Sunday, March 27, 2011

The Anytime Anywhere Speed Workout

This completed the second week working with my intermediate running group. Most of the participants are running 3-5 miles and they're ready for the next level. The 12-week program introduces the runners to a variety of "quality workouts" such as warm-up drills, fartleks, hills, and tempo runs. We meet twice a week and begin each workout with a 10-exercise core workout followed by a warm-up and some running drills, followed by the featured "quality workout" for the week. This week we did landmark and timed fartleks.

After Friday night's workout, I went home to feast on a crock pot of beanie weenies (turkey franks) that I fixed earlier in the day. I must have been really hungry, cause I ate two large bowls with two hunks of cornbread. The dining experience gave a whole new meaning to the term "fartlek." It had its benefits though, because for some reason I found myself enjoying the solitude of the family room later that evening. Sitting in front of the wide screen with the food network blaring, I soon drifted off to lala land where I dreamed that Rachael Ray had discovered my Rice-n-Bean Burrito recipe and was coming to the studio for a visit. This was one of those dreams so realistic that when you wake up you're not sure if it really happened or not. Of course the fact that Rachael Ray was coming to visit me should have been the immediate clue that it was just a dream, but one can be delusional if he wants, just for a little while, right?

Back to quality workouts and fartleks. Fartlek is a Swedish word for speed-play. Basically a fartlek is an informal interval thrown into a regular run. Sounds complicated, but all you do is speed up for a certain amount of time or distance during a regular run. They can be short (200-400m). They can be long (800m or 1/2mile). You can throw them in at the beginning, middle, or throughout. You can use landmarks to determine when you start and end the fartlek (i.e. run to the next block, or the next mailbox) or you can time them (run easy for 5 minutes and run fast for 1 minute). You're in control.

The other great thing about fartleks is that you don't need a track or a hill. No special location needed. The street right in front of your house will do. It's the perfect anytime, anywhere speed workout.

So why fartlek? Adding bursts of speed during a run is a great way to help increase your overall pace and endurance. It helps to increase your VO2Max (your body's ability to utilize oxygen at the muscle layer to make energy) and push out your lactate threshold (the point when you feel that burn in your legs). Also, if you've stagnated in your running and just can't seem to go faster or further, adding a weekly fartlek will soon have you out of that rut. Another cool outcome to a run with fartleks is looking at your time after you finish. You'll be amazed at how fast you just ran your usual 5-miler.

So, give it a try. Add some fartleks to one of your weekly runs. Who knows, you may even dream about Rachael Ray afterwards, or maybe that has to be in combination with a pot of beanie weenies.


Annette@(running)In the Right Direction said...

Thanks for the advice...comes at a good time. Just finished my first duathlon and was disappointed with run times. Annoyed also because my garmin is not downloading so that I can check exact times. Any suggestions on watches??

gene @boutdrz said...

i love fartleks, AND beanie weenies. match made in heaven. wait, what?
anyway, honestly the fartlek is a great way to get in some good, quick training. great side benefits in short time. you can work pace, turnover, breathing, focus on form, all kindsa stuff. pretty clever, them Swedes!

Craigers said...

I've just been getting ready to integrate interval training into my workouts. I think I will try fartleks if for no other reason than I like the word "fartlek". It's also a tribute to my Scandinavian heritage (in case I have to come up with a more grown up reason for saying the work "fartlek")

Lucas R. Tucker said...

I think fartleks make a great into to speedwork for those who have not yet had structured speedwork.

robin k said...

Great timing for MUCH needed advice. Just finished my very first half marathon and even though I absolutley loved every minute of the run, there were way too many minutes in the run. I will start doing fartleks today and hopefully will get a better time in the next run!!!
By the way, whats your advice for the amount of time in between races (half marathons)? How long should a rest period be, if one is even needed?