Fartlek – Get comfortable with being uncomfortable

As I have recently started training for my first half marathon, I have been exploring a variety of cycling and running techniques to improve my performance and endurance. Ok, mostly just trying to make it to the end! The technique that I have found the most helpful in improving my speed and endurance is Fartlek training.

If you’re not familiar with Fartlek, it means “speed play” in Swedish. Fartlek training is defined as periods of fast running intermixed with periods of slower running, to be clear not that slow, you only back off a little. 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 varies.

The first benefit I have found is that the variability helps to refocus the mind on monitoring your time, structure, and reaching small targets based on the time spent during the pushes. The variability for me is a significant benefit as running long tempo, or endurance pace runs can tough since your mind starts to focus on the discomfort and challenge of the run.

The second benefit I have found is since I am not building up lactic acid as quickly I have been able to run for more extended periods. Combine that with the periods of increased speed, and I have been able to reduce my time pace time considerably.

What I like about the structure is that its free form so you can pick a wide range of aspects to decide when you will hit the pushes if your running outside you could use landmarks, if you’re on the treadmill you could use musical cues or the clock.

If you’re a Peloton Bike or Tread owner and are interested in trying Fartlek let me know. One thought I had was leveraging the leaderboard with someone and taking turns deciding when we to do a push.

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