Becoming a better athlete

How to Do Fartlek Training

Max. D Gray
By Max. D Gray. Updated: January 16, 2017
How to Do Fartlek Training

Rhythm changes are one of the keys when training for a race of distance , from 5 or 10 kilometres to longer distances like the marathon. Included among the different training techniques with rhythm changes that we found, fartlek is the most prominent of all. The word "fartlek" comes from Swedish and it means speed game. Fartlek is characterized by running at differents speeds depending on the irregularities of the land you're running on. In this OneHowTo article we tell you how to do fartlek training so you can work out in a different way.

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Steps to follow:


Normally, when one goes out for a run, the first thing one does before starting is to do a few laps to warm up and stretch well in order avoid injury. Although the type of fartlek that you do will depend on the race you are preparing for and the training phase in which you are currently in, we'll take a look at the different types of fartlek training that we can do.

How to Do Fartlek Training - Step 1

The most common way of doing so is the fartlek for periods or Swedish fartlek. This requires you to be very attentive to the time as it combines intervals of fast and slow running. For example, running for two minutes and one minute of recovery. The goal is to achieve and maintain the anaerobic threshold for as long as you can, so do not extend the running phase no matter how good you might be, especially at first.


The other common version is Polish fartlek, also known as fartlek by distances where the stopwatch is not as important as distances. You should set out landmarks and run to them at different speeds. It is ideal for training on track as you can run as hard as you can on the bends and recover on the straight, return at 100% effort followed by half the effort, etc. It is also easier to add an intermediate pace.

How to Do Fartlek Training - Step 3

Build on intensity with the fartlek pyramid, a variant of fartlek based on time in which the 1-2-3-2-1 is followed. So, after warming up, start running for one minute as fast as you can and follow with one minute of rest. On the next phase, you should run for two minutes as fast as you can and rest for two minutes.

As you can guess, the next phase entails running hard for three minutes and resting for three, followed by two minutes and then one. Logically, the quick pace of three minutes will be smoother than in the one-minute phase; however, the rest phase should always be the same.


The 'original' fartlek, invented in the 30s by two Swedish coaches, Holmer and Olander, was created with a natural terrain in mind, a random circuit with slopes and obstacles where the runner must improvise and speed up or slow down depending on the difficulty. This is a good option if you have the opportunity to race in areas with slopes, climbing as fast as you can and controlling the descent.

How to Do Fartlek Training - Step 5

Let's end with the most difficult version yet: the fartlek by heartbeat, recommended for experienced runners. As the name suggests, the beats set the rhythm and alter the phases of rhythm increase until their heartrate reaches 180 beats per minute and lowers to 145 during recovery. To carry out this fartlek modality it is imperative to have a pulsometre.

If you want to read similar articles to How to Do Fartlek Training, we recommend you visit our Sports category.


  • At the beginning, try free fartlek, following your instincts and feelings. Plenty of time to improve.
  • Respect the boundaries of time, distance, heart rate, etc. to get a good result.
  • Do not forget to warm up well and stretch before and after fartlek. When you're done, jog around slowly a bit to relax.
  • If you do fartlek in a group, it is better that all members have a similar fitness level.
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How to Do Fartlek Training