Fartlek:  Integrating “Speed Play” into Your Training


Happiness is the interval between periods of unhappiness
– Don Marquis

How do you ensure to have a most pleasant interval of running?  Put it in-between two intensely unpleasant intervals of running.  It’s all relative at times, and one can only understand this through experimentation – in changing it up.  Too often runner neglect the usefulness of variety in their training intensities within a singular workout.

Often, you need to run 1-2 miles on your tradition routes before you can really gauge your energy levels.  Maybe at mile 2 you decide to just hang on hoping to make it home.  Maybe at mile 2 you are feeling like taking things to the next level.  When the case is the latter, you can always throw in some speed play into your training session as a means to add some variety to your experience, and speed focused conditioning for race day.

Fartlek — (“speed play” in Swedish) a training method that combines aerobic training (continuous efforts) with anaerobic training (interval efforts). Traditionally it is associated with running, but it can be integrated into any style of training and geared toward strength, endurance, or speed conditioning. The reference to ‘play’ indicates that these types of workouts can be tailored uniquely to the athlete in a way much less structure that traditional interval training.

By adopting ‘on’ and ‘off’ tempos and linking them to durations of time, you have the gist of a Fartlek workout.  1 minute on, 1 minute off.  2 minutes on, 2 minutes off…

Do ladders (counting up or down) or do pyramids (counting up and down) – you have some freedom to choose based upon who much time you have, and how much energy you have in the tank.

The following would be an example with how you can experiment with tempo on a temporal basis, integrating your 10k race pace and a 2 to 1 work to rest ratio.

2 minutes 10k pace

1 minute Recover

4 minutes 10k pace

2 minutes recovery

6 minutes 10k pace

3 minutes recover

This same method can be seen in the following 10-minute intervals with burpees.  Suddenly you are livening up your run workout, while simultaneously introducing fitness conditioning while simulating the run to burpee to run body movements so frequent in a Spartan Race.

1 minute of burpees

30 seconds of easy jogging

2 minutes of burpees

1 minute of easy jogging

3 minutes of burpees

1 minute and 30 seconds of burpees


If you are a math geek, you can see the permutations are endless.  Often enough, doing math is just the distraction one needs when things get particularly tough in a training session.  The trick is to not beat yourself up about ‘how you fartlek’, but to just use this broad technique to dial in your own running masterpieces of Spartan WODs.

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