Once you’ve made strides a regular part of your training regimen, you’ll be ready to start stepping up the speed work ladder. Fartlek – Swedish for “speed play” – is a great way to get your wheels spinning. This type of speed workout can be done on the roads, trails or treadmill and all you’ll need is a little imagination or a reliable watch.
Essentially, fartlek is a series of faster pickups with a recovery interval in between. The length and speed of the pickups, as well as the recovery intervals, is totally up to you. When out on the roads or trails, after an easy warm-up jog of a mile or two, find an object off in the near distance, be it a tree, rock or telephone pole, and run to it at a pace faster than you ordinarily would. Once you reach your destination or start feeling fatigued, jog gently or even walk until you’re feeling recovered and then repeat the process all the way home.
If you prefer a little more structure in your speed play or are tied to the treadmill, set your watch so your pickups are of a predetermined duration, whether it’s 30 seconds, 10 minutes or anything in between. Use the shorter pickups to practice sprinting and utilize the longer intervals to run strong at a steady pace you hope to maintain in a race. A mix of short, fast running and longer, steady stretches will tap into your anaerobic system and increase your aerobic capacity, thus improving your ability to maintain a faster pace. Try to perform a fartlek workout once a week and allow yourself a few days of easy running or rest afterward to ensure you recover completely.