Tuesday, April 17, 2012

To Fartlek or Not to Fartlek | Is that Really a Question?

I remember the first time I tried a Fartlek workout.  January 2011.  It was days after a 5K race.  I placed Female 3rd Overall - 28:08.  I was actually pretty excited with that time.  I had knocked off a few minutes.  My first 5K was over 32 minutes and that was 4 months prior.

I decided to try to improve my 5K times.  Via FB and Twitter, some experienced racers told me about Fartlek's.  I had done enough track work in my Youth to know the value of speed work, but quite honestly, I didn't want to go to a track - I am a road racer, not a track racer.  

I began incorporating Fartlek's into my weekly training.  As a person who was self-coached and EASILY bored and distracted during runs, I needed something that kept my attention.

So, what is a Fartlek?   According to the American Council on Exercise, Fartlek is a Swedish word that means "speed play".  During a training run, they are sudden bursts of sprint for specific distances/times, repeated. 
Photo Credit Jupiterimages/Brand X Pictures/Getty Images
Sound hard?  It can be, but you know what?  It is a BLAST! 

In 2011 I kept my Fartlek training up throughout the entire year.  I went down to a 24 5K in less than 11 months.  That's 8 minutes off my time.  With the one 5K in October, every 5K race I ran - I PR'd.  It became a joke with my kids - "there goes mom with another PR". 

I believe in track work (I have recently added it to my training) but I will continue to work on Fartlek's on the road, on a weekly basis.  

For those who do not know what a Fartlek is or find going to a track too intimidating or just not your thing - try Fartlek's.  Many elite (including our beloved Kenyan's) use Fartlek's (most have never been ON a track, interesting huh?)

I believe you should train where you race.  That's my personal philosphy.  My track days are long behind me.  I am a road and trail racer.  By doing Fartlek's during your weekly training, you run the terrain you race in.  On track, it's always level.  As we know, there are no completely flat road races.  I want to train for the terrain I am running in.  That's a personal choice and it is how I coach my clients. 

Use Fartlek's as part of your training, in addition to your track speed work or to just change it up your training.  Either way, Fartlek's can and will be a great asset to your training.   

Here is a great link about Fartlek's - let me know what you think.  If you have used Fartlek's in your training, please feel free to share your experiences. 

(c) C. Ragsdale 2011-12
Run F.A.B.,

Charlene L. Ragsdale - Las Vegas, NV
Running Coach, Certified Sports Nutritionist & Public Speaker
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