One of my favorite workouts for myself and my athletes is the fartlek run, especially during the off-season! There are endless ways to incorporate fartlek runs into training and they can help maintain some speed when you’re not training while also keeping your runs fun and interesting. I’m going to share 5 variations of fartlek runs to keep running interesting during the off-season. Remember that these can be adjusted in many ways depending on your goals and how much time you have!
5 Fartlek Runs To Keep Running Interesting During the Off-Season
First, let’s talk about fartlek runs and what they look like. Fartlek is Swedish for speedplay, and these kinds of runs focus on turning over the legs without a focus on speed or distance. They can be measured by time, landmarks, songs, etc. The concept is that you are surging and recovering throughout your run to work on endurance and speed. Remember to always start with a warm up and end with a cool down when you are doing any kind of harder workout
8-10 x 1 Minute Fartlek Run
This is usually where I start when an athlete is coming back from time off (after already building a base). 1 minute goes by pretty quickly, so mentally this isn’t a challenging workout. It is long enough to get your legs turning over faster. The recovery time in between can be 1 or 2 minutes.
6-10 Hill Surges
These can be done on any hill you can find. The longer the hill, the shorter you will run and the less reps you will do. If you have one short hill that you can run up and down, and you can do 8-10 surges up the hill and either walk or slowly jog back down the hill. If you are running a hilly route you can just try to push harder each time you encounter a hill.
8-10 x 2 Minute Fartlek Run
After mastering the 1 minute fartleks, 2 minutes is a great next step. The longer intervals give you more time to settle into your pace. Again, these are based on effort and not a set pace. I like to think of them as 2 minutes “on” while the recovery is “off”. In between sets you can recover for 1-2 minutes.
This is my favorite kind of fartlek! These are fun and different, and they go by pretty quickly. The idea is to start with shorter intervals, like 1-2 minutes, and gradually make each interval longer, up to about 5 minutes, and then work your way back down. See the image below for an example of what this might look like.
Long Interval Fartlek Run
Long intervals are still not super long, but they may be in the 5-10 minute range. If you are running longer intervals, your effort will be less than those 1-2 minute intervals. This is a great way to focus on holding a more challenging pace without doing a formal tempo run. You can do something like 3 x 5 minutes hard with 2-3 minutes recovery, or 2 x 10 minutes hard with 5 minute recovery. Don’t look at your watch and just run by feel!
There are so many ways to incorporate fartlek runs into your training. The options I just shared are more structured, but you can also do very unstructured fartleks. This might mean just picking up the pace whenever you feel like it. You can also use landmarks (like run faster for one block) or music (pick up the pace during the chorus of a song). Just remember to have fun and enjoy these kinds of workouts!
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