From Zero to Fartlek

Welcome to the holiday season when everyone wants to lose 10 pounds, eat their faces off, join a gym, live at the open bar, and party like it’s 1999.

In the running world, this means a whole lotta Newbies. For me it means a whole lotta questions.

No worries, Newbies. I got you.

Some people will tell you to run as far as you can every day and you’ll build up to whatever distance you want to run. Eh. Not so much.

You’ll likely feel like this if you just go out and run as far as you can until you can’t anymore. That’s no fun.

When you start a running program, you’re better off working at speed and strength first and distance second.

What’s that you say? Isn’t it all about getting to that golden 26.2?

26.2 or bust?

You gotta get stronger before you can go longer. Guess what makes you stronger? Fartleks. No, it’s not a dirty word. Yes, it does make everyone giggle when someone says it.

But, seriously, it gets the job done.

Speed play.

…and you should too!

Running fast for short periods of time at your maximum speed will make you stronger. It will make your body work more efficiently to get oxygen to your muscles. It will help make those longer runs easier.

It doesn’t have to be all structured or anything. You don’t need a fancy Garmin to track your distance and pace, any distance at your max pace will do.

So. True.

In the winter, I do a lot of these types of workouts on the treadmill because I’m the girl that slips and falls all the freaking time. Add ice to the mix and I’m a gonner for sure.

So, yeah, get a long run in once a week and an easy one, too. But make the majority of your first two months of running shorter bursts. Increase the distance and time of the bursts, add a few more in every other week, and do some on hills. These drills will make you a stronger runner faster than just plodding through mile after mile day after day.

Oh my god, does that sound boring. Running is fun, I swear!

Happy runner, even in the beastly heat of a NYC Summer. It’s weird how I long for those days.

And if you haven’t experience that “runner’s high” yet, don’t worry. I’ve been “back” to running for about three weeks now and I haven’t had one run that was easy and felt good, either. It takes time.

Now go out and run/fartlek!

I’m A Newbie: Speed Work

Picture this: you’ve decided to start running or train for a longer distance than you’ve ever run before. Hooray for you! You download a schedule from a respected running website and set off on your way to reaching new heights in your running career.

But wait, what’s this? Your schedule doesn’t have just have XXX number of miles for each day. No, no, no. There are things in meters, multiples and foreign languages. What the what? This is not what you signed up for!

Deep breaths. Let’s break it down shall we?

It’s all just speed work. Hills, Fartleks, Repeats, Negative Splits, Race Pace Miles, Yasso 800s and everything else is all just speed work. Each of these exercises has the same goal: to improve your lactic threshold, VO2 max and anaerobic capacity to make running longer, slower miles easier on your body. That’ all. If you run faster and harder in workouts, the longer miles will seem like a piece of cake…well, tough, sweaty cake anyway.

Depending on how many days a week you are running, at least half of your workouts will be of this variety, so let’s break it down.

Speed work decoded:

Hills-Find a hill. Run up it as hard as you can, jog back down. Do it again. Lots of times.

Fartlek-“Speed play” in German, this workout is so great if you don’t have a track or a measured distance. Run hard for a short period of time, recover, rinse, repeat.

Repeats-Usually done at mile or two mile intervals, they will look like this on paper: “4 x 1600m” or some such thing (1600 meters = 1 mile). Pick a distance, run as hard as you can, jog to cool down. Do it again and try to keep the same pace. That’s it.

Race Pace Miles-Any workout will call for things to be done at race pace. Figure out what time you’re going for, divide it by how many miles the race is and you’ll have your race pace. Use it as a barometer for your race pace miles. Boom.

Negative Splits-Each mile is faster than the one previous. Simple as pie, right? Cool.

Yasso 800s-Created by the famous Bart Yasso, run 800 meters (1/2 mile) with jogging rest in between. Try to run each of them at the same pace and if you can do 10 before the marathon and voila, you’ll have your goal race pace.

There you go. Speed work, BAM! Don’t get stressed out about distance, but make sure you get your speed work in! It will make the difference between you running an awesome race and you barely finishing a race. The workouts are shorter (hooray!), more intense and will kick your ass.

You’ll love it.

Now go out and run.