Training Tips - Have Fun with Fartlek by our Running Coach, Dave Taylor.
I like fartlek. Based on a Swedish term translated as “speed play” these sessions are a welcome alternative to the very structured interval sessions. But just because they are informal doesn’t mean they can’t be a challenging workout!
Fartlek training is about getting out there and making use of what the terrain or route throws at you. And the emphasis is on play!
Hey, there’s a hill, up you go and give it some welly. If you can, decide where you are going to ease off before you do the climb, which might be just half-way up the hill the first time and aim for a higher spot next week maybe?
Practice your descending technique as you come down, then up you go again!
Run further to that tree, run harder to the next road sign. Complete a hard effort around the block before finishing your usual run.
Run past a staircase on one of your local runs? This time run up and down them a couple of times before continuing your run.
Been running at the same pace for a while? Slow down for 2 minutes, then run faster than you were before for 8 minutes, slow down again for 3 minutes, runner harder for 3 minutes.
If a road stretches ahead with a string of lamp posts, it gives you some handy reference points to use, try running faster to the next one, jog to the one after, then push hard to the next…and so on.
Try a pyramid style session, running 1 minute hard, 1 minute easy, 2 hard, 2 easy, 3 hard, 3 easy, 2 hard, 2 easy, 1 hard, 1 easy (18 minutes total). The shorter the interval, the faster the pace.
Using a treadmill? Increase the incline, run at a slower pace, decrease the incline, run at a faster pace and shorter time. You can play around with the incline, pace, time and recovery.
You can even use a heart rate monitor on your watch, increase and decrease your effort level to bounce between different training zones.
If you train in a park alongside dog walkers, use the size of each dog as an indication to increase your pace, the bigger the dog, the faster you go, the smaller the dog, the slower you go.
It’s as simple as that.
The idea is to keep the session free-flowing and unpredictable. You’re not always tied to your watch or a specific plan - you can make it up as you go along, by throwing harder efforts at yourself but not a specific pace. This helps mix up your training and pushes yourself out of your comfort zone, to achieve those all-important improvements.
If running with a partner or small group, you can make things more interesting by taking it in turns to be the leader and decide what the next effort will be. This also adds a bit of healthy competition into the mix! Let’s face it, there’s nothing like a bit of friendly rivalry to make you work that bit harder.
My favourite fartlek session is Helsby Hill to Frodsham Hill and back again. The former overlooks the route of the iconic Four Villages Half Marathon with which many of you will be familiar. Ok, so it happens to be off road with no level ground in sight but hey, I’m training for trail half marathons so it’s perfect.
I push it up the ascents (more like a shuffle up some of them but by heck, I know I’m getting a serious cardio workout) and work hard on my descending technique. There are a couple of stretches where I’m able to stride out and I actually feel like I’m motoring but I have to be careful to lift my feet up to clear those pesky unseen trip hazards.
There is lots to play with out there, whether you’re running on the road, park, fields or on a treadmill. The idea is to have fun and find ways to make your run more challenging. It’s all in your hands - the world is your oyster.
Fartlek ticks all the boxes in terms of speed, stamina (both physical and mental) and endurance, so why not give it a go!
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The route is renowned for being fast and largely flat – more than 70% of our runners achieve PBs!
Marius Ionescu in 2014
Julie Briscoe in 2013
2019 Marathon Results
|1st||Tom Charles (Trafford AC)||2:29:29|
|2nd||Tristan Windley (Keswick AC)||2:29:36|
|1st||Abbey van Dijk||3:01:51|
|2nd||Johanna Sutcliffe (Halifax Harriers & AC)||3:04:59|
|3rd||Camilla Hermsen (Harpenden Arrows)||3:05:11|
As with all such events, our events would not be possible without the help of a huge team of volunteers.Find out more.