XC Training System

30-90 Fartlek: The Perfect Challenging Aerobic Workout for April-May

I sent the following newsletter to high school coaches the first week of April. Ensure you get on my email list here so you don't miss the next email.

The 30-90 fartlek is a workout that I first used at the end of summer training to transition into cross country race pace work. 

It’s also a fantastic workout to utilize in April and May. Here's why. 

  • Your kids get an aerobic stimulus
  • They run much faster than they would during any of the other challenging aerobic workouts  
  • They recover from the workout quickly and can handle a race pace workout 48 hours later 
  •  Kids love this workout...which probably trumps the other three bullet points 😃 

The one mistake coaches make is to use the workout 48 or 72 hours out from an important meet. Don't do that - do it 48 hours after a meet (Saturday after a Thursday meet, for instance). 

“What’s the Workout?” 

The workout is simply 30 seconds at 5k goal pace rhythm – don't have them look at their GPS watch to see what pace they’re running – followed up immediately by 90 seconds of easy running.  

We call it a fartlek because we’re playing with speed, yet the 90 is easy, and not “steady” which is what we do in a normal fartlek workout.  

Here’s the assignment I’d have for an athlete that can do 65-70 minute long runs (that are solid – finishing with strides in the last 20 minutes of the run). Note that this is one continuous run – 50 min total (with no break between the strides and the fartlek). 

7 min easy, 8 min with 4 x 20 sec strides. 30 min of 30 sec at a fun-fast pace, with 90 seconds easy to start, then slowly speeding this up to an steady pace if you feel good. Be very conservative to start this. You must finish saying you could have done this for 3 more sets, or 36 min total. 5 min cool. The total workout is 50 min.  

All Five Challenging Aerobic Workouts 

If you have time tonight and want to read about all five challenging aerobic workouts I use - long runs, fartlek runs, progression runs, aerobic repeats, and the 30-90 fartlek - you can read the following article. 

While the article is for cross country, I use the same workouts in the winter to prepare athletes for April and May PRs. 

It’s long! If you don’t have time tonight, please save this email and come back to it later. 

5 Must-Do Cross Country Workouts

Let me know if you have any questions.  

Let's go! 


PS – Here are the other articles I posted this week. Make sure to check out the 800m article. 

800m Training: Pre-race Day 


A Comprehensive Cross Country Training Plan 


A Progression of Strides for Cross Country