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February 14, 2019

Whittle away at your workout with this helpful interval training method

It's as easy as 1, 2, 3

Fitness Workouts
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Setting out to be on the treadmill for a flat amount of time, say 30 minutes at a steady pace, can be challenging to tackle when while it feels like you’ve been running forever, but the treadmill’s timer is just creeping along.

Fortunately, there’s a way to break up your runs into bite-sized chunks that make it feel more approachable than the 30-minute-straight alternative, and it has a funny name – fartleks, also known as the 5-4-3-2-1 method.

Fartlek is, according to Runner's World, a Swedish for "speed play," which perfectly describes what this run is all about. Unlike other types of runs (and there are surprisingly many), fartlek is fairly unstructured and switches between moderate to hard runs with easy jaunts sprinkled in throughout, according to Runner’s World. 

RELATED READ: What millennial women need to know about getting in shape

After a warm-up, runners start out with longer intervals and work their way down the time blocks (5 minutes, 5 minutes; 4 minutes, 4 minutes; 3 minutes, 3 minutes; 2 minutes, 2 minutes; 1 minute, 1 minute), increasing the speed all the while, according to Well and Good. By the end, you’ll be surely be exerting harder, but it’ll (hopefully) feel easier since you’ll only be holding that sprint for, say, one minute, Well and Good explains.

When enjoying a jaunt outside, it’s easy to play with speed, fartlek-style, by running at faster efforts for short periods of time like, running to that tree, or to that sign, followed by easy-effort running to recover, Runner’s World explains.

“When you have a block of recovery time that you’re working toward, it kind of helps you mentally. You know that there’s a recovery coming up and that if you push hard to get over the hump, you’re going to have a nice jogging period or rest period coming up,” Corinne Fitzgerald, head coach at New York’s Mile High Run Club, tells Well and Good.

This type of training is a great tool that can help runners develop awareness of their abilities and utilize their different energy systems, ACTIVE explains. Fartleks give runners the freedom to customize their workouts to be whatever they want, ACTIVE adds. As for frequency, it’s suggested to incorporate fartlek training at least once every two weeks. 

Well and Good provides this sample fartlek workout plan:

5 minutes: Active Recovery (at about 65 percent of your maximum effort level)

5 minutes: Threshold Pace (at 80 to 90 percent of your maximum heart-rate)

4 minutes: Active Recovery

4 minutes: Threshold Pace (increase slightly from last threshold interval)

3 minutes: Active Recovery

3 minutes: Threshold Pace (increase slightly from last threshold interval)

2 minutes: Active Recovery

2 minutes: Threshold Pace (increase slightly from last threshold interval)

1 minutes: Active Recovery

1 minutes: Threshold Pace (increase slightly from last threshold interval)


There are plenty of other fartlek examples all over the internet. For example, this runner’s website has a fartlek training plan for everything from a 5K to a marathon.

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