We encourage our clients to incorporate speed training into their training. This usually takes the form of intervals or repeats on a track. If you don't have a track near you, a fartlek workout is a great way to incorporate speed into your weekly training because they are flexible. The other added benefit of a fartlek workout is that it prepares your for the uneven paces of a race. Think about it - you run fast to pass people, you slow down if you are behind a pack of runners, you might have to speed up to get over to the water, you slow down on a hill or around a corner. A runner who is able to adjust their pace and respond to mid-race surges will run faster and hit their goals.
What is a Fartlek?
A Fartlek (swedish for “speed play”) is speeding up and slowing down multiple times during a run. Run for about 40 minutes with 20 dedicated to speeding up and slowing down. Pick objects head of you - the next lamp post or building. Be sure to warm up for about 1 mile or 10 minutes and cool down for about the same after your fartlek workout. You can customize fartleks to how you feel. If you feel tired, reduce the number of fast repeats you run and take more time to recover. If you feel great, run the sprints hard and reduce the recovery (jogging) time.
While the fartlek’s popularity is due to its flexibility, many coaches and clients like a more structured approach - this mimics more of a track workout. For example, a structured fartlek might be a pyramid workout (2, 3, 4, 4, 3, 2 with 2:30 recovery between each): 10 minute warm up, 2 minutes hard, 2:30 easy, 3 minutes hard, 2:30 easy, 4 minutes hard, 2:30 easy, 4 minutes hard, 2:30 easy, 3 minutes hard, 2:30 easy, 2 minutes hard and a 10 minute cool down. This is a great workout to do if you don't have access to a track.
Incorporate fartleks into your weekly training as your interval or speed day. Perform this once a week or more if your coach prescribes it. Be careful not to add in too much speed all at once. These workouts are designed to tax your muscles and your nervous system so be sure to recover with an off day or an easy day immediately after a fartlek workout.