Welcome to the latest edition of 'workout Wednesday' when each week I share a new running or strength training for runners workout. This week we are talking about Fartleks! Fart, what? Yes, Fartleks are a real thing and I giggle like a 12-year-old girl when I talk about them. Grow up, Lea. This is serious stuff!
WHAT'S A FARTLEK?
Fartleks are actually fun. I promise. They are repeated bouts of unstructured speed work. Sometimes we need to throw our GPS watches away and run by feel. (OK, don't do that, those suckers are expensive. Just put it in a drawer for this workout.)
The word Fartlek is Swedish for 'speed play' and it's exactly what it sounds like. We run fast for short bouts, then we recover and do it again. It's Play. Like as kids, when we chased each other through the neighborhood streets before we were worried about mile splits or personal records. It's kind of like when your dog runs to chase a squirrel but then stops to smell (or pee in) the roses. (Yes, I think I'm funny.) We can learn a lot from those kids and animals.
Instead of structured timed intervals for specific paces and distances, you run by what feels hard for you at the time. It's low pressure, low stress, go as you please speed training, perfect for the beginner and experienced runner alike. It's personally my favorite way to do speed work.
Fartleks helps us experiment with paces and test our limits. Since we aren't under any mandate to run a specific pace or distance, the pressure is off to perform and we can actually learn to enjoy speed work.
THE FARTLEK WORKOUT
Fartleks are best done outdoors. To start your workout, I always recommend a dynamic warmup before you hit the road. Run for about a mile at an easy-effort pace. You shouldn't be breathing heavily during the first mile, take it easy.
Once you are ready to get started with your first increase in speed, choose a landmark that is visible in the distance, like a telephone pole, a truck parked on the street, a stop sign or a park bench. Pick up the pace and run at a hard effort (for you) until you reach your chosen destination.
Once you get there, huffing and puffing, jog slowly or start walking until your breath is mostly recovered. This is the part where it's important to be realistic and honest with yourself. You don't want to walk/jog longer than necessary during your recovery period When your breath is almost back to normal (not breathing heavily) it's time to go for another round. Pick a new goal in the distance and run hard for it.
Repeat for a couple miles or until you reach your personal limit. Make note of your landmarks and next time you run this workout, you could attempt to run a little longer at your hard-effort speed. If you want. There are no rules. Run fast, recover, repeat. The end.
These types of workouts are effective when performed just once or twice a week. Always take a rest day or an easy-effort running day after a hard workout to allow your body to recover. We get stronger and faster during the rest period after the workout, not during the workout itself. If you don't allow your body the proper time to recover you won't see the full benefit of your hard work.
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