Fartlek training: How to run faster

Are you in a running rut? Are your times stagnant? Why not try the fartlek method. An interval workout designed to make you faster.

If you’ve recently started running it can be really motivating when you rack up more kilometres or run for longer without slowing down. Running at a moderate speed for a long time is great to way to establish a good aerobic base and prepares you well for running longer distances. But if you want to run faster, fartlek training can give you a real boost.

Fartlek training involves running varying duration or distances at different speeds and rhythms without stopping at any time between. To increase the challenge it can be performed on uneven ground and even with obstacles. 

The benefits of fartlek

As well as to helping improve the continuous speed during our run, fartlek training can also improve our cardiovascular health, to raise our anaerobic threshold (so you can run faster for longer) and develop our cyclical power. Although perhaps the most important benefit we get from fartlek is that when we practice, we get know each other better: what is our speed limit, which is the resistance, how we respond when retrieving, etc.

When should we use a fartlek training? Fartlek is a workout to keep in mind when we have a good technique and a good aerobic base of race, and give us many benefits when we are stuck in a particular rhythm. If you are preparing for a 10K and you are struggling to improve your speed, Fartlek may help.

It is also very beneficial for those who are hoping to lose weight as it combines aerobic and anaerobic workouts. It also comes in handy for those who do not have much time to train because it is more intense exercise over a shorter duration.

man fixing his show laces

Fartlek by feelings

There are many variations of the fartlek training method; the Swedish fartlek (by time), the Polish fartlek (by distance) and fartlek by pulsation. But the type of fartlek that’s particularly interesting is fartlek by feelings. This method is best suited to those who are new to fartlek training, and it’s primarily used to discover what level we are at.

Fartlek by feelings is also known as ’free fartlek’ and is about making changes of pace as we go. You may find sometimes you need more time to recover, sometimes less, sometimes you can run faster and other times you need to slow down. This type of training is about listening to your body. You may find it suits you better to do longer sprints but at a slower rate, or it might take you a long time to recover or you may even need to stop.

A fun way to do this is to set ourselves a goal that we have in sight for fast-paced intervals. For example, if you’re running in a park and see in 200 meters a piece of rubbish in front of you perhaps you could run quickly until you reach the rubbish, then run at a slower pace to recover. Once you’ve recovered, run to another target and then back to recover. The idea is to set targets that are achievable.

Don’t forget it’s really important to warm up and cool down.

Back to top