Wacky Workouts: Fartlek


Let’s try a workout with a silly name: Fartlek. Swedish for “speed play,” Fartlek is a type of running that helps trick your body into running fast without working too hard too early into the summer. Fartlek running is great because it’s very flexible – it has the ability to be a very challenging workout or simply a slightly moderate distance run. You have a lot of control with this type of workout and it is pretty simple.


What is a Fartlek?

Short reps of 5k or 10k “race pace “running mixed into a standard distance run.


How should I do a Fartlek?

Start with a warm-up of a couple miles. Then the Fartlek begins. Add 1-minute, 2-minute, or 3-minute reps at 5k or 10k “race pace.” These are called “ON” reps. Your recovery for this run is a relatively easy jog known as “OFF” reps. So, a typical fartlek workout would be “1:00 ON, 1:00 OFF.” Repeat that set several times over the course of a run until you feel you have enough mileage to start your cool down. To make a Fartlek easier, tack on more recovery time for the OFF reps. To make a Fartlek more challenging, start to lengthen the ON reps (and/or shorten the recovery of the OFF reps). Be creative with this run! Do some ladders with the ON/OFF reps! Make sure to make this a good workout WITHOUT racing the ON reps. The point is to get in a rhythm with the quick reps without measuring how far you’re going. That’s a good idea if you stay in-control, but a bad idea if you decide to sprint the whole time. Be smart.  Once you’ve had enough Fartlek running, cool-down for a couple miles of very easy running.


Where should I do a Fartlek?

Cross Country courses are always a solid choice. Golf courses are usually good places too. Anywhere with some hills, a change of scenery, and various turns should work. You want to pick a place that you find exciting and fast-paced, rather than just a long straight road. Don’t do this run on a track; the whole point is that the fast reps aren’t measured.


When should I do a Fartlek?

This is a workout ideal for once a week during a base-building part of the year.


Why should I do a Fartlek?

Because it’s a funky workout that focuses on getting in a good rhythm instead of exact measured distances. There is lots of flexibility with this workout so anyone can do their own version of a fartlek run!


So if you want to run fast but not measure exactly how far you’ve run, this workout is for you!


Have fun! Check back for more wacky workouts this summer!


As always, feel free to contact me with any questions!


Happy running,





Jordan Schilit is USATF Level 1 Certified Coach. In 2013 he graduated from Haverford College in Pennsylvania, where he was a 6-time NCAA Division III All-American in cross country and track. He led his cross country team to its first NCAA national championship in school history (2010), and two runner-up finishes (2011, 2012). He was part of Haverford’s USTFCCCA Scholar Team of the Year and holds track PRs ranked in the top-5 All-Time in Division III, including his school record at 5,000m (13:59.21).