Oops, I Fartleked! – Part 1: The Journey Begins


This will be an ongoing topic here on the Goal Oriented Training blog.  Here is the gist of what “fartlek” means from the Wikipedia page:

Fartlek, which means “speed play” in Swedish, is a training method that blends continuous training with interval training.  The variable intensity and continuous nature of the exercise places stress on both the aerobic and anaerobic systems. It differs from traditional interval training in that it is unstructured; intensity and/or speed can be varied whenever the athlete wishes.  Most fartlek sessions last a minimum of 45 minutes and can vary from aerobic walking to anaerobic sprinting. Fartlek training is generally associated with running, but can include almost any kind of exercise.

  • My runs up to this point are mostly continuous training – not interval training.  Therein lies the problem with my training.  Or one of the problems.  I’m sure there are many that I will discover over time.  But one of the things I have the most trouble with is if I have to vary my pace at all (not counting the final “surge” to finish up a time trial run) I’m pretty much SHOT for the rest of the run.  I can’t recover my breath even if I start out just a tad too fast.  It might be partly psychological but it is something that affects any run where I might have to do a “surge” of speed that I wasn’t planning on.  An example would be if I’m jogging through a crosswalk and a car is barreling down the road – seemingly intent on nailing me in mid-stride – I might speed up enough to get through the crosswalk so that I don’t have to slow down to a walk. 

    • Slowing down to a walk is actually harder on me than speeding up and then slowing back down – strange, but true.  It’s almost like the walk – no matter how short – “fools” my heart and lungs into thinking that the demands on them are finished.

  •    In the Wikipedia description it states that most farlek sessions last a minimum of 45 minutes…yeah, right.  I’m still trying to get to the point where a few miles feels “comfortable” – and when that happens maybe 45 minutes of fartlek training will be more doable.  Until then I’ll just keep working on it. 

Back in 2000, I did a few fartlek sessions but never really put much training time in on them.  I prefered a more numbers-oriented approach back then.  Now I’m willing to take my time and see where the fartlek training takes me.  I don’t plan on all my runs being fartlek-based.  But I will be utilizing this training system more than half the time for my runs.  That’s my goal. 

I did my first fartlek session of 2012 on 6-3-12. 

1 mile in 9 minutes and 25 seconds.  Ran on the street and trail near my house.  Wore my “racing shoes” – a very lightweight pair of New Balance.  Bodyweight was 216.4lbs after the run.  Temperature was 75 degrees and the humidity was very high.  Here are some general notes from this first fartlek session:

  • Varied my pace significantly at least a half dozen times during the run.

  • Pace varied from a 12-minute-mile to a 7-minute-mile.  The faster pace was always very short distance.  Immediately followed by a slow down to about 12-minute-mile pace until my heart recovered a bit.  Then I’d switch it up again with something a little different than what I just did. 

  • Got up on the balls of my feet a few times in about a 90% effort sprint for up to 10 steps.  Again, this is about baby steps right now.  Even this little amount of sprinting or significant change of pace was enough to throw my heart into a panic.  But I got through it.  And afterwards I felt pretty good about myself.

  • Breathing was ragged at the finish. 

  • Walked .3 miles to cooldown – but that wasn’t counted in the fartlek part of the workout. 

  • Overall, I’d say running that 9 minute and 25 second mile felt harder than the 8 minute and 44 second mile I did on the track the other day.  I had to fight the urge to stop running by the 1/2 mile mark.  Seriously.  That’s kind of sad.  But I know that what I said before about me not being able to recover my breath is a big weakness that I need to shore up.  Now or never.  Now sounds like more of a challenge than never.


About bencrush

42-year old multiple USAWA record holder who enjoys grip strength training, bending steel, and sharing my knowledge of training in both areas.
This entry was posted in Fartlek, Fitness Blog, Running/Jogging and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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