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Fartlek is a Swedish term that means 'speed play' or playing with speed. I use the term varied pace to describe this form of running, because that is what you really are doing when you run a fartlek workout. What I like about a fartlek workout is that you run based on how you feel, so if you are tired on that specific day you can run a little easier and there is not clock timing you as you run for a specific distance.

After warming up, run at an easy training pace, throwing in bursts of speed for various distances throughout the run. Vary the speed and times of the speed sections, from as short as 15 seconds to as long as two or three minutes. Between these bursts, allow yourself enough recovery time to match roughly 2/3 of the effort time. The recovery pace, though, should be faster than the recovery jog you might do during intervals on the track; keep it moving at an easy training pace.



It's a good idea to pick out a landmark, a tree or a mailbox or telephone pole where a speed section will end before you start picking up the pace. In other words, you have to know how far you are running for each section. Because the idea is to keep up a constant pace until you reach that landmark, it is important to pace yourself at the beginning. Don't start off so fast that you cannot keep up the pace through the end of each speed section.



An excellent place to run a fartlek workout is on trails. Along with running at a varied pace you are also running on varied terrain which I think is easier on the mind and the body. These workouts also can be as hard as you want. So there is nothing like going out on the trails and burning them up Places I've always liked doing a Fartlek workout are Discovery Park in Seattle Bridle Trails in Bellevue and Lake Young’s Reservoir in Kent. These are places with a few miles of soft surfaces with varying terrain. A twenty to thirty-minute fartlek session should be adequate for most runners but for more advanced runner 30-45 minutes would be fine. Remember to include a warm up and a warm down in this run.

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