Category Archives: Running Tips

Hill running vs. fartlek – which is better for time-poor triathletes?

I only have limited time to train and something has to give! When it comes to running, I sometimes have to choose between doing a hill session or a speed/fartlek session each week rather than both. What are the benefits of each and is one better than the other?


In my opinion, if you have to opt for one or the other, there’s only one choice and that’s to head for the hills (writes Nik Cook). My simple rationale is that hills can deliver speed, but flat speed work can’t deliver the strength and grit needed for when the gradient kicks up.

>>> Five ways to get better at hilly runs

I’ve referred to this quote before but, as it comes from one of the most legendary and respected running coaches of all time, Frank Shorter, it’s worth repeating: “Hills are speed work in disguise.”

83uk22wr-83There’s no hiding on a hill. On the flat it’s too easy to switch off and drop your pace without realising it until your HRM bleeps at you. This just can’t happen when you’re battling gravity – ease off and progress instantly stalls. Even if you feel you’re moving slowly and your stride is woefully short, the higher knee lift, arm drive and body position that the slope demands will all translate into speed on the flat.

With a selection of hills of varying lengths and gradients, you can target almost any aspect of running fitness. Short and steep for power, strength and neuromuscular work, to longer and more gradual for threshold efforts.You can even use downhills for fantastic over-speed work.

I’d always recommend trying to find off-road options for hill work and, for long-course racers, the strength and mental toughness that long hilly trail runs deliver makes them a must to schedule into your training every few weeks.

Finally, think of race day. If there’s a hill on the run course, you can almost guarantee that’s where the race will be won or lost, or where you can make up chunks of time and places on your rivals. With hill reps in your legs, you’ll have an edge that’ll leave runners who stuck to the flat trailing in your wake.

Speed work

If time is your enemy, then a well-constructed speed session can bring you to your knees in just a few minutes (says Paul Larkins). As I coach, I can often reduce athletes to tears in no time at all – run 400m, take 15secs rest then run 100m all out; repeat four times; they’ll be crying!

>>> The lowdown on fartlek

The demands of triathletes are, of course, endurance-based, but a longer workout of say 4x2mins, with just 30 seconds rest can be far more beneficial than perhaps five or six miles of easy running. Think intensity+speed–recovery and you’ll have a great formula to work to.

High-pace efforts, much faster than race pace, on a level, smooth surface with no more than 30 seconds between each one, will be a great way to improve endurance, form and mental toughness. You cannot run fast 400m reps with just 15 seconds recovery if your mindset isn’t right and if you are all over the place in terms of form.

It’s worth noting that short, intense workouts come with an element of injury risk, so make sure you warm up well, do a few drills to get your body moving correctly and allow loads of recovery days after – three minutes of high-intensity, short-distance speed may not seem like much, but it will take a day or two to recover from.14296

Of course, you will need an endurance element as well, which is where fartlek [periods of fast running intermixed with periods of slower running] comes into play. Hills and speed are fairly formulated, but every now and then it’s great to just go with the flow – run hard when you want to, run easy as you wish.

Fartlek is great for that, either on your bike or out running. Fartlek is also a great way of learning how to race, how to deal with competitors surging mid-race and dealing with hills…

via Hill running vs. fartlek – which is better for time-poor triathletes? – Run – 220Triathlon.


Do we drink too much water when we exercise? and a review of @SportsFoodINC Electrolyte strips

Winter is here and as always I find myself doing a lot of research for my upcoming running season. Last year I ran into issues with water bloating and stomach upset that I associated to drinking too much.

This logically lead me to further reading on electrolytes and the amount of fluid (and type) to ingest during exercise.  I found that as a new runner I believed I needed to drink as much “water” as I was sweating out (about 1 litre / hour) to stay in a state of optimum hydration. I also believed it was important to drink large quantities of fluid before exercise to make sure that I was properly hydrated.

Humans like most mammals are designed to run in a moderately dehydrated state, we are also designed to re-hydrate when we eat. We cannot store either fluid or salt to any great extent. Over drinking will not only result in more frequent trips to the toilet but also an increased loss of sodium and potassium through our urine. Extreme cases can lead to hyponatermia (a condition that occurs when the level of sodium in your blood is abnormally low). When this happens, our body’s water levels rise, and our cells begin to swell. This swelling can cause many health problems, from mild to life-threatening. Recent research shows  we should not consume more than 200 to 400 ml per hour during extreme exercise. (even though our body  could be sweating it out at a rate of 750-1000 ml / hour)

The best way to assess optimum hydration is to check urine color. You should drink enough fluid to ensure your urine is lightly colored. It takes between 1 to 2 hours for your body to absorb the fluid and impact your urine color.

Runners should take their last drink  about  2 hours before exercise.

If your race is over 10 km, research suggests you should take about 500 ml of fluid at the start line, drinking it just minutes before the start.

So is water all you need??

the answer: No

It is essential that the fluid consumed contain substances needed to restore the body’s supply, water isn’t enough. It is important to match your electrolyte losses from sweating.  Electrolytes are vital for the normal functioning of all cells. Sodium, potassium, magnesium and calcium are the four major electrolytes that keep up the body’s fluid balance. Sodium and potassium are critical in determining the water contents of our  extracellular fluid, in conjunction with intracellular fluid. (water inside and outside out cells).

Runners typical symptoms of imbalance in electrolytes are:

  • muscle fatigue
  • cramping muscle in the legs and spasms
  • nausea
  • stomach cramps
  • side stitches
  • stiff and achy joints
  • dizziness

 Sportsfood review


IMG_20150215_150923_editTo reduce my fluid intake and maintain my electrolytic balance I have started testing products like Sportsfood (@SportsFoodINC)

Sportsfood is an electrolyte replacement strips that work to build and replenish your bodies electrolytes before, during, and after exercise.  Sportsfood strips are small, thin, oral film strips which almost instantly dissolve in your mouth.  The team is on their second version of these strips, my earlier review would have given them one major issue TASTE, however the new version has greatly improved the overall taste of the product.

What is the makeup?

Each Strip hasIMG_20150215_150940_edit_edit

  • Sodium 12mg
  • Potassium 12mg

other ingredients: Pectin, Glycerin, Water, Natural Flavors, Cellulose, Sucralose, Lecithin(soy), Cocoa Butter, Acesulfame potassium, Talc and Citric acid.

This changed from (the bad tasting Sportsfood as I called it)

other ingredients: Pectin, Honey Granules, Water, Glycerin, Natural Flavors, Perfecta(TM), Talc, Microcrystalline Cellulose, Magnasweet (R), Xylitol, Lecithin (soy), Coca Butter, Citric Acid and Stevia.

As you can see in order to combat the taste concerns of the original product Sportsfood had added a concoction of sweeteners to the product. The strips are still zero Carbohydrates and zero sugar, however I know with this could come some debate especially around the use of Acesulfame potassium . It is important to note Acesulfame potassium is safe and suitable for all segments of the population. The FDA, which is the governmental agency responsible for ensuring the safety of all foods, has approved acesulfame potassium for use in numerous food products on eight separate occasions since 1988. The agency based its decisions on a large body of scientific evidence that demonstrates the safety of the ingredient.

How many strips should you use?

Following the directions on the package it says:

two strips before and two strips during exercise

I would suggest to best answer the how many strips question it really depends on the duration, intensity of the exercise and your temperature acclimatization (how much salt you are sweating). The following table from “The lore of running by Tim Noakes,MD”  is a bit intense but it shows that fitness and heat acclimation reduce the sodium content of sweat.


 Sportsfood Pros:

  • small easy to carry
  • gluten -free
  • taste is acceptable for product that is essentially salt and potassium

Sportsfood Cons: (one minor one)

  • the strip can be difficult to get out of package while running (or sweating heavily)

I feel everyone who is serious about running should do their own research on water consumption during exercise and look for products like Sportsfood to supplement electrolytes. A balanced intake is critical to healthy exercise and living.

-Happy Running-


Research References

  • Electrolyte Imbalance – Symptoms – Better Medicine. (n.d.). Local Health Home Page – Better Medicine. Retrieved March 24, 2012.
  • Lore of Running – Tim Noakes, MD 
  • The Endurance Athlete’s GUIDE to SUCCESS | Hammer Nutrition

Sportsfood did not provide me free product for this review

feature Photo by Robert J. Reese

Am I going to die if I run hard?

I am training for Boston marathon,” I explain to the man who inquired, incredulous, what was I doing out in my tights and light jacket in -24 C weather. Ah, he knows about marathon: the first Greek guy who ran it dropped dead!

I sigh, silently.

The legend of poor old Philippides (or Pheidippides, depending on the source), had been misused so many times, I’ve no strength left to even roll my eyes. Mainstream media relishes in republishing it every time there’s negative news about the marathon, or endurance running in general. Someone died at a race? Remember Philippides! A study found tissue damage in ultramarathon runners. Remember Philippides! And so on.

As far as the legends go, the story of Philippides is a romanticized tragic tale of victory, endurance, perseverance and ultimate sacrifice: the guy, supposedly, ran from Athens to Sparta – about 240K – in two days, then capped it up with a 40-ish kilometre run from Marathon to Athens where he finally expired. Great story, eh? Too bad it likely never happened. Historians Magill and Moose (2003) suggest that the story is probably a “romantic invention” by the poet Lucian to imbued power to his verses. His poems, written a century after the Battle of Marathon in 490 BC, are the oldest written documents in which all the elements of the legend as we know it today are present. Herodotus, who based his chronicles of the battle on eyewitnesses’ accounts 50 years earlier than Lucian, never mentions any runner. Nevertheless, the story haunts distance runners since the marathon was introduced to the Olympics.

But the Curious George at the intersection with his remarks about Philippides isn’t what unsettled me. Back home with a well-deserved cup of hot chocolate, I came across the title Fast running is as deadly as sitting on couch, scientists find from The Telegraph. Deep under the pile of sensationalistic lingo is the actual unsettling study that made me pause. Researchers from Denmark found that light joggers were about 78 percent less likely to die than those who were sedentary.

So, why suffer needlessly on long, hard runs, when I’ll die just the same if I sit at home and watch Netflix instead? If I wasn’t so addicted to joys of the long run and the atmosphere of the marathon races, I could scale back to fit into the “light jogger” category above. But, since I am an addict, I can only find the consolation in this quote:

Other experts stress that more research is needed to determine whether there really is an upper limit on how much exercise is good for you.

Life longevity is a nice health-goal to “lightly jog” toward, but for me there’s more to running. There’s the indescribable joy of flying on my own legs for hours, freedom of moving outdoors closer to nature and yes, even the sweet pain after a long run. It makes me feel younger and more energized than the men my age. It helped me lower my cholesterol to healthy normal and lose extra weight. No one can convince me that all that is slowly killing me!

via Am I going to die if I run hard? – Canadian Running Magazine.

Five Foolproof Strength Exercises

You know your weight-training regimen? It’s breaking you down. Build yourself up for endurance success—and prevent injury—with these five improved alternatives.

“Our bodies adapt to the positions we put them in the most,” says James Wilson, owner of MTB Strength Training Systems. “When you sit hunched over a desk all day a lot of areas become tight, off kilter, and weak.”

If you’re the kind of athlete who supplements outdoor sports with strength work in the gym, performing some of the most popular and oft-prescribed exercises—like barbell back squats, conventional deadlifts, and military presses—can set you up for injury. “Classic barbell exercises are great if you can do them right,” says Ben Bruno, C.S.C.S., a Los Angeles-based trainer. “But they’re the most commonly butchered because they’re highly technical and require a lot of mobility.”

Take the squat and deadlift, which require all the muscles in your body to work together. “So mobility deficits, asymmetries, and weaknesses in your hips are going to throw the entire move off, shifting the weight to delicate areas like your knees or low back,” Wilson says.

The fix: Chose exercises, like the five presented below, that hardly ever go wrong.

“It’s a question of risk versus reward,” says Bruno. “These moves have far less risk, but their rewards and payoffs are the same.” By their very nature, these five exercises remove your weak link and put your body in a position where you can likely perform each rep with perfect form, reducing your risk of injury. And besides keeping you off the DL, these five moves have another upshot, says Wilson. “They all carry over to adventure sports more than their alternatives.”

Swap out your old barbell exercises for these improved variations. For a total body workout, do each exercise for three to five sets of eight to ten reps.

For Your Lower Back

Instead of: Barbell back squats
: Bulgarian split squats

“This exercise gives you the same lower body training effect as the back squat,” says Bruno. “But because it doesn’t require as much hip, ankle, and thoracic mobility, most people can do them with ease.” The move also trains you to maintain the bottom position of a lunge, and then power out of that position, which is why it’s especially great for tele skiers, hikers, and trail runners.

Hold a dumbbell in each hand and stand facing away from a bench, with the bench about a foot behind you. Place your right foot on the edge of the bench so you’re standing on your left leg. Lower your body until your left knee is bent to 90 degrees, then push back to the start. Do all your reps, then switch legs.

Build Explosive Strength

Instead of: Barbell deadlift
Do: Kettlebell stagger stance deadlift

The conventional deadlift requires serious hip mobility. And if you don’t have that hip mobility, you’ll bend at the low back, shifting the weigh there, which is a recipe for disaster. The stagger stance deadlift cuts the mobility requirement. What’s more, it uses the exact same foot positioning and movement patterns that bikers use for seated pedaling and the downhill attack position on a mountain bike, says Wilson.

Put two kettlebells side-by-side on floor in front of you. Place your feet in a stagger stance, your left foot slightly forward and your right just behind and to the side of it. Push your hips back, bend your knees slightly, and grasp the handles of the kettlebells. Then thrust your hips forward to come to a standing position, the brunt of the weight on your forward leg. Squeeze your left glute at the top of the move. Return the kettlebells to the start. Do all your reps with your left leg forward, then switch legs.

Protect Those Shoulders

Instead of: Barbell military press
: Externally rotated pushup

The military press is risky because most guys can’t lift weight straight overhead without bending their lower back. What’s more, biking, climbing, skiing, and fly fishing all keep your arms and hands internally rotated—your palms facing downward or inward, like in the military press, says Wilson. The externally rotated pushup puts your hands and arms into an outward position, which engages your underused shoulder muscles. Strengthening those muscles can help you prevent injuries down the road, like issues with your rotator cuff.

Set up a TRX and hold the handles out in front of you, the straps taut. Walk a step or two back so that your entire body is leaning forward, your weight resting on your hands. Rotate your hands so your thumbs are pointing out and your palms are facing up. Now, bend your arms and do a pushup, lowering yourself until your chest touches the TRX handles. Pause, then push yourself back up.

Get Ready to Climb

Instead of: Bent-over barbell row
: Chest supported row

Climbing is essentially a series of pulls. So to work that pulling motion, most guys do bent-over barbell rows. “But you see a lot of body [movement] when guys row the weight,” says Bruno. “And that puts stress on the low back.” Adding support from the bench allows you to maximally work your upper back without involving your lower back. And those bolstered pulling muscles will help you last high into your favorite climbing route.

Set an adjustable bench at a slight incline. Grab a dumbbell in each hand and then lie facedown on the bench, the dumbbells hanging in your hands near the floor. Pull the dumbbells up to just below your pecs. Pause, then lower them back down.

Build a Rock-Steady Core

Instead of: Situps
: Kneeling Inch Worm

Situps put undue stress on your spine. Plus, there aren’t many adventure sports that require you to flex your spine forward like you do in a situp. Kneeling inch worms teach you to brace your core and stabilize your shoulders, says Wilsom. That’s key in any speed sport, like skiing and biking.

Get on your knees and place your hands on the ground in front of your knees. Brace your core as you slowly walk your hands out in small “steps.” Walk as far out as you can while keeping your core braced, then walk slowly back to the start. That’s one rep.

article by 

via 5 Easy Strength Exercises | In Stride | | feature Image by Geber86/iStock

18 Things I Wish I’d Known Before My First Half Marathon

Sometimes I’m glad I don’t know what I’m getting in to when it comes to running…

For example if you’d told me in 2002 when I crossed the finish line of my first race ever, the Rock N Roll Nashville half marathon, that I would then begin running 1600 miles a year I would have flipped my lid and shut down the whole running ball game.

On the other hand, over the years I’ve learned a few things that would have saved me a lot of angst, injuries and time. Since many of you have been sending in questions about how to have your best race, I thought they might be helpful!

18 Things I Wish I'd known Before My First Half Marathon - tip to help you have a great race

Slow Down
Push yourself, it’s race day after all, but when you find yourself hitting paces you never saw in training take a breath and reel it back in. It’s easy for even experienced runners to get swept up in the excitement of the thousands of runners around you. You have no idea what their training looked like, so you don’t have to keep up.

It’s way more fun to be passing people at the end, than praying it was over.
Read more on learning to pace yourself >>

It’s Supposed to be Fun
Remember that you signed up for this whole crazy thing to have a fun goal that would keep you motivated. While you are going to push yourself just a tad harder on race day, it’s not supposed to be miserable and in fact you might find you actually love it.Everyone talks so much about what hurts or what didn’t go well, that I think we forge this whole thing can be a whole lot of fun!
Read more on managing race day nerves >>

Race Nutrition
Realize that good nutrition planning is not just for the elites and you can’t wing it on race day. It’s about being well hydrated in the days leading up to the race, getting your electrolytes balanced and learning what fuel works for you during the run.
Read the myths of carbo-loading>>
Race day is supposed to be fun and other lessons I wish I'd known

Packing Checklist
Get totally anal retentive about planning what you are brining to the race. You can certainly buy things last minute at the expo, but save yourself the anxiety by having your perfect gel, socks and any potential variation of weather outfit available. Folks who have done the Disney World Marathon will tell you they always pack thinking it’s a Florida race and have been surprised at the start more than once with a 30 degree day…no fun without any warmer clothes.
Print out this great half marathon packing check list >>

Throw-away Clothes
Swing by Salvation Army the week of the race. The idea of throw-away clothes sounded preposterous to me, but this makes the start line experience far more enjoyable. You may be outside in cool or wet temperatures for hours before the race begins, keeping your body warm preserves much needed energy.

If it’s not a cold race, you might only need some gloves that you can toss and trust me they are worth the $1 to buy! Tuck them in your shorts if you warm up, just in case you turn back in to the wind.
Even the elites keep their gloves on cold days - more tips for a good race day

Banned Music
A lot of the courses say no music, so like a rule following girl I would show up to find tons of people with headphones. Realize that they have it for a good reason, but if it’s not a trail race and you can run with 1 ear bud and really need music they likely won’t say anything.

How to drink on the run
First, remember you don’t have to drink at every stop or drink the entire cup. Dump some out if it seems too full then pinch the cup, so the side creates a point and sip. Guzzling rarely leads to a happy stomach.

Running Shoes

Get fitted for good running shoes. The one’s you bought from the department store may have worked fine in the past, but they aren’t suited for the increased mileage you’ll be covering. Don’t: Let the shoe store talk you in to a shoe that isn’t comfortable just because of a 30 second treadmill analysis of your gait.
Learn how to find the right running shoe>>

Ego Check
Check it at the door because you’ll find yourself getting passed by people older, fitter, taller, shorter, thinner, heavier, with strollers and none of it matters.

Get real about the fact that during training and the race you will feel like quitting. While you should be fired up for your first half marathon, a bit of realism (not fear) makes this moment something you can move through.

Give yourself a reason to quit (like not putting in the proper amount of training). Get focused on all of the reasons why you want to cross that finish line and how it will feel to say “I am a marathon finisher”.  You will get passed by people of all ages, shapes and sizes, it's ok and other race day lessons

Spectator Plan
Plan ahead to know what your fans will be wearing and where they hope to be. It’s often easier for you to spot them than the other way around. I definitely missed friends at those first races because I thought they would certainly see ME.

Weight Gain
Recognize that distance training requires appropriate fueling. Like many runners, I started running to lose weight. I assumed that marathon training would be a great way to speed up the process. It isn’t; marathon training leads to increased hunger and feelings of food entitlement.

Running 16 miles is pretty amazing, but it doesn’t mean you can overeat on pizza, cookies, bagels and other high carb foods every day of the week.  High quality food keeps training hunger in check and provides energy for your runs.
Read more on running and weight loss >>

Chaffing and Blisters Are Avoidable
On race day you may suddenly find yourself chaffing in places you didn’t even know existed. Put Body Glide on every conceivable inch of the body, not just select spots like your thighs, but on race day get in between every toe, under every arm, and even around your waistband. It’s worth it.

Rain Isn’t So Bad
Watch the weather so you can plan your race day outfit and throw-away gear, but after that stop worrying about it. My first race was in the rain as have been many that followed and once you start running the rain can actually be a great way to keep from getting too warm…on a cold day it’s just another part of the race.

Plus once you cross that finish line, you feel just a little more bad ass and hey, that’s half the fun too.

A rainy race day isn’t so bad and 17 other things I wish I’d know before my first race via @runtothefinish

Run Solo
Practice running solo at least once a week during training. If you always run with someone and find yourself solo on race day it can immediately throw off your entire day. Know you can rely on yourself.
Read more on why you should run solo >>

Never will I Ever
Realize you’ll likely find yourself swearing off a certain race or distance in the later part of the race and possibly even after the finish line. After the moment wears off you’ll find either a sincere joy at the results of months of hard work or a desire to redeem yourself for having not learned some of the lessons listed above!

Spend time learning about recovery. Compression pants, ice baths, sports nutrition, all of these things ensure that during training you can continue putting in the miles and after the race you can resume training without too many days of walking down stairs sideways.

Whether it was the best or worst experience of your life there is often a desire to get right back to training, but your body won’t be ready right away. Those who do jump back in often find themselves injured within a few months. A few extra easy weeks are worth avoiding months of frustration.
Read the complete post race recovery guide >>

Everyone is a coach
Finally, it’s important to know that every runner you meet will have an opinion about how you should train, what to wear, what to think; it’s great to listen to all of the advice, but after that you need to decide what fits your personality and then stick to a plan.

Other training tips series: How to think like an elite runner, 27 tips to get a great race day photo and race day etiquette.

– See more at:

5 things every runner gets wrong

5 things every runner gets wrong
Although running is so straightforward in so many ways, some runners fall into the trap of making it extremely complicated for themselves with some basic running mistakes. The tendency to cut corners, or conversely to over-cook training, are just some of the potential pitfalls that lie in wait for the experienced and brand new runner.

This is a classic mistake made by runners old and new to the sport. Having decided to run a certain distance/race, they fling themselves head first into a training plan, that they either don’t read properly, or even worse, do read properly, but simply ignore. The plans work for a reason and that reason is because they build up gradually towards a certain goal. Trying to do too much too quickly is a classic form of over-training, but there are others. Following a training plan with too much intensity will lead to burnout, while too many miles in the pursuit of your holy grail will also leave you worn out, injured and de-motivated. The classic signs of over-training are lethargy, aching joints and muscles, heavy legs and an elevated heart rate. So try to avoid it; it rarely takes you where you want to go.

Getting the pace wrong
This simple sentence covers a multitude of training sins that runners often make. For runners who join a group aimed at achieving a certain race/distance goal, it is tempting to try and be the quickest through the first mile (1.6 km). But a fast start will invariably lead to a slow finish and you will increase your chances of burnout/injury if you start your hard workout/tempo run within 3 strides of your session. Always run at your own pace and don’t be afraid to let everyone else do the same. Even if they leave you behind, you’ll probably catch them by the end.
That said, some runners can be notoriously stubborn for the wrong reasons, because they train at the same pace all the time. The secret of running success lies in a mixture of training sessions, including speed intervals, tempo running and endurance running. If you ignore all of that variety, your capabilities will lack variety and you’ll struggle to progress. So don’t set a monotonous, repeated pace on your training runs. Mix it up and think speed. Your PB will thank you for it.

Self sabotage
Ask any runner about their biggest enemy and most will admit it’s actually the enemy within. There are so many ways a runner can undermine their own potential. From succumbing to a paralysing bout of pre-race nerves that prompts them to make a colossal mistake, to refusing to accept that a plan isn’t working because it’s not right for them. Or even demonstrating an immovable resistance to the blindingly obvious, like continuing to stick to what they see as a tried and trusted formula, when the desperate need for change is staring them in the face. Perspective is a wonderful skill in a runner, along with a philosophical pragmatism that will go an awfully long way and take you with it.

Ignoring injuries
Being able to differentiate between an ache and a genuine injury is something that comes with experience. But running on blindly when your ankle is broken is not an ideal way to get miles under your belt. Get to know your body and you will be able to distinguish between a sore achilles and a snapped tendon. You will also begin to recognise when that voice in your head is telling you something hurts, when it really doesn’t.

Race madness
Getting races wrong is one of the most frustrating experiences it is possible to have for the runner who, for instance, has devoted six months of their life to a marathon. But a mistake made in the blink of an eye can inflict hours of misery on the day and have repercussions for weeks and months afterwards. From going out too fast in a blaze of ill-judged adrenaline, to ignoring water stations, wearing new blister-inducing running shoes or trying a new sports gel with catastrophic tummy-related consequences, the list is as long as the proverbial arm. Why spend weeks or months of your life training for a specific race, only to throw it all away with a stupid mistake? As with all things practice makes perfect and sometimes it’s only by getting things spectacularly wrong, that we come to understand what we should have done in the first place.
Try to remember that the kind of preparation you have obsessed about in the weeks leading up to your race, needs to be applied to race day itself. Never try anything new on the day, never change your routine at the last minute and never allow yourself to be persuaded that someone else’s warm up looks better than yours. Never ever start the race like a 100m sprinter and don’t treat the event like an extended fartlek session. Just follow your pace plan and always run your own race. It really is that simple.

5 things every runner gets wrong | World Running | feature image by coach Joe English

How to run faster: a complete guide to fartlek training

As a runner you probably often hear the word Fartlek banded around but what does it actually mean? To help you, expert coaches at Runningwithus explain what it is and how to use it to increase your speed and overall pace.

What is Fartlek?
Fartlek is actually the Scandinavian word for ‘speed play’, a training technique used to increase speed and improve pace by adding small bursts of faster running but at varied paces into an average run.

For example: running faster from bench to lamppost or running faster for a 2 minute block then running easily followed by a 30 second burst at an even faster burst of running and so on.

How does it work?
If you are someone who feels they are a ‘one paced,’ as many runners do (you are not alone) then Fartlek could be ideal to help you understand the various paces you have.

  • You can have an idea of what speed play session you are intending on doing
  • OR you can, as traditionally intended keep the pace and duration of each interval random and spontaneous which is perfect for the runner who gets intimidated or overwhelmed by the idea of a pre-structured interval session.

Fartlek is a really great way of training on your own and making those weekly same routes interesting!

To incorporate Fartlek into your running try these:

‘3min, 2min, 1min’
If you want to prove to yourself that you do have more than one pace then give this mixed pace session ago.

After you’ve warmed up by running for 10-15 minutes easily Run the 3 minute block at your half marathon race effort, run the 2 minute block faster at your 10k race effort, then the 1 minute faster still and your 5k race effort. In-between each block jogs easily for 1minute to recover. Repeat two, three or four times through depending upon experience.
You will discover your various paces whilst working on speed!
Keep the blocks random
Your aim is to run a 45 minute run including between 6 to 10 spontaneous ‘pick ups’ depending upon experience. Keep these blocks varied in pace and judge them by time or landmark.
Ensure you don’t get into simply doing fast 10 second bursts. 2 minute or 3 minute blocks are essential to working on speed endurance as a runner so some of these random pickups must be longer!
Vary the terrain
Complete your fartlek session on a hilly, undulating and off road route in order to maximize strength, your conditioning and reduce the impact of running on tarmac or treadmill.
Cross training
You can complete very successful ‘speed play’ session on the static gym bike or x trainer by varying the level, effort and which you work and resistance. This builds fitness without the impact of running and makes that weekly cross training session more interesting!
Important things to remember
Fartlek really doesn’t need to be complicated and can be successfully achieved if you stick to these golden fartlek rules

  • Keep the recoveries as easy jogging rather than walking
    Ensure you vary your paces and challenge different energy systems.
  • Don’t keep each block the same length – variety of duration is key.
  • Avoid using a GPS and run to effort. Fartlek is meant to teach you how varying efforts feel.
  • Track of your session by using thebugmiles app or sync yourRunKeeper or Strava sessions with bugmiles
    Click here for more training tips or for more advice and information, get in touch with Nick Anderson at RunningWithUs.

More from The Running Bug
How to run faster: a complete guide to fartlek training – Training Tips – The Running Bug