What is Fartlek Training?

Fartlek training should be fun and spontaneous. Ensure that there is as little structure as possible to make these speed workouts effective! Fartlek training, is a Swedish term that crudely translates to English as 'Speed Play'. A huge emphasis on the word play that should be given most emphasis as it’s an opportunity for you to be creative and have fun by varying the intensity and terrain of your workout. Your main objective is to get your heart rate up higher than usual, and throw something a little different at your body so that you experience something mentally and physically fresh with the end result of an adaptation. Ideally, this run will typically include some quick accelerations that don’t last too long and settle back into your regular easy pace. You can even explore exaggerated movements that mimic running drills such as high knees and large arm drive swinging.

This is your chance to make the most out of the running environment that you find yourself in be it indoors at a gym, in a busy city or on a bush trail. Below I have listed a bunch of ideas that I myself or other runners have used as the basis for fartlek workouts. What you do for your fartlek run is not nearly as important as simply doing something somewhat unstructured or unplanned and if possible a little different than your other fartlek runs! This doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t have an idea of what you’re going to do ahead of time, but the run should not be a series of preset distances coupled with recovery periods – otherwise they would be called track workouts!


All of your runs, and fartlek training runs are definitely not excluded here, should start with a nice warm up period to give your heart, lungs and legs plenty of time to adjust to the environment that you’ll be running in. I recommend that warm ups take at least 15 minutes and may include some brisk walking along with running before settling into your pace.



Crank the treadmill up 3 or more mph from your current running pace – hold for a predetermined amount of time Crank the incline up by 5 degrees and hang on for a predetermined amount of time

Bush trails

  • Jump the branch
  • Sprint trees
  • Out sprint the dog
  • Catch the kids
  • Follow the leader
  • Army dash

Road running

  • Sprint between telephone poles - typically poles are placed 50 meters apart - recover by cruising easy for 2 pole lengths then hit it again!
  • Soccer run - run with a ball - this is obviously safest when completed on very remote roads with little to no traffic. Your pace will largely fluctuate as you slow and speed up to keep with the ball
  • Run with a bike
  • Sprint car distances
  • Ball toss


  • Thunder alley – sprint pass the bleachers as the crowd goes wild!
  • Hill rush - run a hilly course and sprint to the top - incorporate exagerated knee lifts and drive elbows back if you're feeling spry
  • The Running Back - I found a football running on a bush trail once with my running partner. We started tossing it back and forth during our run. There were many little surges and sprints required to catch that ball adding some spice to the otherwise regular run
  • Finish line – sprint last 50 feet of each lap

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