How hard do you train?  Are you looking for the next step up?  Have you been using the same methods for a while and need to find a way of generating progress?

Well I like to think I train pretty hard and I am definitely still searching for ways to make progress.  I have used tempo and interval sessions regularly and have enjoyed the challenge.  If I am honest the uniformity of the sessions is something that has appealed to me.  A set number of reps, rest periods, duration of reps, distances for tempo have all appealed because I am quite into the stats.  I like comparing how I perform across a number of reps, and I always feel motivated to challenge my speed endurance with a 10k tempo run.  Maybe for those reasons I haven’t done much Fartlek.  But that is changing!

If you are new to Fartlek it means speed play.  The session is exactly that.  You constantly vary your speed throughout the session, running different distances, different speeds, taking on different surfaces and inclines.  You don’t need to think too much about it, you can make it up as you go on.  I did a session last week that started with a fast 3K section, after which I through in a 1K rep, a 400m rep, a few 200m’s and a 120m blast to finish.  It challenges different energy systems, potentially generating both aerobic and anaerobic adaptations.  No matter what your goals – it is worth considering.  This type of training can certainly help you burn fat and develop your lactate threshold so you can run faster for longer.

The session shown below was a tough 18 minute treadmill workout, after a thorough warm up and followed by a slow 10 minute cool down and stretch.  It shows you the constant changes in pace with reasonably short recoveries.  Some of the speed was not sustainable for long periods, but interspersed with short periods of rest, you can really ramp up the intensity to challenge yourself.  Difficult sessions are a must if you want to get fitter.

Tips for success in your Fartlek:

  • It can be used for relatively short sessions like the one above, or for runs lasting over an hour.
  • The speed you run at should be dictated by duration of that particular section of faster running.  You will obviously run faster for 100m than for 1K.
  • Rest and recovery is important but remember that the overall intensity of the session should be high (relative to your fitness level).  If you blast 100m you may need a decent recovery.  A tip for the recovery is it should be long enough for you be rested to work hard in the next rep – but if you lay off the gas for very prolonged periods the effectiveness of the session may start to dwindle.  Like anything this will get easier with experience and starting at an achievable level and building gradually is probably the way to go.
  • It can be done on the treadmill, but is probably best done outdoors – if you are outside feel free to throw in some hill sprints.
  • Be sure to do a thorough warm up to prep you for the rigors of the faster sections and spend some time cooling down properly.  If you really push yourself there is likely to be a significant lactic acid build up.  A section of slow jogging (e.g. 10 minutes) to bring things to close and some stretching will help kick start the recovery.

I am confident that you will not only enjoy the variety that this type of training brings, but also find a way of pushing your limits to take things to the next level.  I would love to hear how you get on with a message on my Twitter feed.

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