Excuse Me While I Fartlek

WAHHH??? did she just say what  I thought she said? yes…if you ever run by someone and they’re like “oh I’m just out fartleking today!” that doesn’t mean that you need to stay up wind of them the whole time…well maybe, but fartlek isn’t what you think it is…”fartlek” oh that’s a funny word now huh? Fartlek is a swedish word for speed play. Many great athletes (Olympians through even us normal runners) do them as speed training and you can incorporate some in your repertoire to jazz up a “boring” track night or spruce up a neighborhood run. By incorporating these quick bursts of speed you can help increase your leg turn over & build speed. Even doing it once a week can help and you don’t have to do it just at the track!

Here are 2 different ways you can incorporate this funny little word into your weekly runs: 1) in your neighborhood: run slow for about 5-10 steps then gradually increase your pace for about 20-50 steps then slow back down. As you get more comfortable bump up the amount of faster steps you take to maybe even doing a block at that speed. Make sure to walk or jog slower between each fast session, this allows your body to recover. 2) another for neighborhood or even track. pick a landmark to run towards. you see that cute guy up ahead, run a little faster towards him, smile then slow down as you get to him, or you can run to a telephone pole then slow down. (personally i like the cute guy idea) make sure to vary the length of the landmark you choose to jazz up the fartlek. You can continue this for 5-10 minutes and then just finish easy. Oh and remember your form 🙂 -that is a whole other post…

Once you build up your stamina and base mileage you can start incorporating fartleks in longer runs, many call these workouts “tempo” runs.  Instead of running for a short distance you extend the faster segment to a few miles. So say we wanted to do a 5 mile run: we’d start with a warm up mile, about 20-30 seconds slower than your long run pace, then do 3 miles 15-20 seconds faster than your long run pace and finish with an easy mile.

When i say “speed up” I literally mean it but not at a pace that you’re all out sprinting for your life,( unless you are sprinting for your life from an angry dog or something) you want about 70-80% of your fastest effort. And yes, you will notice it may slow down the rest of your pace for the evening but this is fine. Speed work helps you use your fast twitch muscle that can help with a “kick” come race day. Those fast twitch muscles are what help you get a quicker leg turn over.

A good way to increase your pace for these ins & outs is either of 2 ways: 1) lengthen your stride, basically widening or over-exaggerating your leg movement as if you’re jumping over a hole or ditch, dog or cat that got in your way. 2) shorten your steps, I know this sounds counter intuitive but it is probably the more readily used variation, I use this b/c my hipflexors are tight & I can’t open up my stride as much. Shortening your steps allows you to have a quicker rate in which you move your feet, aka quicker turn over.

Typically I would add these fartlek runs or tempo days only for 1 workout during your week, for true beginners I’d do this once every 2wks with the opposite week being speed work.  If you are an extreme beginner like just starting to go from walking or walk/running to running I’d suggest just sticking to fartlek runs or ins & outs.  What is an in/out?  Let’s make this easy, say it’s a “speed/tempo” day: if you are a true beginner and you want to try a bit of speed work, on a track night, you’re running for 10minutes.  I’d run a very easy pace for 5 minutes in which you can easily sing or have a conversation with someone after that I’d do 1 lap of a track as “speed” if you can quicken your pace (70-80% effort where you feel like you are pushing yourself but not to your maximum capacity) on the straight part of the track and slow down on the curved parts, do this until you’ve done 1 full lap. If you can’t make the full straight away then just aim for half and then another half on the other side of the track. Don’t feel defeated if you can’t do a whole straight away, we all have to start somewhere.  When I started back to running I couldn’t even make it more than a half mile from my apartment, with time comes endurance with endurance comes speed. You only work on one thing at a time. If you try to do both you are only hurting yourself in the end and you’ll be back at the beginning because you most likely injured your knee or foot. 

Speaking of: common injuries/pains for first time runners as you are beginning to increase your mileage- feet/ankles (this may also be due to improper footwear-that’ll be another post), knees-your knees aren’t used to the pounding on the ground they’ll get used to it over time & actually runners usually have stronger knees than those that don’t run: Runner’s World did a brief editorial on it  *I’ll find the real article and put it in here at some point* , you may have hip/back pain.   Most of these pains are just from your body not being used that way in a while and it’s kind of like the growing pains you get as a kid, you eventually grow out of them as you increase your stamina..but if they continue it could be an injury-listen to your body and as a beginner it’s good to keep a running journal so you can document everything you’re doing.

Happy Running!
Coach Gwynne

“Every day gives you an opportunity to improve. With every run, you try to be better. Not just a better runner, but a better person.”-John ‘the penguin’ Bingham, The Courage to Start


August 30, 2011. Training Tips.

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