Fartlek.. my first go... anyone else tried it?

I've done rather a dangerous thing... had a look on the net, especially YouTube, at options for trying to go a bit faster at Parkrun... that is faster for an overweight (though not as much as I was!) 50 year old.

Its a bit overwhelming... lots of advice, some of it contradictory however I came across "Fartlek"... I'm sure a lot of you will know but its a Swedish system which translates as "fun with speed" (that maybe some sort of contradiction or it may reflect the Swedish sense of humour. Anyway, its ... well I'll let the Runners world site give a better definition

"Fartlek workouts are not only fun to say out loud, but they're fun to run. Fartlek is Swedish for "speed play," and that is exactly what it’s all about. Unlike tempo and interval work, fartlek is unstructured and alternates moderate-to-hard efforts with easy throughout. After a warm up, you play with speed by running at faster efforts for short periods of time (to that tree, to the sign) followed by easy-effort running to recover. It’s fun in a group setting as you can alternate the leader and mix up the pace and time. And in doing so, you reap the mental benefits of being pushed by your friends through an unpredictable workout. The goal is to keep it free-flowing so you’re untethered to the watch or a plan, and to run at harder efforts but not a specific pace.

Benefits: Stress-free workout that improves mind-body awareness, mental strength and stamina.


This short vid also explained it pretty well

The thing that appealed to me was the unstructured bit.. I've had a bit of a go at the 10K bridge podcasts and the Sami Murphy ones (which I find a bit quiet... new headphones on order from fleabay which might help). Unfortunately I haven't settled into them as well as the C25K. Usually at Parkrun (I say usually... I've only done 6!) I use C25K week 9 or my own music.

On New Years Day, as I have said in a post else where I went to the local park with the intention of trying a Fartlek type run, or at least my own version of it. Low an behold there was a Parkrun about to start that I hadn't known about (Not on Facebook you see) so Idid that instead (just a few seconds off my PB at 37:30 ... grrrr) so no Fartlek.

To cut a long story short (sorry for rambling... thanks for reading this far) I had a go on the gym treadmill today. It was first day back at work as a school teacher so I needed a run!

I ran for 40 min and covered 4.6K. I started off with 2 min fast warm up walk, 2 min jog at my normal pace and then a 1 min fast run (pace about 5.20). I kept variations of this up for 25 min then the last 10 mins or so I did my normal jog again and finished with a 2 min walk... Oh I also used the incline feature for the first time! Low setting but I did use it.

The 40 mins did seem to go quicker but I am feeling the results a bit. I'll probably try it again but plan to have next two days off then do Parkrun on Saturday. I don't expect instantaneous results but I did wonder if anyone else has tried fartlek, likes it, hates it etc.

Happy running!

10 Replies

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  • I am a huge fan of interval training of all types and do enjoy the freedom of a fartlek run. Unfortunately, being in the midst of a Canadian winter right now, most of my speedplay is delayed until clearer pathways exist - it's not worth getting hurt over. Just remember, it is a more intense workout so you should limit it to at most one of your runs per week. The majority of your runs should be run at a comfortable conversational pace, but nothing beats blowing off a little steam sometimes 😉. This may also need to be a shorter run, depending on how much speed play you're putting into it, but have fun with it!

  • Thanks SaskAlliecat,

    Yes I think that one of the sites I looked at said once a week was enough... and at the moment it feels like it!!

    A Canadian winter... I cant imagine it. we had a few cm of snow here in the UK just before Christmas and we ground to a halt!!!

  • We've been in a deep freeze for the last week and a half (-30C with wind chills approaching and exceeding -40 at times) so i didn't get outside for any runs (although a couple other Canadians on here got out). I was ecstatic that it finally broke and I went for a lovely comfortable 5k run in -2C with a light breeze . It was wonderful 😊. Most of the walkways were cleared but a few weren't so my knee is a little tight and will require some extra stretching/rolling tonight, I think. I'm looking forward to actually getting 3 runs in this week, all outside, I hope 🤞. Winter can be long around here, so you have to get used to it, but it isn't that bad when you're immersed in it. It's the sudden Temperature swings that are the toughest.

    Enjoy the fartlek training and take extra rest days, as needed.

  • I have fartleked an entire half marathon on 3 occasions - and often fartlek a 5K parkrun. I simply look ahead and, depending on how I am feeling and the terrain, choose a distant object - which I run to and then walk for a short while until I am ready to go again. The varying distances I run are dependent on how fast or slow I want to run and whether the next run is uphill or downhill. Other times I will start towards the back of the pack at parkrun and pick somebody up ahead who is running continuously, chase after them until I reach them and then slow down to their pace for a while - and then repeat it all over again :) It can be more exhausting than running continuously.

  • I do this quite often on my runs, mostly in response to my zombie story (I use an app set in a post-zombie apocalypse world to add interest to my runs). For example, if they say, "Run!!!" I usually go faster until I don't want to any more. Sometimes I also just speed up to see if I can, then slow down a little. I like it, it feels like good old fashioned play to me, I don't really do it for the speed but I am getting faster so maybe there's a connection?

  • The "Zombies, Run!" app (which I picked up on after ejvcruns mentioned it on this forum) also has a feature to enable zombie chases, when you suddenly hear zombies are upon you and you have to speed up to evade them. These occur at random times and last maybe 30 seconds (?). The only problem is, if you are waiting to cross a road, you cannot sprint off and will get caught. The advantage of determining when you do your own fartlek dash is you can make sure you are not going up a steep hill or crossing a busy road at the time!

    I have used them once a week for the last few weeks and find I can feel it in my legs afterwards so figure they must be doing some good.

  • Fartleks are good for you. I hate them. :D

  • It all depends what ‘speed’ you aim for in the faster sections. If you go all out fast then I would say you need to build these sessions slowly. Also once a week or so in early running journey aiming to avoid injury.

  • Sam Murphy podcast week 1 is quiet but it is all good from then on and is absolutely a fantastic piece of work. I run long distances these days thanks to her kick ass attitude I hardly ever leave home without her 👍😃🏃‍♀️

    You can call it fartlek or intervals Running as fast as you can to the next bin or tellywag pole is the same thing Good fun and will help your puff

  • Murph! What are you like! 😁

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