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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 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.

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.

  • 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.

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

  • 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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