Have you ever picked up a copy of Runners World magazine and wondered what the heck all that running jargon means? It usually reads something like this..run half marathon pace for 800 meters, or 10K pace for 400 meter repeats, or 5K pace for 400 meters divide by four and subtract 10 seconds. Huh? If your head is spinning because you can't calculate math in your head, (or particularly well with a calculator either, like me,) or you don't have a track nearby, then Fartlek might be the interval training plan for you.
Fart Whats? Oh, there we go again with the running jargon. Fartlek is a word
"Fartlek, which means "speed play" in Swedish, is a training method that blends continuous training with interval training" is the definition from Wikipedia, the website where I acquire all my street smarts.
Ollie, my dog, said it best.
"I run faster when I chase a squirrel and slow down when I want to sniff a tree. I think you running humans call that Fartlek, I call it life." - Ollie
It is my favorite form of interval running training, because the treadmill, while effective at controlling pace and time, can be mind-numbingly boring. Fartlek gives you the freedom to run according to how you feel, out on the street, with no GPS watch, timers, or pedometers (although a heart-rate monitor is very helpful to determine your effort.) The key to success with Fartlek is that you have to be willing to push yourself outside of your running pace comfort zone for short periods of time.
An example of a Fartlek workout I do may look something like this:
Warm up for 5-10 minutes by running at an easy comfortable pace.
I choose a landmark ahead and sprint at a faster-than-comfortable-I-can't-hold-a-conversation pace until I reach, say the next stop sign, or that white van parked on the corner, or the top of a steep hill.
Once I reach my destination, my heart is pumping and I am out of breath, I'll walk or slow jog until my breathing is mostly recovered.
Then I'll pick up the pace a bit and gradually run faster until I hit my I'm-working-for-it pace and sprint towards the next landmark I chose ahead.
Repeat for a few miles with sprints and recovery.
Cool down by jogging slow or walking at the end.
The great thing about Fartlek is that some days I can run shorter distances and push myself harder on the run intervals, and other days I run longer distances but go a bit slower and further during the speed intervals. By combining both styles, I build both speed and endurance. As I get stronger, my speed intervals will get faster and my recovery intervals will get shorter. Then as a side effect to all this hard work, my overall comfortable running pace will improve, I will naturally run faster without really trying!
Do you Fartlek? Do you talk about it in public? What is your favorite interval workout?
I am not a running coach or expert. I am simply sharing my experiences with Fartlek workouts. Please do your own research and/or talk to your Dr. or fitness professional before trying a new program.
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