The coach: Mike Barnow, Westchester Track Club, Westchester, N.Y.
The athlete: Lindsey Scherf, runner-up, 2012 U.S. 25K championships
When they did it: Barnow has been coaching Scherf since she was 10. He had her doing these effort-based fartleks after recovering from foot surgery in May of 2011. Barnow says that Scherf “thrived” on these workouts during her recovery period. Just a year after her surgery, Scherf went on to finish second in the U.S 25K championships and then went on to win the Ottawa 10K in Canada a few weeks later.
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Why they did it: Barnow’s primary goal was to keep Scherf healthy as she ramped up her training. She completed her effort-based fartleks on dirt roads as opposed to stressing her body on the asphalt roads or on the track, where the pressure of running fast is persistent. She started out with few repeats and when she got healthier, Barnow increased the reps.
How they did it: Scherf began with a very easy 3-4-mile jog that took place on a different section of dirt path or road than was used for the workout. After the warm-up, she went right into a 1 x 8-minute fast interval, followed by 2 minutes of jogging, then 1 x 6:00 of fast running and another 2 minutes of jogging, then 2 x 5:00 at the fast pace with 2 minutes jogging rest intervals.
Her fast interval pace was relative to the distance trained. At the time Sherf was working on her 25K fitness, and so she started her first 8-minute repetition at slightly faster than her goal pace for 25K. Her pace gradually increased with each repetition down to 3K-5K race pace for the final 5-minute session. After completing the workout, Scherf ran 1-2 miles for a cool-down and ended the session with light stretching.
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How you can apply the workout: “Start out slow,” Barnow says. “It’s not important that you try to run a specific pace. The key here is to remember the race you are training for.”
If you are training for a marathon, don’t run your repetitions at 5K race pace; run them relative to your goal marathon race pace. Barnow is a believer in letting the pace in workouts come to you.
“Think of this workout as a practice,” he says. “Don’t worry so much about pushing the pace. Instead, use the races to go all-out. The name of the game is not to tie up at the end of your workout; it’s all about continuousness.”
Barnow suggests leaving the pace calculator at home when doing this workout. Runners should concentrate on maintaining smooth form throughout the entire workout as opposed to running exact paces. Barnow says this workout is excellent for runners who put a lot of pressure on themselves to train at certain levels since the pressure of hitting certain splits has been lifted.