The word fartlek is Swedish and means speed play. That sounds fun! And these runs or workouts are fun. That’s the point. You’re spending time at race or faster than race pace without the suffering of standard speed workouts. Team ECRP loves having these sessions on their training calendar and here’s why you will, too.
Fartlek workouts have tons of benefits. They will help you get faster and improve endurance capacity while getting better at closing the finish of a race. You’ll also increase your mental toughness and ability to feel your paces. Heck, it’s even defined as “a system of training for distance runners in which the terrain and pace are continually varied to eliminate boredom and enhance psychological aspects of conditioning.” So what’s the big deal and how do all of those things happen?
Fartlek work is different from a typical steady state long run because, as mentioned above, it includes short sections of faster running. It’s also different from standard interval work because you continue to run while you’re resting or recovering. This unstructured-ness means there’s no end to the fun you can have. These mixed up ons and offs also keep your heart rate higher for the duration of the workout and that means improved fitness.
Option one for building a workout is to use landmarks. Pick a road with light posts and pick it up for two on, two off. Change the pattern throughout the session or each time you run that route to continue challenging both your body and mind. A second option is to run faster when you feel like it and slower when you don’t. Hills can also provide a good place for increasing and decreasing effort at irregular intervals. A hilly road with regular light posts is a fartlek paradise.
Fartlek workouts are also useful at any time during a training cycle. Since they’re so adjustable the intensity is easy to change. The variability means you can ramp up speeds while decreasing jog time for race prep but reverse that pattern for maintenance or recovery. To work on closing speed throw in some faster pick ups towards the end of your session. When you’re in a rut or want to have some fun on a group run, take off for a low pressure, flexible fartlek.
Speed work is an important part of a solid training plan. It helps you build strength, cardiovascular capacity and increases both speed and turnover. So, of course, there’s no better place to do it than on the track, right? Not always. Here’s how off-track speed work can make all the difference.
But wait, isn’t that what tracks are for? Yes, the track is a wonderful place to run fast. Just don’t do it too often unless you’re going to race there. The constant left turns can create extra torque on your inside leg, the surface might not be the same as what you’ll find on race day and it can be boring. By choosing off-track speed work instead, you’ll reap some major physical and mental benefits.
Running hard away from the track’s smooth, steady surface makes muscles work on both sides of your body. You learn to balance in all directions and deal with the variety a road or trail presents while strengthening your hips, ankles, core and legs. Conquering race-like conditions during training goes a long way to helping you succeed after toeing the line.
To get started with off-track speed work find a place where it’s safe to run fast. Ideally that will be a road, paved trail, park or sidewalk where you aren’t battling distractions from traffic or other outdoor recreation activities. Hills are a great spot for challenging speed workouts and can be lots of fun. Mark a one/two/three mile loop around your neighborhood to use as benchmarks for progress. When you can cover the same distance faster with less effort, you’ll know your fitness is improving.
Remember, the track is always there when you’re in a jam. If you don’t have somewhere safe to go instead or are working with a group, it can be the perfect spot. But to get the most out of those fast sessions, opt for off-track speed work as often as possible.
A staple of any advanced training plan and a must do on any scholastic track or cross country team, strides are a wonderful tool. Running strides has many benefits and missing out on them might leave speed on the table. The good news is that running strides is both fun and good for you. Here’s how to make the most every time you run them.
What are strides?
Strides are a short pick-up designed to focus on form. Each one lasts for 15 to 30 seconds with about 1:40 recovery and reaches close to mile pace on flat ground. Note that a stride is not a sprint!
Why run strides?
Running strides will improve your form. It should be exaggerated and focused on during each pick-up with good posture and a relaxed body being paramount. Strides also help develop muscle memory and encourage higher cadence which can mean increased speeds over the long haul. These fast bursts at the end of a workout remind your legs that they have the ability to go fast when they’re a little tired. That not only builds confidence but can help your become more fit. Spending little bits of time at faster paces adds up to make a once seemingly way too fast race pace closer every time you hit it.
When should I run strides?
Running strides can mix up the middle of a longer run or close out an easy one. Tossing some in the middle of a session is a great way to build fitness while having fun. Try not to leave them for the very end of a workout or you might end up skipping them. Additional times for strides include warming up for a race or before a tough workout. Since they prepare your body to run fast and work hard using them is a must.
Meant to improve form, have some fun running fast and build fitness running strides is an invaluable and simple tool for everyone. If you’re not comfortable adding strides to your next easy run, reach out to a qualified coach for help.
Leaving your GPS watch at home can be scary. Luckily learning to let go of stats and numbers can be beneficial for lots of reasons. Want proof? Here’s why professional runner Molly Seidel started hiding her stats. Easier than hiding your run data is not taking them it all. Also known as running naked, here are three reasons to take a deep breath and start running with a bare wrist.
Relaxing. Leaving the watch at home can be absolutely freeing. No beeps, no splits, no pressure. Lots of runners are very connected to their tech and discovering that you can rack up miles without it might come as shock. It is possible, however, and people did this for hundreds of years. Running sans GPS watch is perfect for recovery runs after a tough workout or race. It’s also useful for runners in a rut or coming off a big training cycle. Put the joy in and take the splits out to get back to the core of running: FUN!
See the scenes. Run the same routes frequently? Odds are you’re looking at your wrist every time that pesky watch beeps to check on your split. Since those splits occur at roughly the same spot every time you travel the same route you’re probably too busy looking to notice what’s going on around you. Abandon the GPS watch at home and open your eyes to scenery you might have been missing.
Run by feel. Listening to your body is incredibly important. Easy runs are important and should actually be easy while hard ones should be difficult. Running naked is a good way to learn how each type feels. It can open your eyes to potential a prescribed pace was preventing you from seeing. If you think a 7:00 mile is supposed to be hard and see it on your watch, you might think you’re working harder than you actually are. Logging some faster miles without the pressure of a watch can lead to big gains and faster races.
Still need data? Try putting tape over the face of your watch or sticking it in a pocket. While you won’t see it, stats will still record for your viewing pleasure post run.