What Is A Fartlek?

Spice up your runs and improve your endurance by trying out a new speed training.


By Lauren Wong


Ever heard of the fartlek? Is that thing related to running? How do you do a fartlek?

If you’ve been running for a while and developed the basic habit, you may be looking for ways to spice up your runs or get faster.

“Fartlek” is the Swedish word for speedplay, and is a great way to dip your toes into speed training. Instead of the more traditional speed workouts, where you are running a set number of intervals and aiming for a specific pace or interval time, fartleks are less structured as you pace your run based on effort and your intervals are not as specific as in typical intervals. Fartlek training has been found to be a good way to improve your physiological endurance over steady-state running.

After you warm up, set informal goals toward running faster for a certain period, usually based on your environment, for example “running fast to the next stop sign,” or to the next tree. If you are just getting into running for the first time, and want to add some variety to your basic runs, fartleks are great to introduce yourself to speed workouts.

And if you’re an experienced runner coming back after a break or an offseason with basic base running, fartleks are great for building up your speed again without the pressure or injury risk that can come from track workouts.

Sample fartlek workouts:

1. Warm up with walking and jogging for 10-15 minutes. Once ready, set a target that’s approximately 30 seconds away from you (e.g. a tree or street sign). Run faster to that target, then walk or jog to recover. When you’re ready again, repeat with 30-60 seconds of faster running alternated with 1-2 minutes of walking or jogging. Repeat as needed, and cool down with 5-10 minutes of jogging to walking.

2. Warm up with walking and light jogging for 10-15 minutes. When you’re ready, select a target that is approximately 60-90 seconds away from you, and run faster to that target, then jog or walk to recover. Repeat these informal intervals of 60-90 seconds, alternating with 2-5 minutes of walking or jogging, until you are ready to cool down. Cool down with 5-10 minutes of jogging to walking.

3. Warm up with light jogging for 10-15 minutes. When you’re ready, select a target approximately 3 minutes away from you, and run faster to that target. Then jog easy to recover for 3 minutes. Then run hard for 2 minutes, and recover for 2 minutes. Run hard for 1 minute and recover for 1 minute. Finally, run hard for 30 seconds, and then enter into your cooldown for at least 10 minutes.

As you ease into running faster with fartleks, do your first runs where the “faster” is “just a bit faster” and work your way into harder intervals. The point of the fartlek is not to be too structured, so don’t try to hit a certain pace, just try to hit an effort level that is harder.

If you’re used to your runs being a 7 out of 10 in effort, the first time you run a fartlek, try for an 8 instead. When you’ve developed some more experience, then try for a bit harder, or tackle the longer intervals at that effort.

You can use your fitness tracking device to keep track of your run, and see how your speed on these informal intervals changes over time.

Lauren’s first run was around the block in a pair of grungy Vans when she was in middle school. Following that she’s had fits & spurts of running, until a few years ago when she started chronicling her running experiences and training at LaurenRuns. Since then she’s gone on to run 5 marathons and numerous triathlons, including two Ironman triathlons. She likes Swedish Fish, red wine, healthy eating and trying new foods. Follow her blog at, on Twitter at @runlaurenrun and Instagram at @laurenruns, and Facebook at Lauren Runs Chicago.

Main Photo Credit: lzf/; Second Photo Credit: Brian A Jackson/; Third Photo Credit: Sergey Mironov/; Fourth Photo Credit: Viktoria Gavrilina/