Fartlek = Swedish for Fast
More than just a funny sounding word, Fartlek workouts will improve your speed game and reduce the chance of injury during cold-weather training
What it is
‘Fartlek ’ is a Swedish word meaning ‘speed play’ and simply def ined as alternating periods of faster and slower running. Fartlek workouts involve loosely st r uctured intervals or ‘pick-ups’ that are time and effort-based, rather than trying to hit specif ic paces over a certain distance. In fartleks, runners move throughout t he entirety of the workout. This means that unlike more struct ured workouts t hat incorporate st at ic rest bet ween repeats, fartleks involve ‘active rest’ and are therefore lower in intensit y t han t radit ional interval training.
Why to do it
In the coldest months of the year, it takes longer for our muscles to warm up, which can increase the risk of injury if we attempt high intensity interval workouts. Bulky layers can weigh us down and make movement laboured. Returning to running after indulging during the holiday season leads to sluggishness. Trying to hit certain time goals for distance-based intervals may prove challenging and demoralizing under these conditions. This fartlek workout helps to build endurance as well as simulating pace changes in a race.
How to do it
Do a 10–15 minute easy warm-up run, then 6 to 8 pick-ups of 3 minutes ‘ hard’, each followed by 1 minute ‘easy’. The ‘ hard ’ sections should be done at 10k race effort, and the ‘easy’ portions should be at a very relaxed jog. Perform your first couple of pickups conservatively, as the goal is to maintain or slightly increase effort throughout the workout. Make your last pick-up approximately the same pace or even slightly faster than your first. I recommend leaving your gps watch at home and running entirely by time and feel. Finish with a 10 –15 minute easy cool-down run. Kate Van Buskirk is a professional track and field athlete, competing for Team Canada and Nike. She specializes in the 1,500m and 5,000m events. Kate is also the editor for Canadian Running’s Shakeout Podcast.