The Fartlek: What On Earth Is That?

If I’m being honest, Fartlek is one of my least favorite words.  However, it’s one of my favorite type of run workouts.  The term “fartlek” is a Swedish word that means “speed play”.  In a nutshell, a Fartlek blends continuous running with interval work.  So what differentiates it from interval work?  Traditionally when you are doing intervals, you have a specific goal pace or time in which to cover a specific distance, followed by a set amount of rest between your sets.  With a fartlek, you simply mix periods of fast running with periods of slow running in a continuous flow.  You generally go off of perceived effort of what “hard” or “easy” feels like to you on that day.  Traditionally fartleks are unstructured, meaning you get to choose how long each period of hard or easy lasts.  You can incorporate hills or choose not to.  It could be as simple as “run hard until you pass the mailbox” followed by “run easy until you come to the next stoplight”.  You can also add some specific structure to your fartlek by having set amounts of time for each hard/easy effort (a structured fartlek) but not having a set pace in order to keep true to the nature of what a fartlek is.  These can be useful as a stepping stone to more structured run workouts like tempos or speedwork intervals or during off season when it’s nice to have a break from specific pace goals.  Whatever your use for them, maybe the word will make you smile a little during your run.  

Coach K