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Digital Running Club » Ask the Experts, Columns » Ask the Experts: What’s a Fartlek?

Ask the Experts: What’s a Fartlek?

“Can someone explain what a fartlek is in layman’s terms?”
– Deanna, New York, NY

You’ve probably heard a million times that “fartlek” (pronounced: fart-lick) is a Swedish word for “speed play”, but that doesn’t really help you do a fartlek workout does it?

A fartlek workout is similar to an unstructured interval workout. You may have done track workouts where you ran a lap (or more) hard, then jogged a lap to recover, and repeated that process several times. A fartlek workout is similar, but the hard distances and recovery distances are unplanned and completed primarily based on how you feel.

Here’s an example fartlek workout:

  1. Warm up with 1-2 miles at an easy pace
  2. Pick an object in the distance (like a fire hydrant) and run hard to that object
  3. Run easy until you feel recovered from your hard effort
  4. Pick another object in the distance (like a tree) and run hard to that object
  5. Run easy until you feel recovered
  6. Repeat steps 2-5 for 3-4 miles
  7. Cool down with 1-2 miles at an easy pace

Fartlek workouts are great because they’re less mentally taxing than formal speed workouts. They also do a great job of mimicking race conditions, which ebb and flow as you use brief bursts of speed to pass opponents before relaxing to a manageable pace again. Don’t completely throw away your formal speed workouts, but if you’re feeling a bit burned out then a few fartleks might be just the thing you need to rejuvenate your running enthusiasm.

Written by

Brian Darrow is a running coach in St. Petersburg, FL who specializes in online coaching for beginners. Follow him at ARunnersBlog.com

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2 Responses to "Ask the Experts: What’s a Fartlek?"

  1. Tyrone Frey says:

    fart-lek?????? i have that all the time

  2. Raffi Darrow says:

    I’m a lamp post fartlek-er myself…

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