The Need For Speed

Once you're into the groove and running regularly, your next ambition might be to get faster. Fartlek sessions will help you move that dial.

Fartlek training

The word 'Fartlek' comes from the Swedish meaning 'speed play' and Fartlek training is just that – rather than running a set distance in a set time, you 'play' with different running paces and distances until you feel you've completed the workout. Training without an overall time or distance to work towards will feel strange for a lot of runners, but it's these differences that give Fartlek training these unique benefits:

  • It's great for improving your speed running and race tactics
  • There's lots of flexibility within the workout so you can adjust it to your chosen level
  • Make it high intensity if you want to push yourself
  • Rather than a set time or distance, your body is the deciding factor in when the workout is complete. This means you're less likely to stop too soon, or go too far and risk overtraining

Here's an example of how Fartlek works. Remember to warm up before you start and approach the session with an open mind. Try to avoiding putting a time or distance limit on the session before you start.

Step 1

Jog gently for five minutes, then pick a landmark in the distance to aim for and a running pace. For example, this could be the next lamppost in your view, and you decide to run at 70 per cent of your maximum speed until you reach it.

Step 2

Run towards the landmark at the pace you've decided and when you reach your target, start jogging again until you're ready for the next burst of speed.

Step 3

Pick a new landmark and running pace, but make sure they're different from the previous one. For example, you now decide to run to the end of the street at 90 per cent of your maximum speed.

Step 4

Keep completing these varying distances and speeds with gentle jogging in between. End the session when you feel you've done enough and had a thorough work out.