Fartlek Training

Fartlek training (speed play) is a great way to mix up your running workouts. It works for a wide variety of athletes, and any race distance. The concept is variable speed training, inside of an endurance run. What this allows you to do is reach target intensities, as your muscles are fatiguing through your run. With the variability of intensities both aerobic and anaerobic systems can be put under stress.


  • Multiple energy systems used
  • It is adaptable to any distance
  • Improves anaerobic and aerobic endurance
  • Utilize both fast twitch and slow twitch muscle fibers/ improve power and speed (fast twitch) as well as endurance (slow twitch)

The Workouts

  1. Road Rage- When I lived up north, the hand me down technique for fartlek training was to have someone follow you in a vehicle and honk to change intensity. 3 x honk- Sprint (above race pace, or 90-100%). 2 x honk- Run (race pace 75-90%). 1 x honk- Jog (below 75%). The percentages are not heart rate, but more of a perceived exertion. The downside to this method is that you need a partner (who doesn’t want to run), it’s not that safe, and gas isn’t cheap. A better more modern way would be to have someone on a bicycle with a stop watch, or even better mark your route and change intensity based upon distance.
  2. Stop Watch- A workout that I like to try when I’m burnt out is what I call 60:60 or minute on minute off. Pick an amount of time that you would like to run 20,30,60 minutes, set your watch, and every minute you change your intensity. I usually try to do 1 minute sprints followed by 1 minute jogs for as long as I can. If I can no longer hold my target intensity I will adjust to 1 minute sprints and 1 minute fast walking. If you are not running a familiar route make sure you turn around at the half way point of the duration time.
  3. Point to point- This is a great way to fartlek with a partner. Pick landmarks throughout your run to determine intensity. It helps to be familiar with the area, but isn’t necessary.


  • Consider your surroundings (traffic lights, stop signs, and cars throw off intensities)
  • You control your intensity (you have to push yourself)
  • Work with a partner (a partner is excellent motivation, and can help push you)
  • Stay Hydrated  (consume at least .5L 2hours before activity, and .5L per pound lost during exercise)