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Fartlek Running Part 2

In our first article dealing with some speed-play on our runs, we discussed sessions that were more free and used the terrain and route to determine the changes in pace and effort. This time we will use our wearable technology, what we used to call our watch, to determine the length, intensity and recovery of the session.

Here we will discuss pyramids and ladders…

 Session Three: The Pyramid

To begin with, the warm up – Now this should be more than just a light jog to loosen up the muscles. You want to end your warm up period at optimum operating temperature. You need to be ready to lift the pace comfortably when you are done. So start nice and easy but gradually increase the effort as your body warms up. Rule of thumb would be starting at around 65-70% of maximum HR and end the warm up period at around 85%. 10-15 minutes will be sufficient because we don’t want to be fatigued before we start the main set of our session.  

For this session we are going to run 2:00; 4:00; 6:00; 4:00; 2:00 with 2:00 recovery in between. Obviously there are numerous combinations for this. This particular session is a good length for targeting an 8-12km race effort. 

We want to start the first 2:00 interval at a pace that feels fast but manageable and one that is about 80% of what we are capable of for 2:00. So you should be holding back slightly. Then ease up and run the 2:00 recovery at an easier effort that should result in your HR dropping to around 70% of your maximum HR but not below. 

The 4:00 interval should be done at the same pace as your 2:00 interval so this should result in a higher effort because… we are sustaining it for twice as long. Follow that with another 2:00 recovery period and you should find that the same perceived easier effort will result in a slightly higher HR than the first recovery period as the fatigue builds. 

The 6:00 effort is tackled at the same pace as the previous two and this should feel like you are running at your 8-10km race pace. So we are holding the same pace as we go up the pyramid. 

Then… and now the fun starts… as the intervals become shorter again we want to try to lift our pace. So the second 4:00 interval should be faster than the previous three intervals and the final 2:00 interval should be a good strong race-finishing effort. 

The route for this kind of session should be relatively flat and can even be done on a track. To add another component to this, perform it over a more undulating route that will force you to push your pace on the downhills when they coincide with a harder period. You will have to focus on your form and keep your momentum going forward so that you don’t pound down the hill, braking. 

Always have a decent warm down period after running at intensities like this. Again 10-15:00 and this should be done opposite to the warm up. Gradually go easier and easier and you can even end off with a few meters of walking. 

Session Four: The upside-down Pyramid

As the name suggests, this fartlek session is the opposite to the previous one and as a result, the focus and demands are slightly different 

The warm up and cool down periods should be done as they were for the pyramid but this time we are running as follows: 6:00; 4:00; 2:00; 4:00; 6:00 with a 2:00 floating recovery in between. 

This way around we want to start off the first 6:00 interval at more or less your 10km race pace or perceived effort. If you have a good foundation of aerobic fitness, which you should have before you begin more intense training, this should result in a heart rate around 85% of your maximum but you should only reach this HR after approximately 1:00 to allow for ‘heart rate lag’. This means we have to allow our HR to catch up with our perceived effort. 

Ease up for the floating recovery but you want to keep running smoothly but easily with good form. Don’t go easier than an effort that results in a HR lower than 70% of maximum. 

As the intervals get shorter we want to accelerate. So a slightly faster pace for the 4:00 than you held in the 6:00 and then slightly faster again in the 2:00. The aim is to reach more or less your 5km race pace in the 2:00 interval. 

Then, as the intervals start getting longer again, you want to maintain the pace that you achieved in the 2:00 interval period. So your second 4:00 period should be faster than the first one and likewise for the second 6:00. 

As for the pyramid, the route should be flat to undulating and can also be done on a track or field.

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Session Five: The Ladder

This session looks easy on paper but if you do it correctly it is a great race simulation workout. 

We are warming up and cooling down as for previous sessions but for the longer distance racers, you could tack this on to an hour of easy running so that you can work on finishing strongly after a long race. 

You can decrease the length of the intervals in whatever size increments you like and I suggest varying it throughout your training to keep the mind stimulated and the body guessing. 

This time we will keep it simple and do: 8:00; 6:00; 4:00 and 2:00 intervals with a 3:00 floating recovery in between. Again, the recovery period is not walking or jogging slowly but a nice smooth, constant but comfortable recovery pace that allows your HR to drop to between 70-75% of your maximum HR. 

As we have been aiming the sessions we have covered at a 10-15km race, we will continue and start the 8:00 interval at your perceived 10km race pace. Run on feel but refer to your HR monitor in the second half and make a note of what HR you are maintaining. 

The 6:00 interval should be slightly harder than the 8:00 and you will want to aim at a HR about 2-3bpm higher than the 1st interval. Keep in mind the HR lag and you should look at hitting the desired HR after 1:30-2:00. You also don’t want to go higher than that target as this will make accelerating though the next two intervals harder or impossible. 

Repeat the process for the 4:00 interval, raising the HR by 2-3bpm and getting there after about a minute. 

The final 2:00 interval should be a strong finish and you can even throw in a kick to the line to simulate racing.

Session Six – The Reverse Ladder

You will no doubt have anticipated this one. It is a toughie if you do it right but it is great for learning pace judgement and also for teaching the body to deal with the demands of a race situation. 

Warm ups and downs are as for the previous session and this one should be the opposite of what we did for the ladder. So 2:00; 4:00; 6:00 and 8:00 fast with a 3:00 floating recovery at around 70-75% of your maximum HR. 

In the Ladder we aimed at accelerating as the intervals got shorter but we are not doing the opposite this time. Instead of slowing down as the intervals get longer, which is not how we want to approach racing, we want to maintain our pace throughout the intervals, despite the fact that they are getting longer. 

This time you want to use the pyramid session as a reference. You want to run the first, 2:00 interval at the same pace that you maintained in the 4:00 interval in the previous pyramid session. 

So this should be fast but comfortable for only 2:00. Then a good solid effort in the 4:00 and you should be stretched in the 6:00 and 8:00 intervals. 

Make a call in the warm up period. If you are not feeling super you can lower the intensity slightly by starting at the 6:00 interval pace from the pyramid session or even a really conservative 8:00 pace. This will still result in a nice hard workout but the aim is to maintain the same pace throughout so it is important to pace the early intervals correctly so that you don’t slow down towards the end of the session.

In ‘Part Three’, the final article in this series, we shall deal with some specific ‘race-prep’ sessions and the all-important, pre-race run. Keep an eye on the page for that.

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