What’s your favorite fartlek workout? Fartleks have been a staple of my training for many years, for several reasons. I find them to be more mentally sustainable than having to “answer to the stopwatch” and hitting the track for all speedwork. This keeps me under control and reading by body’s messages rather than being a slave to time and pace. Fartleks are also outstanding for developing feel and self-awareness, two skills in running that are so often neglected these days with the advances in wrist and handheld technology for tracking data.
I’ve put together a list of some of my favorite fartlek workouts that I use both for myself and for my athletes. With so many races on hold until next year, this is a great time to use fartlek training to continue establishing that foundation not only of fitness but of healthy running for the long term. When you get ready to prep for specific events in the coming months, you’ll be in a much better position to start getting serious about hitting strict times in training. Always remember, we can’t be in peak form 12 months of the year!
Give these a shot and let me know how it goes! If you need a little motivation, here’s some footage of one of the famous Kenyan massive group fartlek sessions
“But I don’t want to slow you down…”
Back in the day when people ran in groups pre-pandemic, I’d sometimes meet a new runner and the conversation would inevitably drift toward “we should run together sometime.” This was usually followed by the other person backtracking by saying “yeahhhh, but I don’t want to slow you down.” Then usually I’d try to convince them that we could always do an easy run together, it doesn’t have to be fast.
At first glance, you might think that running with people your exact speed would be ideal. The answer, like many things, is IT DEPENDS! In my experience, you can benefit from running with different types of runners…faster, slower and equal!
If running with people slower than you…Let the slower runner go at their normal pace and just tag along. This forces you to keep an easy day easy! I’ve used this on many occasions and it often results in enjoyable runs. You can also do fartlek runs where the faster runner circles back during the recovery jogs and both runners start the rep simultaneously. It’s the best of both worlds, as each runner does their own workout at their own pace, but starting each rep together avoids the isolation of a solo workout.
Allan Phillips, PT, DPT is owner of Ventana Physiotherapy