Fartlek...for those Runner's World subscribers or those that may have had a structured running plan developed for you, you may be familiar with this term. For the rest of us....it describes a potentially embarrasing situation. I'll leave the obvious joking to the more talented writers out there, and focus on dropping some running knowledge today.
Fartlek....a great Swedish word for Speed Play...which to me, embraces a small component of what we might be missing in our running regimes when things get a little too serious. We at Play fully embrace the spirit and resulting feeling of the fartlek.
Although defining "how to do" the fartlek workout flies in the face of what it stands for, its worth at least describing how to embrace the fun. After an initial warm-up period of no set duration, you Play with speed by running at faster efforts for undefined short periods of time with a random goal in mind (to that tree, to the hobo urinating on that dumpster) followed by easy-effort running to recover. The inherent variable intensity and continuous nature of the exercise places stress on both the aerobic and anaerobic systems. You'd be amazed how "easy" it seems to run hard to the corner when compared to the same distance around the oval.
Fartlek's are especially fun in a group setting as you can alternate the leader and mix up the pace and time. Its like the workout gift that keeps on giving....you reap the mental benefits of being pushed by your buddies through an unpredictable workout, and the physical benefits of running at faster than normal paces. The ulimate goal of the Speed Play is to keep it free-flowing so you’re untethered to your pace, your workout plan, your time goals....and to run at harder efforts but not a specific pace.
It provides a nice alternative to the tempo or interval runs which inhabit a typical training plan. I am not sure I've ever completed a fartlek training session feeling anything but elation. Smiles and laughter are common side effects of a fartlek running session with the team. So grab your best running mate(s), leave the Garmin at home and have fun whilst shaving time off your personal best.
So stop by the store, twist my arm and I'd be more than happy to join you on your first fartlek experience.
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