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This workout is perfect for this time of year when you might not want too much structure around your running, but you’re still looking to have some fun and introduce a few short snaps of speed. Swedish for speed play, fartlek runs like this one are a favorite of coach Taylor Thomas, who said this session is ideal for anyone looking for lots of variability in both their running and their workout structure.
He said: “This fartlek run allows for lots of variability when it comes to the execution. The difference between a fartlek and a more traditional interval session is that there’s no dedicated rest interval. The goal is to surge out of your comfortable endurance running pace at varying speeds/efforts. These surges can be based on what you’re training for, goal times, specific distances, or just a fun way to mix things up to increase leg speed and turnover.”
You’ll begin with a 10 to 20-minute easy warm-up, all at conversational pace or a 3-5/10 on the Rate of Perceived Exertion (RPE) scale. Build into the effort and allow your heart-rate to climb gradually.
When it comes to the main set, Thomas said: “After your warm-up, settle into your endurance pace, RPE 6-7/10. A good gauge for this is your half marathon pace or a pace that you can sustain comfortably for at least an hour. From that pace, every three to five minutes, do a 100-meter surge at 5K pace, but feel free to mix these up by increasing frequency, duration, distance, and intensity. They definitely don’t all need to be done at the same intensity or duration.”
Wrap it up with an easy cool-down, allowing your heart-rate to fall, finishing with a five-minute walk if necessary.
Thomas added: “Have fun with this one and enjoy the play element of it. Remember, too, that a workout like this one is also a great way to shake out the day before, or leading up to an event or hard workout. Just be sure to keep the overall duration and intensity in check.”
One-Hour Workout: Fall Fartlek Run
10-20 min. @ easy, conversational pace, RPE 3-5/10.
30-40 min. @ endurance pace, RPE 6-7/10. Drop in 100m surges (or distances of your choice) every 3-5 min. @ 5K pace. Feel free to mix these up by increasing frequency, duration, distance, and intensity.
5-10 min. easy running, allowing your heart-rate to fall. Finish with a 5-min. walk if necessary.
Taylor Thomas is the founder and head coach of Thomas Endurance Coaching. He’s a dedicated endurance athlete with over two decades of experience as a competitive athlete. His background includes both road and MTB racing, multi-sport disciplines, and ultra-distance running and cycling events.