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You may be familiar with a workout called “Mona Fartlek,” which is named after legendary Australian marathon runner, Steve Moneghetti, and coined by his coach Chris Wardlaw. Allow me to introduce — in case you have not heard of it — a similar-sounding workout called “Jono Fartlek,” which was coined by coach Mark Bomba formerly with Trinity Western University and currently at Queen’s University in Kingston, ON. Jono Fartlek is named after the seven-time World Mountain Running Champion and Olympian Jonathan Wyatt from New Zealand.
Wyatt’s seven mountain wins include five consecutive victories, both of which are records themselves. He held the New Zealand record for the half-marathon and has competed in the Olympics, and Commonwealth Games, and is a nine-time World Athletics Championships competitor including three track and field and six cross-country. Wyatt is a versatile runner, who owns competitive personal bests in distances from 800 metres to the marathon and every event in between.
Moneghetti owns three Commonwealth Games marathon medals, one of each colour, bronze, silver, and gold, the latter of which he earned during the 1994 Victoria Games. He also owns a bronze medal from the World Athletics Championships from the 1997 meet that took place in Athens, Greece. Moneghetti earned a bronze medal in the 10,000m distance at the 1998 Kuala Lumpur Commonwealth Games.
The purpose of running fartleks is manyfold. For example, running by feel, rather than a timed or measured effort will keep the athlete from straining or racing themselves or others. However, will keep the athlete “in touch” with faster running or “speed training.” Too much speed done too hard in effort will lead to premature peaking, injury, or burnout.
Fartleks can be used close to race time to add quality stimulus if needed (see Mona Fartlek, especially). Fartleks can be used during the base phase to keep the runner in touch with faster running, while the remainder of the training is easy, medium, steady, and strong efforts.
The meat of the workout should take 20 minutes to run, typically there are two 90-second efforts, four 60-second efforts, four 30-second efforts, and four 15-second efforts, all with the same amount of recovery to match the effort — a sort of cut-down ladder-fartlek workout.
The purpose of the session changes depending on the time of one’s training year. So for example, should the athlete be in a base-building period, then the efforts remain completely aerobic, but very near the top of the anaerobic threshold. The recoveries are floats, rather than easy jogging. During this phase, the run more resembles a tempo run with a higher level of intensity than what a tempo effort in one strong run can typically offer. During the quality phases of training, the recoveries can be a jog, while the efforts delve into the anaerobic realm. The efforts should be done by feel and can range in a feeling-based sense of pace from 1500m race pace to 10K race pace, again depending on the time of year. Mona Fartlek is used extensively in Australia.
Wyatt, upon a visit to Vancouver, BC, did some training in iconic Stanley Park with local competitive athletes, which included Bomba. Wyatt told Athletics Illustrated, “Well, I think the name Jono Fartlek came about courtesy from Canadian runner Mark Bomba, a fairly talented mid-to-long distance runner. We met when I came out to Vancouver for a few months and at the same time I also met a good group of local runners when I got to run the fairly legendary Haney to Harrison Relay, (H2H).”
A favourite of Wyatt’s coach, Graham Tattersall, it was always 8 x 3 minutes to the Kiwi runners that used to do this work-out, “however, the Jono version (from Vancouver) had us running in Stanley Park and meeting at a small lake and running laps that used to take about five minutes to get round. It was a good tough workout with three minutes of solid speed followed by a two-minute float recovery where the key was relaxed, but fast running to get as much recovery as possible in the two minutes, but still maintaining a good speed, hence the word ‘float,” shared Wyatt.
Wyatt, who confesses that he never actually did the Mona Fartlek session, said that the former workout is perhaps better known and is widely used in Australia.
“It (Jono Fartlek) was a staple workout for me in New Zealand where we ran it as a one-loop circuit around the Wellington coastline, including warm-up and warm-down and it lasted about one hour and 15 minutes or so because we always started in the same spot, said Wyatt.
“The finish point was always a point of interest and status after the 38 minutes of the session (8 x 3 minutes hard and 7 x 2 minutes float). There were, of course, a few in our group who just wanted to see how far they could get and did it like a 38-minute race!”
Arthur Lydiard Fartlek
Wyatt, although trained on a similar program to that of the legendary Arthur Lydiard, ran a fairly short base phase of long, steady running over four to six weeks, where the longest phase of training was the speed endurance period, and the Jono Fartlek sessions were key. “Through the winter and during the cross-country season, until close to starting track it was a regular Saturday morning run. We even sometimes ran this and then ran a Wellington cross-country or road race in the afternoon,” said Wyatt.
Famed Oregon coach and founder of Nike, Bill Bowerman, had his athletes run a 10-mile strong effort after having done, what he coined as a “Lydiard Fartlek” session, which included six times one minute plus various other cut-down efforts. His session could include 70 seconds and shorter efforts with a float-type recovery.
ESSENTIAL READ: The Five Lydiard Principles
This is not a true fartlek session, however, one does run by feel. The part that lacks it being play-oriented is the one-minute “on” and one-minute off structure. If you have played football (soccer), you will know the line drills. The entire team lines up close together in single file and runs a steady effort around the touchline. The man in the back sprints to the front every time the coach blows the whistle.
That workout has been transformed into a fartlek-like session for athletes to run 300m to 400m repetitions off the track. Perhaps a more inspiring area or with varying terrain, hills, obstacles, dirt, grass, and asphalt.
The effort of the one-minute “on” portions should be slightly faster than 5K race pace during the base phase. The one minute off should be a float. As racing season approaches, the floats may become light jog recoveries and the minute may be closer to 3000m pace.
Should runners of varying abilities get together, the faster ones should lead more often than the slower runners. Train, don’t strain.
Fartlek is a word from the Swedish language which translates to “speed play.” It was developed by coach Gosta Holmer, who created the workout or the form of running in 1937. The purpose was to combine some distance, while running faster within that distance than the runner can maintain, hence the “play” factor, which really was designed so that when the athlete felt inspired to run fast again, they just took off to the next landmark. This is one form of running that began the run by feel method that is often used during the base phase of training.
Much of the base phase of Lydiard training and the original fartlek running are both 100 per cent by feel. They are not timed or measured for distance and are not tracked at any time. Today’s runners may review what they ran after due to the popularity of sophisticated watches, however, should not at any time look at it during the run (good luck).
Breaking down the fartleks
Great for when pressed for time during a busy work-life schedule.
- 30-minute warm-up
- 2x, 90-seconds fast (without straining) + 90-second recoveries
- 4x, 60-seconds fast (without straining) + 60-second recoveries
- 4x, 30-seconds fast (without straining) + 30-second recoveries
- 4x, 15-seconds fast (without straining) + 15-second recoveries
- 30-minute easy warm down
Structure, yet still by feel.
- 30-plus-minute warm-up
- 8 x 3-minutes fast – interlaced with recoveriess of:
- 7 x 2-minutes float recover (not easy, but steady)
- 30-plus-minute warm-down
Arthur Lydiard Fartlek (coined here: Lydiard Fartlek)
Strictly by feel but measured to keep bored runners from wanting a very structured workout.
- 30-minute warm-up
- 6 x 1-minute fast (by feel, no straining)
- 6 x 1-minute jog recovery plus random:
- 3 x 1-minute faster (by feel, no straining)
- 3 x 1-minute jog recovery
- cut-down as quality phase dictates (for example 3 x 30 second, or 3-6 x 15 seconds)
- **Lydiard so-called “speed training” was relaxed, fast, by feel with no strianing.
- 30-minute warm-down
Teamwork and drafting can make fast running fun and can include a range of abilities.
If someone is much faster than the rest, make them lead more often. If someone is slower than
the rest, make them the bench warmer at the back, to never lead or lead just once.
- 30-minute warm-up
- 10 x 1-minute fast (relaxed, no straining)
- 10 x 1-minute recovery jogs
- *Get together with three or more friends, up to 10 or more, and take turns leading. Once having led for a 1-minute fast repetitions, moved to the back of the line. Stick close together throughout. With nine friends, you will lead just once in a 10 x 1-minute session. The closer to racing season you are, the faster the one-minute repetitions are.
- 30-minute warm-down
Fartlek (the original)
- 30-minute warm-up
- Run fast, by feel, no straining, to a landmark ahead (roughly 50m to 200m away, go by how inspired you feel)
- Run easy until feeling like going fast again — repeat for as many as you like (10 x fast, 10 x easy is common)
- *Do not look at the watch at any time, and do not run exact same route each time.
- 30-minute warm-down, when you have had enough.
Fartlek should be run weekly throughout the base phase, which is commonly eight to 24 weeks (depending) long. The more structured fartleks above, Jono, Mona, and Guerilla are a great addition to the week as speed training. Going by feel will keep the muscular and cardiovascular stresses from overcooking the system (if and only running by feel).