Workout of the Week: The Mona Fartlek


As an athlete, the Mona Fartlek is one of my favorite workouts to do; as a coach, it’s one that I’ll often assign a few times throughout a training cycle. What I love about this session is that it’s efficient and versatile: it can be done anywhere and you can make it as hard or as easy as you need/want it to be (to be fair, the same can be said of most workouts, but I digress). It’s named after Steve Moneghetti, a four-time Olympian in the marathon for Australia, who ran this workout weekly for years (and still does, apparently). The pickups are short and swift and the recoveries in between are more of a steady float than a slow jog (though you manipulate either of those variables to suit your needs depending on your experience level or where you’re at in training). Start to finish, the Mona Fartlek takes 20 minutes to complete. I like to use this workout with athletes who are just getting back into speedwork after some time away from it—the reps are short enough to wrap their heads around—or as a good “get after it” session for my marathoners to break up the monotony of higher mileage and longer workouts. The Mona Fartlek can also serve as a good 20-minute benchmark session every 4-6 weeks by simply comparing your total distance and overall average pace (and heart rate and power, if you’re into those sorts of things) from one attempt to the next.

What: 2 x 90 seconds hard w/a 90-second float; 4 x 60 seconds hard w/a 60-second float; 4 x 30 seconds hard w/a 30-second float; 4 x 15 seconds hard w/a 15-second float. Start at 5K pace/effort for the 90-second reps and try to up the intensity a bit as the reps get shorter. The real trick with this workout is not to back off too much on the “recovery” floats. I tell my athletes to keep it on the quicker end of your normal aerobic training pace.

Warmup/Cooldown: Warm up before the workout with 15-20 minutes of easy running followed by a set of drills and 4-6 x 20-second strides (i.e., accelerate for 5 seconds, spend the next 10 seconds at near-top speed, and then gradually decelerate to a jog over the final 5 seconds. Catch your breath for 40-60 seconds and then repeat 3-5 more times). Cool down after the workout with 5-15 minutes of easy running.

Why: You engage a number of different gears, keep your heart rate up, and learn to recover at a quicker pace/effort.

Where: Anywhere! (Note: If you’re using it as a benchmark, try to use the same route each time.)

When: Anytime! It’s a good one to kick off a training cycle with and/or repeat every 4-6 weeks to see how your fitness has progressed. It also serves as effective speedwork for marathoners who haven’t blown out the tubes in a while.

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