What is, how do we use it on Team Z (and why): Whistle Fartleks

On a normal build cycle – our workout structure looks like this.  We have a recovery week, then we do a “reverse build”.  Week 1 is harder than week 2, then we head into a recovery week again.  This way we are always doing our hardest runs (think that first Saturday Long Run) on the freshest leg possible.

  • Easy week (recovery week) – which ends with a track practice on Saturday, then boot camp and spin easy on Sunday. Track is a hard workout.
  • Week 1 – harder than week 2
  • Week 2 – hard but not as hard as week 1

Example in numbers for a fictional “first” build cycle:

  • Easy week ends in a track practice
  • Wed week 1 – hard track again
  • Sat week 1 – 18 mile run (for example)
  • Wed week 2 – easier track practice
  • Saturday week 2 – 12 mile run.

Then….rest, and begin our “2nd” build cycle:

  • Easy week track
  • Wed week 1 harder track than week 1 of last build
  • Sat week 1 – 20 mile run (for example)
  • Wed Week 2 – easier track practice
  • Saturday week 2 – 14 mile run

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So there are potentially too many hard run workouts in a small window.

5 longer/more intense/harder run workouts in a 12-13 window can be on the higher end (I coach conservatively) – especially when you consider you have additional “easy” runs, and two bike rides + swims).  IMO – That’s just on the edge of “a bunch” for hard running in that window of time.  So, I’m trying to write ONE workout on the week two track practice that is “up tempo” but not exhausting.

In person at a track, I can see it on you – I can adjust the set based on what I see and send you home when I want.  I set the target window of “20-25” minutes just as a target for those who do not come to the track.  I can break that down into as much Z4 or as little as I want.  The reason I don’t tell you how it is broken down is simply that If you do not know how long you are going to have to run, you will typically run easier (or more conservatively).  Which is the goal.  Based on what I see, I could stop 5 people after 2 laps, and make 5 more run for 30 minutes…it just depends.

I would not even give you the “amount of time” if I knew everyone could come to track.  But that is not realistic so I have to provide a guideline for those of you to follow that are at home… thus the set is 20-25 minutes of fartleks.  Think of that as LOW LOW LOW Z4. If you are on your own, look at your Wednesday track workout from last week.  Say for example it was 3 x 800 Z4 – and that took you 4 minutes each, or 12 total minutes.  I don’t want you doing more than 12 min Z4 this week, even though the Fartlek set says 20-25 min.  Do 12 minutes of Z4 within the 25 minute window – broken into whatever intervals you see fit based on how you feel.

If your Wed Track practice last week was = or > 20-25 minutes…stick to the 20-25 window, you may just do more Z4 than “the other guy” with less rest between intervals.  Or shoot, you could possibly do the whole 20 minutes one straight Z4 block.

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Example of how I COULD run the workout tonight.

  • 6-6:10 Warm up.
  • Whistle “go” – you run Z4 (let’s say 7 minutes.)
  • I whistle “stop” – You run easy – say 5 minutes – until I say
  • “go” – let’s say I only make you do that for 2 minutes this time.
  • Then you run easy again – maybe I only give you 1 minute easy.
  • Then, you have 10 minutes straight Z4 before I say stop, then you warm down and hit boot camp.

There is no right answer – the only wrong answer is to run too hard.  It is hard to explain over email but remember simply that you should warm up and stretch out well – do 20-25’ of Z4 (think fun, sharp running, but not hard at all.  Just tempo) broken into intervals.  Maybe 3 x 3 minutes with 2 minutes easy in between.

The goal is to have a good aerobic workout, not to sit on your rear…but if you start the Z4 and you feel poorly, shut it down, run easy, go home and save it for the long run on Sunday. This is why going to the track is important as we can monitor you as coaches and help you make that call.

I hope that helps.

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