Fartleks are staple workouts that are a great addition to any runner’s training regimen. A fartlek, which is the Swedish word for “speed play,” incorporates alternating intervals of fast and easy running to stress both the aerobic and anaerobic systems in the body. These runs are great for days where effort is more important than pace, and are beneficial for both beginning runners and veterans alike. Five great fartleks are described here.
The mile is a race that requires quick bursts of speed combined with aerobic fitness. A fantastic fartlek for a miler is to run for 20:00, alternating 1:00 at mile pace with 1:00 of easy running. Not only does this workout teach the body to run fast on tired legs, but it trains the athlete to have better pacing skills.
A staple fartlek in my own short-distance training is the “Kenyan Fartlek,” which was introduced to me at Marquette University. This tough workout is 30:00 alternating 2:00 at 5k pace with 1:00 of easy running. As you reach the later stages of the workout the 2:00 portions feel longer while the rest feels nonexistent. This workout is great for anyone who struggles with the middle mile of the 5k.
Half Marathon Training
Half marathons are a fun distance because they are the perfect mix of speed and strength. One fartlek for half marathon training is 48:00 of alternating 5:00 progressive pickups with 3:00 of easy running. For the progressive pickups, the first 2:30 should be run at half marathon pace followed by the next 1:30 at 10k pace. The final minute of each segment should be at 5k pace. This workout is tough because of the gear switching, but is also useful for acclimating to the pain that is felt in the later stages of the race.
When training for a marathon the most important aspect is to become comfortable with marathon pace, which is approximately 60 – 90 seconds faster than long run pace. A fantastic fartlek for marathon pace acclimation is 65 minutes alternating 10:00 at marathon pace and 3:00 easy. Depending on your mileage, this workout may be best performed in the middle of a long run.
Many runners mistakenly assume that training for an ultramarathon entails nothing but pure mileage. While running lots of miles will certainly help you finish an ultramarathon, incorporating speed work is important to ensure those miles are run efficiently. A ladder fartlek is great for the ultramarathoner. Here, you will start with 1:00 of running at marathon pace, balanced with 1:00 of rest. Next, you will run 2:00 at marathon pace, followed by 2:00 easy. You will continue this trend until you reach 7 - 10:00 at marathon pace, at which point you will work back down to 1:00. Like the marathon fartlek, this workout should be saved for a long run day.
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