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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

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 allowing 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.

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.


An athlete once performed ran the first five miles of an eleven mile run at a steady pace, ran the next five miles at tempo pace, and the last mile was a series of job, run, and sprint cycles.


Another athlete, ran 2.5 miles at a steady pace, and performed the last mile as a series of jog, run, and sprint cycles.


Jog, run, and sprint cycles can stand alone as a workout or, as in the above examples, get mixed into runs at various speeds.

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. Bowerman's workout comes closest to my jog, run, and sprint cycles.

Bowerman's athletes performed what the University of Oregon's track team called varied speed fartlek once per week, usually on Mondays. Thus, jog, run, and sprint cycles need not be performed daily to be effective. Often I have included jog, run, and sprint cycles with other forms of fartlek in the same training week.

Jog, run, and sprint cycles are also mentioned on Wikipedia's fartlek webpage. Nice to know others use a simple and effective running training idea.

The former British track coach, Harry Wilson, allowed his athletes to run fartlek once per week, usually on Sunday evenings.

Wilson, like Bowerman, usually counted the length of fartlek workouts in minutes. Other coaches count in miles or meters. To each his own.

When designing fartlek workouts, which were usually 25 - 45 minutes of short spritns at 400 meter pace, Wilson, often partnered an inexperienced athlete with an experienced athlete.

I partner with individual athletes, or lead a group of athletes, new to fartlek. This allows me to tell athletes I am working with to sprint across a bridge or past a tree mixing artificial and natural objects along the fartlek route as sprint targets. The distance of each sprint varies from approximately 50 to 300 yards.

More on the work of Wilson and other British coaches.

Pace fartlek and interval running merged below into one workout below.

When discussing the distances of varied distance sprints to be performed during jog, run, and sprint cycles, I often show athletes the workout the late Peter Coe designed for his son, Sebastien, who won four Olympic medals and set middle distance world records.

Peter Coe, during interval workouts, had Sebastien Sebastien sprint the following distances and repetitions, each at Sebastien's 400 meter pace.

In calculating the time of each running repetition, Sebastien's alleged 46 seconds for the 400 meters is used. In the first equation, x represents in a cross multiplication in seconds the number we need to find.

  • (23 = 8) x 60 meters
    400 / 60 = 46 / x ~ 7 seconds
  • (22 = 4) x 100 meters
    1/4 (46) = 11.5 seconds
  • (21 = 2) x 200 meters
    1/2 (46) = 23 seconds
  • (20 = 1) x 300 meters
    3/4 (46) = 34.5 seconds

The total distance sprinted is 1580 meters.

This workout works well when done on a 200 or 400 meter track where you can easily ascertain the distances being sprinted. Otherwise, you are going to do this off track and guess at the distances being sprinted.

Peter Coe also designed for Sebastien 2 X 3000 meters, 3 X 2000 meters, and 4 X 1600 meters, all at 5000 meter pace and 6 X 1000 meters and 8 X 800 meters, each at 3000 meter pace. Often, athletes have run the above prescribed distances at the above prescribed paces interspersed with Peter's 400 meter pace sprints and its accompanying distances. Thus, originally designed interval workouts become fartlek workouts.

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