This is Your Quick Training Tip, a chance to learn how to work smarter in just a few moments so you can get right to your workout.
There’s a lot to love about running. Getting started is easy, you can do it anywhere, there’s plenty of opportunity to be competitive, and all you really need is a pair of running shoes. But perhaps more than any other sport, running is also prone to plateaus. This tendency to get stuck in a performance rut is not because of any flaw in the activity itself, but rather because of how people tend to approach their practice, logging mile after mile on the same route at the same pace for weeks (or months, or years) on end.
If you want to optimize your training, maximize your results, and avoid ruts, your running program needs variety. Fartlek training can help provide it.
Swedish for “speed play,” fartlek is a form of interval training which alternates between periods of intense effort and dialed-down recovery. But unlike a typical interval workout, a fartlek is woven into a longer, continuous run. It’s also less structured. Instead of repeating the same time or distance-based interval—although that’s an option as well—you might pick up your pace sporadically throughout a run, or base your fartlek on landmarks, city blocks, hills, or even music (e.g., going faster during each chorus of a song).
The key is to mix periods of fast running with periods of slower running. In so doing, you’ll reap many of the same benefits as more traditional interval training. Research shows that fartlek workouts can improve muscular and cardiovascular endurance, VO2max, and even running economy—as long as you’re smart about how you integrate the workouts into your training plan.
Your move: Perform fartlek workouts at least once every couple of weeks apart as part of a comprehensive program that also includes other types of training, such as tempo runs, hill repeats, standard interval training, and strength training. You’ll want to run for at least 20 minutes, but the duration and intensity of your fartlek intervals will depend on your fitness level, which will improve rapidly with consistent speed play.
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