speeds you intend to work at. Landmarks such as park benches, lamp posts, stop signs, traffic lights, buildings, trees, and mailboxes are good ways to monitor your exercise. You just have to choose a certain bank, for example, and run hard until you reach it.

For starters. Fartlek is basically a form of interval training, but without timing. Therefore, it is necessary to have an idea of ​​the intensity of the work to avoid overtraining or undertraining. Before moving on to this more advanced form of interval training, make sure you have a solid running foundation and more conventional interval training under your belt.


You can perform fartleks using waypoints, by time, or a combination of both. You can run alone or accompanied. Unplanned or structured. Below are some examples of the different types of fartlek.

Fartlek by landmarks: Choose a landmark, such as a lamppost or a mailbox. Run faster for three streetlights, then retrieve the next three.

Structured Fartlek: Over the course of a 9K run, perform six 30-second fast-paced fartleks with a full recovery in between each.

Group Fartlek: Fartlek is even more fun with a partner or in a group. Take turns challenging each other. The person in charge stipulates when, how long and how fast to perform the high and low-intensity intervals. This unpredictability and uncertainty of what is going to happen next to keep you on your toes, ready for anything. This simulates what happens in racing and teaches you how to respond to tactical moves. It trains you to run hard when you have to, instead of running when you feel ready.

Remember to include a warm-up and cool-down in your fartlek sessions and mix both the speed and duration of your efforts into your training. Whatever you do, don’t forget to play and have fun.

Source: conocersalud