The Fartlek Session – Part 3

Continuing with our series on the different variations of running sessions, we are going to cover two more fartlek session, but with these we are going to control the session with our watch.

Running Sessions (3)

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.

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. You should be holding back slightly. 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. Hold the same pace as you go up the pyramid.

Then… and now the fun starts… as the intervals become shorter again we want to try to lift our pace. 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.

A good stretch afterwards will also help with your recovery and be good for maintaining your flexibility and range of motion in your joints.

Session Four: The upside-down Pyramid

As the name suggests, this fartlek session is the opposite to the previous one (above) 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. Aim for 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 goal 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. 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.

In the next feature, we’ll cover the fartlek ladder.

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