The Fartlek Session – Part 2

Last week we started discussing ‘fartlek’ sessions and kicked things off with a nice, unstructured session of accelerations.

Running Sessions (1)

Session Two – The Hilly Fartlek

Now, running a hilly fartlek session is probably the most natural thing in the world for any runner to do. Hills push the effort up as the gradient climbs and we, not unsurprisingly, ease up over the top and recover on the way down.

Running on an undulating course becomes a fartlek session quite naturally. What we want to do with this session is to put some effort into the hills; so a bit more than is required than to just get over them.

What can often happen in this kind of session is that the runner, fresh and motivated at the start of the run, smashes the first climb they encounter, right from the bottom and then has to really fight to hold that effort and pace all the way to the top. Then, each subsequent hill is done with a little less power as the energy and enthusiasm wanes.

What we want to do is build our effort. Not only through each hill but also through the length of the workout so that we finish strongly and with good form instead of dragging our tired bodies over the last hill and then staggering on the last downhill to the finish.

Some points to make this a good, productive session:

* Know your route and the hills, so that you can accurately judge your pace on each climb and also throughout the run.

* Start each climb at a conservative pace and dividing the hill into thirds; pick up your intensity as you pass each segment. The first third at your flat road heart rate + 10bpm; second third plus another 5bpm and then the final third a further 5bpm higher.

* Run each hill in the first third of your overall session at those HRs and intensities.

* During the middle third of your run, start the first third of each hill at the same HR that you were doing the middle third of the hills during the first third of your route. Then increase it in the same way so that the last third is done at a HR 5bpm higher than you were reaching in the first third.

* Repeat that procedure again in the final third of your route. You will now be starting your hills at the HR that you were finishing the hills in the first third of your route and finishing them 10bpm higher than you were in the first third.

* Always make sure that you start and finish the session with some easy running.

* Running hard up a hill is an excellent way to work on your form. Focus on maintaining good posture. Lean into the hill, but don’t look down at your feet and hunch over. Drive with your arms and keep the cadence nice and high.

Next time, in Part 3, we will bring the watch to the session and perform some timed fartlek sessions.

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