Thursday, April 23, 2009

You Want Me to What-lek?

Okay, admit it. Even though you know you may never be the next Usain Bolt or Lolo Jones, you probably have at some point wished you could improve your 5K, 10K, or half marathon race times. No matter what the race, just running more and faster is only going to take you so far before you plateau.

So, what can you do? Depending on what type of runner you are, try to target a good weekly mileage for yourself. This could be 15, 25, 30, or 40+ miles depending on your level of running experience and the types of races you enjoy the most. Be realistic and set a mileage goal that's obtainable without completely wiping you out. Once you have a good weekly base mileage established, start devoting one of those days to some speed work. No need to freak out. Speed work doesn't mean you have to dawn a unitard jumpsuit that the Olympic track stars wear. Maybe one day, but for now just keep on your regular running shorts. Speed work just means you're going to devote one of your weekly runs to some type of increased speed. Speed is relative. Increase speed for a new runner is going to be very different than speed for an experienced runner.

I know what some of you are thinking...."I can't do speed work, because I don't have access to a track." WRONG! Tracks are great for speed work, in particular for doing intervals or repeats(see Speed Work 101), but you can get in a good speed workout without a track. How? By doing Fartleks. Yes, I spelled that correctly and no you're not going to increase your speed by breaking wind as you run.

What is a fartlek? Fartlek is a Swedish word that means "speed play." Basically, incorporating some short periods of increased speed into a regular run is a fartlek. There are no rules to the length of a fartlek, but they are usually fairly short in distance such as 200-400m. Since you won't be on a track, just pick some landmarks for the beginning and ending of each fartlek. Maybe start your first fartlek when you pass the Smith's house and end it when you get to the gas station on the corner. Once you finish a fartlek, drop back to your normal running pace to recover; then repeat with another fartlek. It's hard, but make sure you drop back to regular pace after each fartlek. These little speed sessions sprinkled throughout your run will help improve your speed as well as your anaerobic threshold. Shannon Sena, a New Jersey corporate fitness manager, marathoner, and coach says, "You need to periodically train at close to your anaerobic threshold in order to advance that threshold and teach the body to run faster before fatiguing."

So, give it a try. I mean, really, how often are you given permission to fartlek? And, you don't even have to say excuse me!

8 comments:

The Happy Runner said...

I love doing fartleks! They are a nice break from repeats when I am always checking my watch.

Running Through Life said...

As always, more good advice. I need to incorporate this into my running to increase my anaerobic threshold. I seem to fall into ruts of just running the same pace. I will try and heed your advice on my next run.

RunnerDude said...

Hey The Happy Runner! I know what you mean. And the cool thing when you add some fartleks to a regular 5-miler then look at your watch your time is so awesome!

RunnerDude said...

Hey Running Through Life! Like The Happy Runner said, farleks really do help spice up your running. I've learned that on rainy or cold days when I'm stuck on the treadmill, if I do fartleks it really really helps break the boredom. I hate running on the treadmill.

Jules said...

LOL, now THAT'S funny...never seen a post on fartleks that was quite that comedic! :)

RunnerDude said...

Hey Jules! Had fun writing that one. Fartleks are so simple to add to a run and they are so effective in increasing your speed.

D0nnaTr0y said...

Fartleks are my favorite way to get in speed work. I don't live near a track, which would be ideal, but really I just love the freedom to say start at this light pole and finish at the one up there. My problem is that I get too into the speed-work, and run too fast, so when I stop I inevitably revert to a walk instead of back to my normal pace. But I figure, at least I got my legs moving faster! Thanks for the post!

RunnerDude said...

Hey D0nna Tr0y! I can relate. It's really hard for me to make myself pull it back to normal pace. I definitely prefer fartleks to the track. I've found that I have to be a little more disciplined doing fartleks though because I don't have the preset lenghts (200, 400, etc) like you do on the track.