This week marked the shift from strength work (hills!) to speed work (fartleks). For those of you who think that fartleking may involve power boosts caused by farting, you are wrong ;) I tried the theory out and it has the potential to end badly :)
Fartleking is the wonderful technique of bursting into a speedy spurt for as long as you feel like it, when you feel like it. There is no prescription to fartleking - it's a totally freestyle activity.
As you've probably come to understand from reading my blog, I am someone who loves a plan. I like to know where I'm going, when I'm going and how I'm going to get there. Therefore, fartleking is a very difficult exercise for me and far away from my comfort zone. It really forces me to listen to my body and to trust my instincts. For someone like me, grinding and pushing through is often easier than going with the flow because grinding and pushing through has a distinct beginning, middle and end and I really like that. I like to know that there will eventually be some closure.
When I haven't clearly defined my task and purpose, I can be pretty fleety and easily distracted. But when you give me some boundaries and guidelines, I will exceed them on nearly every occasion. The worst tends to come out of me when I am left to my own devices with no parameters.
I started out my first 10km fartleking session with a nice easy pace for about 4 minutes to get a bit of a groove on. I was slightly dreading the moment when my mind would tell my body to pick up the pace because I didn't know exactly how it would respond. I could only picture my hamstring coiling up to my butt as it ruptured and me lying there helpless (without a cell phone again!) as Cooper licked my face and gave my those, "what's wrong with you, dad?" puppy dog eyes. But the moment came where my mind rather spontaneously said GO and I turned up the heat and kicked it into high gear. It was like a game of red light/green light. Green Light! I ran so fast my cheeks were cold, Coopers ears were like Superdogs and my legs and lungs were screaming for mercy. Then I slowed down and jogged for a bit. Red Light. When I felt recovered, I pumped up the volume and took off like a lightning bolt. GO! And then I slowed down when my lungs were bleeding and I couldn't maintain my speed anymore. STOP. I jogged so slow that my grandma could have caught up with me. And then when I felt energy again, I blasted the turbo jets and my legs spun faster than Fred Flintstones in his Flintstone mobile. Yabba Dabba Doo!
At about 7km's in, I was starting to run at a tortoise pace much more often than that of a hare. But I was listening to my body and it was telling me that I needed to take longer rests in between my rapid fire bursts of speedy speed. And from everything I've heard and read, this is what fartleking is all about. It's about knowing how to turn it on. It's about knowing when you need to conserve some energy. And it's about developing a relationship with your body and mind where you can take a cue to nuture or push when it's needed the most.
Fartleking definitely made my 10km run more stimulating and thought provoking than my other seemingly monotonous runs. I completed the distance pretty fast too in just over 48mins. If I was following a prescribed plan of "run 400 metres at 3:30min/km, run 200m at 6min/km, run 300m at 3:45/km, etc" it might have played more into my regimented "follow the plan" mentality, but it definitely wouldn't have been as spontaneous and fun. Two things I have been craving at this point in my training and two things that I think I need to be more open to in my life…
Especially since I'll be the big 3-0 in a few days time.