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by Meghann on January 28, 2010

Isn’t fartlek such a funny word? According to Wikipedia it means β€œspeed play” in Swedish. Still, I get a good chuckle when every I see it. πŸ™‚

I’ve seen the term fartlek mentioned here and there around the running world, but never really understood the break down of what it meant. I’m still a β€˜newbie’ runner (celebrating my 2 year anniversary this month!), so when it comes to breaking plans down and the terms associated with it I get kind of loss.

Luckily Coach Megan (I hope she doesn’t mind if I call her coach) was happy enough to break down the mumbo jumbo you see below for today’s fartlek training run.


Here is how our g-chat conversation went

  • Me: Question. What’s a pick up?
  • Megan: ohh…sort of like a stride
                 you just "pick-up" the pace
                 so for the fartlek, you run slightly faster than 5k race pace
                 but not necessarily your fastest 5k ever
                 keep it at what your current 5k race pace is
                 I recommend going by the pace calculator for it
  • Me:  So, u run for a min at 5k pace, recover for a min, & repeat 8-10 times?
  • Megan: yup
                but jogging during the recovery
                so you can do it during a normal run
                just speed up for 1 minute then back to jogging
                I usually do all my weekday runs on the treadmill
                If my warm-up was 20 mins, I’d push it to 9.0 at 19:55
                back down to like 6.0 or 6.5 at 21:00

I love how Megan breaks everything down for me. It just makes sense. Did it make sense to you?

This morning I headed to the good ole treadmill to do my first Fartlek.

Here is the breakdown of my treadmill work out.

  • 0:00 – 15:00     6.0
  • 15:00 – 16:00  8.5
  • 16:00 – 17:00  6.0
  • 17:00 – 18:00  8.5
  • 18:00 – 19:00  6.0
  • 19:00 – 20:00  8.5
  • 20:00 – 21:00  6.0
  • 21:00 – 22:00  8.5
  • 22:00 – 23:00  6.0
  • 23:00 – 24:00  8.5
  • 24:00 – 25:00  6.0
  • 25:00 – 26:00  8.5
  • 26:00 – 27:00  6.0
  • 27:00 – 28:00  8.5
  • 28:00 – 28:00  6.0
  • 29:00 – 30:00  8.5
  • 30:00 – 40:00  6.0

I was actually sweating pretty profusely by the end. I could really feel my legs flying. πŸ™‚

After a good stretch and shower I pulled out the breakfast cookie that was waiting for me in the fridge.


The Fitnessista inspired cookie contained

  • 1/2 cup Oats
  • Pumpkin
  • Almond Butter
  • Raisins
  • Flax Seeds

All combined last night, flattened, and placed in the fridge over night.


This morning I topped the cookie with some plain yogurt, apple, and cinnamon.


I was a little light on the almond butter with this one. Next time I’ll remember having a heavy hand with the almond butter is never a bad thing. πŸ˜‰

Running plans and terms that come with them are not the only ones that confuse me. When ever I see a fellow blogger post their weight training work outs its as if they posted a whole other language.  Maybe, I’ll try tackling that new challenge in the summer? πŸ™‚

1 Jenna January 28, 2010 at 10:05 am

Can never add too much almond butter! Never a bad thing!

2 Alison January 28, 2010 at 10:09 am

I’m glad I’m not the only one who laughs at the word “Fartlek.” Yes, I’m still 12. Thanks for posting your treadmill run; I think I might give that a try next week. I’m always looking for ways to make treadmill running more interesting.

3 Courtney January 28, 2010 at 10:16 am

I did a post on fartleks once and I think people were like “what is this chick talking about!!” HA! I love doing fartleks so I can control my speed/intensity but still feel like I am pushing myself.
adventures in tri-ing

4 Diana January 28, 2010 at 10:23 am

It is a funny word. I’m portuguese so even some words in english sound funny to me sometimes. It’s a matter of perspective :p
That breakfast cookie looks yummy.

5 Anna January 28, 2010 at 10:23 am

8.5– whoa!!! Speed demon!

Yep, fartlek cracks me up every time I see it in Runner’s World πŸ™‚

6 Anne P January 28, 2010 at 10:25 am

Baaahahahah I love the word Fartlek. Hilarious πŸ˜‰

7 eaternotarunner January 28, 2010 at 10:26 am

I definitely need to add more intervals to my treadmill runs, thanks for the info πŸ™‚

8 Matt January 28, 2010 at 10:28 am

I like to do my fartkeks outside and pick something in the distance as a goal and sprint to it.

9 Emily January 28, 2010 at 10:30 am

I ran track in high school, where fartleks meant that a group of the team ran in a line, and every minute or so, the person at the back of the line had to sprint to the front, then lead the line. Exhausting, but an excellent work out. And as mature high school students, we certainly never made fun of the word fartlek! (please sense my sarcasm πŸ™‚

10 megan January 28, 2010 at 10:37 am

I have no idea what the terminology means either, and I ran distance in track in high school! I’ve forgotten all of it (or at least tried to) πŸ™‚

11 Heather (Heather's Dish) January 28, 2010 at 10:38 am

i’m glad you made that cookie sans protein powder…i haven’t been able to find one i like, and have been wanting to try the breakfast cookie for a long time!

p.s. i snickered at the title to this post, then felt kinda silly when i read the reason…oops πŸ™‚

12 Madeline - Greens and Jeans January 28, 2010 at 10:41 am

The treadmill at my gym starts to make a lot of noise around 8.0 so whenever I do speed workouts I get a lot of stares!

13 Running on Faith January 28, 2010 at 10:47 am

While training for the Ragnar relay for April (with Bobbi’s team), I am really working on my speed! As a result, I have been doing SO much research and training plans that I felt I did not have time for when I was training for my half and full marathons. It is liberating to try different workouts (strides, track, “Fartlek”, tempo, etc. etc.) during my week to see a noticeable difference in the speed and endurance at the speed that I hadn’t seen during my marathon training! Thanks for the clear breakdown because I still had NO idea what that term meant πŸ™‚

14 Heather January 28, 2010 at 10:49 am

Sometimes I’m amazed at how technical running can get…whatever happened to just going for a run?! haha πŸ™‚

15 Mara @ What's For Dinner? January 28, 2010 at 10:52 am

That made my brain hurt. I think I “get” it, but all the numbers and everything don’t compute πŸ™‚ It’s a great word though!

16 Brandi January 28, 2010 at 10:53 am

ha, I totally don’t understand those terms πŸ™‚ but the explanation does make a bit more sense!

17 Cassie January 28, 2010 at 11:03 am

thanks for this post! i’ve always seen this run in training plans and tried to find a different plan so that i wouldn’t have to figure out what the heck a fartlek was πŸ™‚

it’s not so scary after all!

18 Ashley January 28, 2010 at 11:17 am

What was your total mileage with this treadmill workout? I’m going to work it into my training schedule too!

19 Meghann January 28, 2010 at 11:24 am

hmm… honestly I never checked the total mileage. I always pay attention to the time for the work out rather than the mileage when I’m on the treadmill. Sorry I’m not much help There!

20 Heather January 28, 2010 at 11:19 am

Thanks for the great explanation – I kinda made up what fartlek meant – I was on the right path – just not completely right.

Sounds like a great workout – I may adapt it for my treadmill runs as well.

Good luck with the training!

21 tramey1 January 28, 2010 at 11:23 am


Have you ever tried “Greek Gods” yogurt? I am telling all the fellow bloggies about it because it is AMAZING. seriously yum time.


22 Heather @ (The Single Dish) January 28, 2010 at 11:32 am

Great run!! I love your new hair color!

23 Doug January 28, 2010 at 11:33 am

Def. going to use that for conditioning. I am running a 5 mile for the Children’s Miracle Network on Saturday at 2 pm here in Jax. Thanks for breaking that down. I would have thought they were push ups or sit ups!

24 runninghealthy January 28, 2010 at 11:34 am

Good job with the fartlek (*hee*). I HATE running on the treadmill and am always looking for ways to make it more interesting, so I’ll probably try a workout like this soon. Thanks for the info!

25 Megan January 28, 2010 at 12:03 pm

Calling me Coach Megan would pretty much make my life complete πŸ˜‰

My boyfriend absolutely loses it whenever I say the word fartlek. Lots of giggling and calling me a “fartlek-er”

I LOVE the new hair color, too! I had a super traumatic experience trying to dye mine blonde in college (then subsequently trying to dye it back and looking SUPER goth).

26 Niki @ Niki's Neverending Adventure January 28, 2010 at 12:08 pm

I love fartleck runs!! My favorite is the 5-4-3-2-1 where after you warm up for about a mile you run hard, like 5k pace, for 5 minutes, then recover for 1-2 minutes, then 5k pace for 4 minutes, recover 1-2 minutes, 5k pace for 3 minutes, and so on and so forth!! Makes treadmill runs go by super fast!

27 Julie @ Wearing Mascara January 28, 2010 at 12:08 pm

THANK YOU! I am always so confused by training plans that say that. It’s annoying. I will be referring to this post in the future. πŸ™‚

28 Jenn Eats Nutritiously Now January 28, 2010 at 12:40 pm

What a yummy breakfast cookie! I’ve still never made one, but I need to!

29 feetinmotion January 28, 2010 at 1:10 pm

We did fartleks a lot during high school cross country. Our coach would say “I’m picking up my swedish friend from the airport this afternoon,” and we knew it was coming! We usually did fartleks for about 15 minutes and whenever he blew the whistle we had to all out sprint, he would then blow it again less than 30 seconds later and would continue doing that leaving a minute or two in between sprints. Definitely a hard workout if you make it that way. Especially if hills are involved which he usually blew the whistle when we went up the hills! Ha.

30 thewhatkateateblog January 28, 2010 at 1:12 pm

i like the color a lot & really didnt notice the ‘patches’ at all! im sure youll feel better about it after you get a new cut! happy almost friday πŸ™‚

31 goodtastehealthyme January 28, 2010 at 1:19 pm

fartlek always makes me giggle too! I’m so immature sometimes! LOL

32 Chelsea January 28, 2010 at 1:27 pm

Fartlek ALWAYS makes me laugh.

33 Erin January 28, 2010 at 1:27 pm

I love fun words like that! πŸ˜€

34 Amber from Girl with the Red Hair January 28, 2010 at 1:28 pm

Oh I’m so glad you explained that! I’ve always been a bit confused about what “Fartlek” is!

I guess my next question is, is there a difference between Fartlek and Interval and if so, what??

I usually do my speed or “interval” sessions on the track so I’ll do, like, 800s. Is that also considered a fartlek??

Haha, sorry to bombard you with more questions, interesting post! πŸ™‚

35 Meghann January 28, 2010 at 1:56 pm

That’s a good question! However, I’m not sure what the answer is. πŸ™ Anybody else?

36 Megan January 28, 2010 at 2:16 pm

I think there are two major differences, but anyone can correct me if I’m wrong.

First, intervals are usually for a longer period of time/distance than fartlek pick-ups (e.g. the 800 meter repeats you metion), especially when training for a marathon. Also interval workouts *usually* are harder and require more recovery.

Second, in their “truest” form fartleks need not be a specific amount of time/distance. Meghann mentions that it’s the Sweedish word for “speed play,” so often fartlek runs are done in a more spontaneous way, especially when there is a coach to start and end the pickups, as someone mentioned above. Without a coach, if you plan on doing 10, you could pick a point (tree, stop sigh, etc.), run fast to it, then recover until you are ready for another one.

here’s a runner’s world article that describes them further:,7120,s6-238-263–12081-0,00.html

37 foodfitnessandfreya January 28, 2010 at 1:45 pm

I love fartlek training! It’s really helped me increase my speed πŸ˜€ – I incorporated a 7.03min mile into my 5miler this morning πŸ˜€
Oh that cookie looks so good! Gah there are SO many breakfast ideas I want to try..there just isn’t enough breakfasts in the day!!

38 theprocessofhealing January 28, 2010 at 2:02 pm

Does the breakfast cookie actually keep you full? I’ve been wanting to try them for a while. Could you post the exact measurements of the ingredients? Thank you so much!

And the fartlek actually makes sense when explained like that. And I thought I was the only one who didn’t understand this crazy running terms, glad i’m not πŸ™‚ Why can’t they come up with simpler words haha?

And congrats on the running anniversary! If you are a newbie, i’m a super newbie!!!

39 Meghann January 28, 2010 at 2:09 pm

I usually plan for my breakfasts to keep me full for about 3 hours or until my morning snacks. I do the smaller breakfast + snack routine because I love my snacks and find having one really breaks up my mornings.

I don’t have exact measurements for the cookie because I always eye ball I usualy mesuare out the oats and then add a dollop of almond butter and enough pumpkin until I get the consistancy I want. Its usually one or two good size spoonfuls of pumpkin. πŸ™‚

40 Maura January 28, 2010 at 2:29 pm

Something tells me your sister might be more helpful during the next dye job rather than Derek πŸ™‚ The color looks great!

41 Paige@ Running Around Normal January 28, 2010 at 2:33 pm

Thanks for that breakdown! I’m definitely going to give that workout a try πŸ˜€
Sounds like you’ve got a good friend in Megan.

42 K January 28, 2010 at 3:48 pm

I want your secret for staying injury free! Seriously! You run so much and still manage to never be injured! What’s the secret?!

43 Carrie January 28, 2010 at 5:31 pm

THANK YOU for explaining this in plain English!! I, too, get so confused by running jargon. It makes total sense now. I’m going to have to try that treadmill workout soon!

44 gina (fitnessista) January 28, 2010 at 10:50 pm

lovely bfast cookie! thanks for the shout out πŸ˜€
are you running sunday? i’ll be in orlando and was thinking on venturing on a 10-miler if you’re down πŸ™‚

45 TorontoGirloutWest January 29, 2010 at 5:18 pm

Funny! I just always called those interval runs! ?

46 Sarah (from See Sarah Eat) February 22, 2010 at 3:08 pm

I still giggle like a 3rd grade boy every time I see that word, ha ha. I usually just call it speedwork πŸ˜‰

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