Fun with Fartleks August 27 2016

“Fartlek” is not just a funny-sounding word; it is also a fun way to improve your running pace!  Here are the benefits of playing with speed work and interval training!

The Swedish term for “speed play”, fartleks are interval training runs that have unstructured, unspecific periods in which you can choose to pick up, or slow down, the pace and/or effort as you feel or see fit.  It is a less-intimidating way to tackle interval training, where the speed times and efforts, recovery periods and distances are set, and you can fall slave to a beeping watch.  

Want to run to a traffic light then jog/walk to the next?  How about running fast between the first two park benches, telephone poles or trees you see, then slowing down until you reach the third?  With fartleks, variety is truly the spice of [running] life.  The hows, whens and wheres are all up to you!

The Benefits of Fartleks and Structured Interval Training

Builds Endurance: Imagine you are a sports car - traveling at a continual speed of 80 mph. You may reach your destination quickly, but you'll run the risk of more wear and tear, and fall low on fuel.  Same things happen when you run your body at the same high speed for a long distance – fatigue increases, energy decreases and your engine may start to sputter. 

But, by interval training, aka shifting gears, before your muscles get tired, you are able to recover quicker and go longer at a consistent pace.  Research shows that intervals also lessen the chance of repeated impact injury because you are using different muscles at different times. 

Builds Speed: By taking jog and/or walk breaks, your body conserves energy and reduces muscle fatigue.  That allows your body to kick into a higher gear when the run, or faster walk, segments restart, and results in faster overall times.  According to Jeff Galloway, his research shows that you can drop an average of 7 minutes on a half-marathon course and 13 minutes on a full marathon course.  Personally for me, after incorporating run/walk, I have seen my pace per mile times drop an average of 1 minute.  

Shakes Up Your Routine: I do not enjoy being bored, so the pace changes keep me engaged and entertained.  It also keeps your body from hitting a ‘training plateau’ which can be brought on by repetition.   Just beware of doing too much too soon.