Fartleks: A Clever and Fun Way to Do Speedwork

Runners who want to improve their race times are often intimidated by intervals on the track. So, what's a runner to do if he or she wants to get faster but doesn't want to run fast circles around a track?

Fartleks are a great way to introduce yourself to speedwork. That's right, the funny-sounding word that makes high school runners giggle on the first day of cross country practice can make training fun, while helping you get faster.

Fartlek, a Swedish term meaning speedplay, dates back to 1937, when it was developed by Swedish coach Gosta Holmer as part of Sweden's military training. Fartleks are continuous runs during which you pick up the pace at different times, when you reach specific landmarks, or simply based on how you feel. Distances, speeds, and recovery periods can vary within the same workout.

Fartleks can be used to learn different paces, work on race tactics, respond to other runners' surges, add variety and fun to your training, and as a transition into more formal speedwork. They're a good way to ease back into quality training from an injury and to step back from the psychological intensity of interval workouts on the track. Choose from this menu of fartleks. You can do them on trails, through parks or on the road.

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