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Fartlek Friday

How do you fartlek?! Fartlek is a Swedish word for “speed play” and blends together your typical training with quick burst of intervals. I’ve found it to be a great help in improving my endurance and increasing my speed. A fartlek session is completely variable and dependent on how you feel during the workout. It varies from typical sprints workout since you continue to jog/run after the sprint interval.

I first learned about fartleks while I was playing ultimate frisbee  in college. We weren’t just a casual group, but a competitive team. This means we had a track workout each week on top of our practice three times a week. Our fartleks were timed on the track – 45 seconds jog, 30 seconds run, 15 seconds sprint. Back then I was miserably out of shape and could only manage a very slow jog/walk before my run and sprint. I’m proud to say that I’ve come far since those days!

Using timed intervals is one great way to fartlek, but not the only option. These days I go to the track and use distance to indicate when I should change my pace. The first 200 meters I continue my typical pace, then for 125 meters I pick it up to a quicker run, with the final 75 meters at a full sprint. I’m really enjoying this method because I don’t need any external device to monitor my laps. It also regulates my intervals, which I greatly appreciate, and keeps me honest with  how many I complete each workout.

But some days that isn’t possible. For instance today, as I neared the track, I realized that there was a track meet going on. I was disappointed and realized that I would have to find another method for my fartleks. So I decided to make it up as I went along. While on my route I picked out a pole on the side of the street and decided to sprint from the first pole to another a few behind it.  It wasn’t possible to measure out the perfect distance, but that wasn’t the reason for my workout. After the quick interval I slowed to a jog, catching my breath until I could speed up again. I continued this method of selecting a starting point (usually a pole or tree) then pushing it until one further ahead. Not my favorite method, but I know it was still beneficial.

When it comes to fartleks (or any speed work) It is always a good idea to warm up for 10 minutes and cool down for another 10 afterward. If you go too quickly out of the gate you’re more likely to get injured, and no one wants that! Want other ways to get intervals into your workout? This post explains some other great Fartlek methods.

Do you incorporate intervals into your weekly runs?

A run to remember

Saturday’s run was honestly one of the best I’ve ever had. Not because of the distance (I only managed 18.5 of the 19 I had planned), or the speed (sloooow), but of the overall way my body and mind meshed. It was a long day, with an early start, but somehow things went much better than I had expected.

I woke up at 4:30am to a miserable Charley horse, clutching my leg in pain and getting angry with myself for being dehydrated. I immediately chugged some water and returned to bed until 6am. In earlier days I would have taken this incident as a bad omen for my run and come up with an excuse to sleep through my run. But not Saturday. At 6am I got out of bed, consumed a lot more water and some challah. By 6:45 I had suited up and was ready to get out for this long run.

And wow was it chilly! Since I live in the foggier area, it was kind enough to be windy and cold. Great, right? So I started on the 3.5 mile journey to the office where a running club was meeting. A mile in I found myself going in the wrong direction and had to take out my phone for directions. Just as the group was preparing to head out at 7:45, I shuffled up. I managed to run 4.25 miles to the start (yay for getting lost!).

We separated into groups and went off. This running club incorporates intervals into the workout and my group does 6 minutes of running, 1 minute of walking. As we began to run towards the hills I felt okay, my mind knew I could do it. Even with the hills I was able to keep up without falling behind. Yes, there was one hill that threatened my being, but I was able to complete it without discouraging myself from continuing on after.

Last week when I ran with this group, I deeply considered dropping out at 8 miles instead of 12. I didn’t, but as the 10 mile mark came up I had to drag myself off to continue. This week I knew that I was doing 14 with the group and that I had no option otherwise. Each time some people fell off to do a shorter distance I waved at them instead of trying to sneak into their group.

It never crossed my mind that stopping was an option. Slowing down was something I considered, but the two other individuals pushing me to 14 miles didn’t seem interested in changing pace so I moved ahead with them. And as we returned to the starting location I was overjoyed to know that I had done it. I conquered the hills, finished (most of) the miles, and was still in a very happy place.

I don’t know how I did it, mentally pushing myself further than I ever have, but I can’t complain. My only hope is that I learn how to harness this power so my future runs can be just as successful. (San Francisco Marathon in less than three weeks, eep!)

More about my dilemma with intervals during the marathon later this week…

How do you mentally fuel yourself during runs? What is your mantra to keep moving?