Using Fartlek Strategy for Winter Running & Fitness

In Canada, the race calendar in late fall and winter starts to thin out quite a bit, making following a specific training plan less essential. While heavier use of cross training and strength training is an option, why not spice it up a bit by adding a fartlek training strategy to maintain, maybe even grow, your fitness at this time of the year? 

Fartlek involves varying the pace of your running depending on how you feel and the conditions outside. As I’ve posted before (Check out: Fartlek is for All Runners), the fartlek strategy was first developed by a running coach from cold, snowy Sweden. To good effect as it produced multiple world class runners. One such runner was Gunder Hägg, who set world records on eight separate occasions for different distances. (The picture at the top of this post shows Hägg setting the mile world record for the first time in Gothenburg, Sweden in 1942.) During these years of setting world records, Hägg did fartlek running as part of his training plan. For instance, the picture below shows Hägg is doing some deep snow running as part of a winter fartlek strategy.
Gunder Hägg (in foreground) runs in deep snow at Vålådalen, Sweden

While I’m passing on running in knee-deep snow, my twice-weekly fartlek run will start out being at my steady pace - able to talk with ease in full sentences and breathing comfortably. Then in the second half, I’ll speed up to the point where I’m only able to talk in short sentences and my breathing becomes more noticeable and easier to count, then back down to my steady pace. I’ll continue this pattern of speeding up then back to steady pace for the whole second half of the run.

Once my race schedule resumes, I can transfer from fartlek runs to pace-based runs like tempo runs and intervals.

Thanks for reading.
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At this time of the year, more emphasis on cross training and strength training is an option, which I posted on before. Also adding a fartlek training strategy to other cross training activities, like standing bike intervals is something to consider. Check out:

I’ve posted on fartlek running before, where I describe other runs like, New Zealand fartlek and Holmér fartlek. Check out: 

The fartlek run described in this post uses running by feel as a guide. For more, check out:

During colder snowy weather, sports nutrition also changes to emphasizing the thermogenic quality of food and fluid. Vice versa, at this time of the year endurance athletes in the southern hemisphere need sports nutrition strategies for handling warm weather. For more, check out:
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An unexpected snowfall led to me adding more fartlek runs into my schedule. And a couple of weeks in and I’m glad I made the change! Any questions via email can be directed to:


Experiment of One Coaching covers topics ranging from running, strength training, health & wellness, sports nutrition to travel. I usually post once or twice a month.