Track [or Road] Workout: "Down the Ladder" Fartleks

By Takia McClendon

In this week's speed workout, we're tapping classic fartleks to help you become a stronger runner. Fartleks, Swedish for "speed play", blend different paces to challenge your aerobic and anaerobic fitness. 

What is the workout? As always, we start with a  warm-up to get your heart rate going. Next, we move into a drill to help increase mobility in the hips (don't skip this part!). Then we move into the actual workout - descending ladder fartleks - and end with the cool down. 

Where to do it: This workout can be completed on the treadmill, the track or on a safe road or trail free from busy traffic. 


What to expect: After the warm-up and drill, you will begin this workout giving 80% effort. You should be pushing it but not too much because we'll work our way "down the ladder" so that your last hard minute is ran at 100% effort. 

The Warm-Up: Start by jogging for 10-15 minutes at an easy pace. You should be able to hold a conversation. 

The Drill: Carioca for 15 seconds in each direction (repeat 1x). You've seen these drills in soccer, basketball or maybe even watching a football practice. Carioca will help strengthen your hips, increase agility and increase mobility so it's important that you DON'T skip them. Check out the short video below or watch it here to learn how to do them properly. 

The Workout: You will start the descending ladder fartleks with 5 minutes ran at 80% effort and end with the 1 minute at 100% effort (yes, it get's real). The actual workout (including recovery) will last 23 minutes.


  • Run 5 minutes at 80% effort - This should feel tough - maybe breathing heavy - but you should feel great doing it. Follow with 2 minute recovery/easy pace.

  • Run 4 minutes at 85% effort - This should feel a slight bit more uncomfortable than your first 5 minutes. Follow with 2 minute recovery/easy pace.

  • Run 3 minutes at 90% effort - Did someone say 90? Yup, you should really be feeling the burn. Follow with 2 minute recovery/easy pace.

  • Run 2 minutes at 95% effort - You should be moving significantly faster than your first 5 minutes. Give this your all. Follow with 2 minute recovery/easy pace.

  • Run 1 minute at 100% effort. Do you have anything left in the tank? This should be your fastest and hardest interval.

The Cool down: End the run with a 8-10 minute jog at an easy/recovery pace. If you don't feel the burn after this workout, your intervals weren't hard/fast enough. 

Start over. Just kidding, but you'll know better next time. 

Takia is the co-founder of City Fit Girls. She works full-time at Philadelphia Runner, an independent run retailer in Philadelphia, where she has fitted hundreds of new and experienced runners for shoes. 

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