I’m A Newbie: Fartlek Running

I will withhold from making the obvious jokes that come with saying the word “Fartlek” and just cut to the chase. Fartlek means “speed play” in Swedish and is a very useful workout for runners of all levels. It can help you find your race pace and get used to running fast. Plus, Fartleks are traditionally unstructured speed workouts and can be done anywhere.

So, how do you “do” a fabulous Fartlek workout? Simple. At our lululemon Run Club we use the light posts in Central Park, but you can use anything that’s ahead of you as your markers. Warm up for 5-10 minutes at a comfortable pace and then do 5-8 pickups (100 yard dashes) at race pace to get those fast-twitch muscle fibers firing. Here comes the Fartlek part.

Pick several markers (you get to pick the distance and how many markers you use) ahead of you and run towards them, speeding up as you pass each of them, and by your last marker you should be running your 5K race pace (not all out, but fast). When you’ve passed your last marker, jog approximately half the total distance of your Fartlek to recover. And then go again for that same distance at those same speeds. Start with four or so repeats of about 400 yards (.25 mile) total each time and build up to 8. Easy, right? Everyone really despises loves the challenge of this particular “Lamp Post” workout (if I say “Fartlek” we get too many snickers from the peanut gallery). Remember, it’s about speed, not distance. The distance will add up over time and, between your 10 minutes warm up and 10 minute jog after your Fartlek repeats, you’ll have logged a very respectable amount of miles in a relatively short period of time.

The benefits of doing an anaerobic workout are endless. Training your body to process oxygen and get it to your muscles faster is key in increasing speed. The other benefit is your slower runs seem soooooooo much easier once you’ve done a Fartlek workout! Just make sure you choose a relatively challenging distance and run at an honestly fast pace and you will have yourself an awesome workout.

Now what are you waiting for? Go out and run!