Fartlek Exposed

Friday, March 01, 2013

I guess I'm not the only one who had no clue what this was. I've been doing so much research on those glorified pedometers they call fitness devices that I honestly can't remember what led me to discover there was such a thing called Fartlek, much less that it was exactly what I need to improve my running*.
*Disclaimer: I use the term "my running" as a vague reference when referring to my attempts to perambulate at such a speed as to have both feet momentarily and concurrently off the ground. Others' definitions may vary.
I've got a 5K coming up mid-March, like two weekends away, and haven't done a 5K in ages and never felt like I really rocked any of the ones I've done (or it's like child birth and I just don't remember). I'm just not good at running. It's hard. I blame my smoker parents (that's another blog, which I may have already written...).
So, I've been hitting the gym and that treadmill or on the rare nice days, running the beautiful wide streets or the bike paths in Fort Collins trying to get back to where I can at least run a 5K, never mind how fast. (And really, isn't that the goal, to finish it?) And I've made good progress going from hardly being able to get to the next corner to doing multiple laps at the track. I use the interval method made popular with the Couch to 5K program and I know it works because that's how I went from being a non-runner (my definition and yours match) to doing 5Ks and being able to run** the whole way.
** See previous disclaimer

So Fartlek (and I hope it is pronounced FAR-TLEK, don't you?) is a way to get better at running. Developed in Sweden in 1937, it uses intervals but not quite the same way as Couch to 5K. When I did Couch to 5K (and I really did "5K Your Way" which is the slightly harder version), I would walk pretty fast and then run slow enough to endure the time span I was to run. No sprinting and no walking slow. Not that much difference in the speed between the two. Fartlek wants you to go all out on the fast segments and slower than you'd think on the slow segments plus there's more segments, like regular pace and climbing hills. I have not incorporated the hills part yet, but I will! It also stresses that you decide yourself during the workout how often you go faster and when and for how long and you also decide as you're doing it, how long your recovery period is. So it's not for the undisciplined.
For now, what I am doing is:
WARM UP of 2:00-3:00 minutes at a comfortable and increasingly faster clip.
SLOW RUN at my slow jogging pace (4.5mph) for one song (it IS all about music, is it not?) HR gets up to about 155 or 160 and it's usually about half a mile.
SPRINT at a ridiculously fast pace*** (5.5mph) for three quarters of one lap, one lap being 1/4 of a mile.
*** Stop laughing, I mean for ME. My HR gets up above 170 doing this!
RECOVERY WALK at 3.8 mph till my heart rate gets back down to around 140 as that's where I feel like I can do it all again.
RINSE AND REPEAT for about 56 minutes
COOL DOWN walk for about 2:00 at slower and slower paces.
STRETCH like crazy

You're also supposed to run up and down a hill at some point. I am going to eeeeaaassse my way into that part. I figure soon as the weather is better, I'll find some hills but the treadmill already has too many moving parts to also be futzing with incline.
The thing I LOVE about Fartlek is:
It is not boring. Just keeping track of how I feel, how far I've sprinted, what's my HR, and wondering what ever happened to Dire Straights makes the time fly.
It is designed to improve both endurance and speed, both of which I need!
I can tell it's working! Today was the second time I did it and it was already easier.
I can keep adjusting this workout until the day I die. I plan on increasing my time sprinting or my time jogging or my speeds at both of those. It's so flexible.
There's T-shirts!

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