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Fartlek, from the Swedish word for "speed play" or "run as you please", developed in 1930s Sweden allowing athletes to walk, jog, run, or sprint, at will.

Fartlek can be performed with a format such as the one below where for several cycles an athlete can take a couple of jogging steps, a few running steps, and then sprint all out up keeping each sprint to failure. The jog, run, and sprint cycles are also repeated to failure.

Jog Run Sprint

Runner 4 Man runs Golden runner

Sprints in the above demonstrated jog, run, and sprint cycles can have varying, and not specified, lengths depending on an athletes' fitness level. If performing jog, run, and sprint cycles once per week, try to increase the length of each sprint without adherence to increasing the number of sprints. In fact, the number of weekly all out sprints, the total distance covered, and the total time of the workout, each likely decrease. What you are looking for is a strong sprint like when you are finishing a race or putting on speed when an athlete you are competing against throws in a mid-race sprint.

Fartlek workouts are plentiful and have various purposes. Jog, run, and sprint cycles are about achieving long sprints preparing you to keep the pace during tempo changes during a race and allowin g you to practice your finishing sprint.

The jog, run, and sprint cycles, need not be performed daily since there is no way for your body's somatic central nervous system to recover. Many athletes use fartlek once every two days and various versions of job, run, and sprint cycles are used. Athletes can also use fartlek once per week or less often.

Jog, run, and sprint cycles can stand alone as a workout, be combined into a workout involving different types of running, or be woven into a longer run. For example, for the latter, perhaps run five miles at a steady or fast pace, perform jog, run, and sprint cycles over the last mile.

Fartlek, as demonstrated in jog, run, and sprint cycles is varied speed running, meaning the performing athlete never settles into a single pace nor changes pace rarely during the workout.

Woman jogs Woman runs

Paces: Mile, 5000 meters, 10 000 meters, 10 miles, Half-marathon

Pace is the time it takes you to race or run a distance. Endurance athletes train at many paces. Listed above are the paces used for this workout.

An athlete came to me saying the jogs of my proposed jog, run, and sprint cycles were too slow for her needs and the sprints too fast. The athlete proposed running 10 000 meters at her ten mile or half-marathon pace with the workout's fast sections occurring at her mile or 5000 meter pace.

It was a warm summer's day. I jumped aboard my bicycle and told the athlete to strip off her track pants which the athlete did. After a few stretches, the athlete began running along a sidewalk. I followed on my bicycle riding a long a street.

The athlete performed the workout as planned and has since performed 5000 meter runs at 10 000 meter pace with the fast sections at her mile pace proving the flexibility of pace fartlek.

If you don't know your pace for specified distances, run a distance interspersing between fast and slow distances.

Portsea Intervals

Portsea intervals are as follows.

  • 3 x 3 minute runs at 3000 meter pace. 75 seconds rest in between repetitions. 3 minutes easy running.
  • 4 x 30 seconds at 800 meter pace. 60 seconds rest in between repetitions. 3 minutes easy running.
  • 3 x 5 minutes at 5000 meter pace. 105 seconds rest in between repetitions.

Portsea is interval training and not fartlek since Portsea precribes running paces and times plus rest intervals. Portsea is an example of interval training deliberately being misrepresented as fartlek which occurs often.

Whole bunch of interval workouts here, and the Mona workout described here, each wrongly described as fartlek.

Simply proffering times to rest and run but not distances to run is interval and not fartlek training.

In Canada, where coaches are neither examined nor trained in designing fartlek workouts, often I am told to run 200 meters rest and 200 meters, or run for 30 seconds and rest as much.

Native Americans used race cross country longer than marathon distances kicking along a small hardcovered ball about the size of a croquet ball. Native Americans had no means of measuring distances, so the race distance estimates were made by white men. Native americans had no set distances for this race and made up rules just before the race or as the race occurred. There are also rumors of capturing, killing, or maiming enemy braves.

Fartlek is Swedish for "run as you please" or "speed play". Perform fartlek by kicking a ball around a field and chasing after it. Upkeep the workout until failure or pick a number and perform that amount of short sprints. Ball fartlek workouts can last a few to many minutes depending upon how long you and others, if you are working in a group, can tax yourselves. The field used can be formal, like a soccer field, or it can perhaps be a meadow. Yes, the ball can also be kicked uphill. Any size ball can be used.

Ball fartlek, as mentioned above, can also be performed by a group with whomever getting to the ball first kicking the ball and all others chasing after it. Upkeep until failure or a pre-set number of short sprints. Ball fartlek groups can be mixed gender, include athletes of different sprinting velocities, and athletes competing at different distances.

When performing ball fartlek alone or in a group, only tally the number of short sprints since it is impossible to calculate the distance of each short sprint.

Repeated short sprints with little rest can build one's capacity to work in lactate buildup and oxygen depth, called lactic anaerobic energy. That makes ball fartlek workouts especially good for events 400 meters top 1000 meters long.

Ball fartlek, when performed in a group, like 800 meter, 1000 meter, and indoor 400 meter races, involves alot of sprinting in traffic and jockeying for position as each athlete tries to get to the ball forst and kick the ball in a direction making it difficult for other athletes participating in the workout to get to the ball. Ball fartlek group workouts involve strategizing such as hanging back and kicking the ball over the finish line. Group ball fartlek workouts can be intense depending on how competitive the group performing the workouts wants to be.

Ball fartlek, whether performed alone or by groups, can be a fun workout but can also prepare you for races. Notice how we have a workout inspired by both, Native Americans and Swedes.

Bill Bowerman, while caoching at the University of Oregon, proposed 20- 30 minutes jog, sprint, and recover cycles without specific mention of distances to run and sprint or specified rest times.

Bill Dellinger, while coaching at the University of Oregon, in his book, The Distance Runner's Handbook proposed those new to fartlek run 30 - 40 minutes on Monday's sprinting 200 - 300 yards 8 - 12 times during the workout or 100 - 200 yards 16 - 24 times during the workout without specificity of rest times in either case. Often, I have used each of Dellinger's workouts in the same week.

One variation of the Oregon workouts is 10 minutes of 200 - 300 yard sprints, a second 10 min utes of 200 - 100 yard sprints, and a third ten minutes of 50 - 100 yard sprints. The last bit happened since this athlete runs 50 -100 yard strides after along run.

Another take on Dellinger happened when an athlete ran a 1000 meter overdistance for his 800 meter racing distance, then after a break ran along while running a series of 100 - 200 yard easy sprints.

The last two variations show to do your own workout and not to simply copy someone else's workout. I encourage athletes to take my workouts and do it their way.

  • Warmup of jogging and stretching.

  • Brisk paced run until tired.

  • Long rest to recover.

  • Light run with long sprints until some tired.

  • Light run with short sprints until some tired.

  • Sprint up 400 meter hill.

  • Cool down with jogging and stretching.

Yakimov, the former USSR coach, proposed the above workout which has no specific numbers until the very end. Yakimov's fartlek and interval workouts have all but disappeared from the internet. I recall the above workout from a book I read. I don't recall the book's name or author.

In practice, I make sure athletes perform the brisk run and two light runs at least as over distances for the middle distance event they are preparing for. I use 200 yards as the division between long and short sprints as Dellinger did.

This workout can be spread throughout the training week perhaps as shown below. It is not unusual for me to plan training weeks with four days of exercising alternated with three days of running.

1400 meter hill climb
2Upper body exercises
3Long sprints run
4Leg exercises
5Short sprints run
6Mid-section exercises

On Wikipedia, a version of Yakimov's work is being attributed to Homer whose work is below.

  • Warmup of jogging and stretching. Homer wrote calistenics.

  • 5 - 10 minutes performing 50 - 100 yard long wind sprints.

  • Follow with 6-8 runs up a 440 yard hill or 10-12 sprints up a 220 yard hill.

  • Rest 15 - 20 minutes.

  • Run two miles at five minutes per mile pace. If using this workout, change the two mile running time to your abilities.

  • Depending on the distance of the race you are preparing for, run 800 meters in your best time for the distance +30 seconds or 1500 meters in your best time for the distance +60 seconds.

  • Cool down with jogging and stretching.

If you were to split the running styles described above into different training days, a training week would be as follows.

12.5 or 3 mile run
2Upper body exercises
3Hill sprints
4Leg exercises
5Wind sprints
6Mid-section exercises

Gustav Homer, a.k.a. Gosta Homer, widely credited with popularizing fartlek in 1930s Sweden, proposed this workout, which Homer believed could take 90 minutes to perform, combining different styles of runnnig into one workout.

Homer's workout starts by recommending to run a range of distances, repetitions, and times. Today, in North America, coaches who have never been examined in nor trained in designing fartlek workouts, falsely offer as fartlek workouts, interval workouts where athletes are told times to run and rest.

In Toronto, I have been told by coaches to run a minute and rest a minute or run 200 meters and jog 200 meters. Each of these are examples of interval workouts and not fartlek since distances and times to run and rest are specified.

Homer ends his proposed workout with distances and times to run specified for endurance running. That is different from having an entire workout's running and rest distances and times specified.

Hill Fartlek

New Zealand coach, Arthur Lydiard, called hill fartlek a ten mile run where were four 1/4 mile hill runs which is one mile of hill running in a ten mile run. Homer's hill sprints are 1.25 miles (10 X 220 yards) to 2 miles (8 X 440yards) long in a workout which at most maybe 6 miles long. I too, by using hilly courses, have designed lap running and out & back workouts with more than one mile of hill climbing in less than a ten mile run.

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