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FARTLEK AND HILLS: Fartlek means 'speed play' in Swedish. For runners it's a relatively unstructured workout where intensity and speed varies more by feel than heart rate or time. Traditionally this type of workout is done on trails. As compared to track workouts where you can see specific times over exact distances, a Fartlek run goes by feel with fast reps of mixed distances. The goal is to run a workout with intensity and variety that gives you a sense of pace; essentially interval training at race pace or faster with a random quality.

I regularly run a Fartlek workout that's more structured than most. I'll run easy for 10-minutes then do 4-5x pick-ups with 1-minute fast/ 1-minute moderate, then I'll run a measured mile at 90%HR for time, then 4-5x 1-minute on/off again, then another timed mile and warm down easy.

Any runner who's raced on a hilly course knows that it's much more stressful for the legs than a flat course. Uphills are tough, but it's the downhills that can get you! The reason is that our muscles are well-designed contract and generate force, but lengthening a muscle under lots of force is a different story. This lengthening process is called eccentric contraction and our muscles are not well designed for the task.

Consider what happens running down a hill; your foot hits the ground with lots of force, and if it's steep enough your quads have to 'put on the breaks' with each stride. Your quad has to contract and hold the position for a split second to slow you down, then lengthen slightly, hold the position for another split second, then lengthen slightly, and so on until your next stride. The muscle lengthening movement is not as smooth as a normal contraction.

The day after a hilly race your quads may be trashed due to eccentric contractions that caused micro-tearing of the muscle. It's usually not serious, but can take several days to heal; sometimes a full week!

Hill repeats are a run intensity workout with a muscular training effect quite different than you'll get from similar efforts on the flats. Like Fartlek there are no set rules, but generally the goal is to run uphill at race pace or faster with substantial recoveries between reps. The muscle movement running uphill is more lift intensive than on the flats; your hip flexors will lift with more energy; your glutes and calves will push-off with more force.

I like a set of short hill repeats near sprint speed, then jog back down the hill very slowly for recovery. I'll find a steep hill along a run route that takes about 1-minute to run up at moderate training pace, and I prefer to make this part of a longer run so I'll look for a hill midway through a 5 to 6-mile loop. Running to the hill assures that I'm warmed-up for the reps. After I've run to the hill at normal training pace, I'll do 3 to 6 reps increasing the intensity slightly with each. For me this means running the 1-minute at traning pace hill in the low 50-second range for the first few reps, then hopefully under 50 for the last few. Hill repeats with an endurance/pacing focus can be much longer.

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