Are you struggling with your long runs? Try a Fartlek!

Gösta Holmér

Gösta Holmér – Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons, the free media repository


Fartlek, created by Gösta Holmér, means “speed play.” It’s like interval training except the intervals can be variable instead of consistent. An example of a running Fartlek would be run to the nearest tree then recover, turn left, now sprint to the nearest playground equipment, now walk for one minute to recover, jog backward to the park bench, recover for one minute, etc. For your longer duration runs you could simply keep the same pace and jog to random locations other than your routine “go to” run.

The essence of Fartlek helps both the mind and the physical body in many ways. Fartlek will help break up your daily routines, engage both aerobic and anaerobic cardiovascular exercise, and add a game-like training session to your exercise routine. On a day that you are having trouble motivating yourself to run you might just randomly do Fartleks instead of your run. One word of caution, a Fartlek run shouldn’t be substituted for a long-distance run.

Breaks Up Your Routine

First, Fartlek will help you break up your day to day routines of the same run or the same cycling. This will not only aid your mental state by refreshing a run or bike session with new sceneries and new tasks for your mind to tackle, but it will work new muscles in your body that you normally don’t work during your day-to-day routine runs.

Secondly, by varying your physical drills, you can also change up the same old run routine. These physical drills could include jogging backward, sideways running (almost like skipping), sideways cross-overs, jumping on a park bench then jumping off, which all change up your aerobic and anaerobic cardiovascular exercising.

Make it a Game

Another wonderful way to use Fartleks is by creating a game-like training session with one of your running buddies or partners. You can also include an entire running club in the game-like session. Each runner alternates and calls out the new Fartlek goal and rest period and all participating runners engage in the Fartlek and try to beat the other runner.

When playing the game, you obviously need to call out both the run and rest Fartlek goal. During the rest session of the Fartlek, another runner then picks a random Fartlek goal with a rest period. You keep rotating through so that each runner can pick at least one Fartlek goal and rest period. You would continue this until a certain pre-defined timed or distance goal is accomplished.

This was an excerpt from my book Long Run Hacks: 20 Ultimate Tips to Help You Push Through Hard Runs!, which is on sale at Amazon and other retailers for $0.99 for the next 7 days.

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Coach Scott is a published author and RRCA certified running coach (Level 2). He has published over 20 books including, Beginner's Guide to Half Marathons: A Simple Step-By-Step Solution to Get You to the Finish Line in 12 Weeks! (Beginner To Finisher Book 3), which has become an Amazon International #1 bestseller. Scott specializes in helping new runners become injury-free race finishers. He recently completed his 14th half marathon race. 

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