WHEW……first, let me say.  I DID IT!  My first Interval Training Session.  I’m so happy.  I DID IT!!  The first thing I want to do whenever I accomplish something NEW, is celebrate it!  Because I’m sooo used to going straight for analyzing it, and measuring it, and working it and improving it…..and all that is Great!  (Notice how I didn’t say judging it or criticizing it?    G.O.N.E!  Remember?  I left those things on the road near the Finish Line in New Brunswick on April 22nd, and they have NOT crept back home to my house.  No No No!!) .  So, Step 1:  Celebrate!  WoooHooo!  Intervals.  Ok Step 2:  Analyze!  D@mn, they’re Hard!

So, let me de-mystify the title of this post.  As I’ve read on the Web and in my Running Magazine about Training….I kept tripping over the term Fartleks.  When you study various Marathon Running Plans, you learn the concepts of short runs, long runs, recovery runs, intervals and Fartleks.  The first time, I was like…come again?  Who?what?where?when?  Fartleks?

Ok, so you know me well enough by now…….but was I going to need the German/English Dictionary??  Turns out, No.

Fartlek,  means “speed play” in Swedish and its form of interval training.

There IT is again.  Interval Training.  So, I had to go and figure out what Interval training was — because I had already found out enough accidental information to know that Interval Training was GOOD!   Now, What Is It and Why is it Good? That’s the $64,000 question.

Interval Training is “speed play” because it’s about improving your overall running pace by using alternating intervals of sprints and recovery periods. The idea, in my simple, layman’s terms, is like this:  if you are already running at a 12:00 minute mile pace, then that pace will become our recovery pace.  That’s the pace we want to train our bodies to identify as the pace during which we can recover our breathing, our muscles, and our stamina.     Ok, so the “sprint” part of the intervals needs to be a speed faster than you are running comfortably now.  You want this pace to be challenging, but not killer.  Hmmm, so it’s not supposed to be your absolutle maximum speed, but you want to be pushing for it.  This was hard to grasp until I read somewhere that you want this pace to be as if you were running away from a really big, angry growling dog that is chasing you.  LOL.  Ok I can envision that.   That helped me.

From here, it’s about how to set up the intervals.  For that, I got some advice from Marathon Brian.  MB suggested that I set up my Intervals Session with a Warm up, then alternating 4 Sprints and 4 Recoverys, and then a Cool Down.

So for me, it was going to look something like this:

Warm up:  Run a quarter-mile at 5.0 on the treadmill, which is my current 12 min mile pace.

Interval 1:  Sprint  for an 8th of a mile at 7.0 on the treadmill, which is an 8:34 min mile pace.

Recovery 1:  Run for an 8th of a mile at 5.0 on the treadmill, back to my 12 minute mile pace.

Repeat to complete 4 Intervals

Cool down: Run a quarter-mile at 5.0 on the treadmill, back to my 12 min mile pace.

So…I’m guessing you are wondering….How did it go?

Ok, so….first let me say what needs to be said.  Marathon Brian, You Are Right!  You are always Right!  90% of Running takes place in the Mind.  Never was that more clear than this day.  So, I get on the treadmill (um, no iPod…but that’s a post for another day)….and I start my warm up run.  Normal, normal, everything normal.  My body is grumbling and complaining like it does at the beginning of every run.  But my breathing settles down, and I’m in the groove.  I’m watching my distance indicator and when its time to start Sprint #1 — I kick it up to 6.5 to see how that feels.  I start running.  Envisioning the angry dog behind me.  It’s fast.  But not fast enough.  So, I go to 7.0.  Yup, this is more like it.  The 1/8th of a mile goes fast enough.  But it was enough effort to get my heart pounding, and my breath heavily laden, and when yhe 1/8th mile was over, Boy-O-Boy was I happy to kick it back down to 5.0, so I could have some relief,  I needed a few minutes to get myself back together before the next……WAIT A DOG-GONE MINUTE!  What the Hell just happened  Here I am, running at 5.0, and my mind is relieved?  My lungs are working over time to come back to normal, so I can have a few minutes to drink some Vitacoco before I have to do Interval 2.  ……so Weird.

Ok, Interval #2 – time to run from the dog again.  7.0.  Here I go.

And I went.  And went.  And it was hard.  But the good kind of hard, ya know?  The one where you are sweating, and putting out everything you’ve got, but deep down in your brain you are giggling….cuz you are so darn proud of how fast you are going and you don’t even KNOW WHO THE HELL YOU ARE RIGHT NOW!!  That kind of GOOD HARD.

1/8th of a mile goes by, and I hit it back to 5.0, and the same thing happens.  My mind is yelling, Oh Thank God  Thank God,  Thank God.  WTF?  Thank God?  Um, just yesterday, I was running two miles at 5.0 on this same exact treadmill, and I’m here to tell you that at No Time during those 24 minutes did I think, “Oh Thank God I’m running this slow and easy.”  Nope, not once.  What the Hell is happening?  Whoops, no time, got to run Interval #3.

And so this is how it went.  Intervals 3 and 4 were more of the same.  The Sprints kicked my butt, but they also were the exercise equivalent of eating Coconut Cake!  It was an out-of-body experience that I could go that fast, and I felt like the King of the World.  Then when those recovery periods came, I felt like I was resting, um….yea, recovering.  I was grateful for the relief so I could breathe.  I felt like I was going so slow.  Like barely running.  But….but….but..just ..yesterday……Let it Go, Diane.  Let it Go.  Just Trust. “

Ok, so Why?  Why are Intervals Good?  Again, from my simple brain….they are Good on two levels.  #1 – They are teaching my brain that my body Can Do More.   The Brain is an amazing muscle.  Part of its job is to Save You from Yourself.  You know…..Dude, don’t touch Fire.  Yo, Not so close to the edge of the Grand Canyon!   Don’t have a heart attack girl, slow it down a little!    Bazinga!   Yup, there it is.  Slow it down.  Slow it down.  If you keep running at that pace (without the angry bad-@ss toothy dog chasing ya), you’re gonna hurt yourself.  So, the brain is your self-monitoring device, and part of its job is to keep you from hurting yourself.  But what world-class athletes and their coaches know — is that your body has that little reserve…that bit of ability that lives just beyond the point where your mind says STOP.  And there are tricks and training regimens that serve as keys that help you unlock that ability.  Intervals are one of those Keys.  This is how I’m going to finally eliminate walking from my longer distance running.  By learning to find relief and ability to recover at my familiar 12 min mile pace.  It’s where I will train my body and my mind to go to find relief!  SO AWESOME!

#2 – Intervals trick the body, and Kick Up your metabolism.  Your body is AMAZING at regulation.  That’s Home Base.  Where It goes whenever anything unusual happens.  Body Temp – 98.6; Blood Pressure, Heart Rate, Breathing, Blood Sugar…..all of it.    It’s working hard, and over-time to regulate itself back to the Norm.  So when you first Add Exercise to your Body Equation — ooooh the body likes it.  And It adjusts the Metabolism to compensate.  Then you see the wonderful Payoff on the Scale.  Pounds LOST….S.C.O.R.E!  But what happens next, kinda Sucks.  The body gets used to the exercise, and now you are working just as hard as the first week….but without the weight loss payoff.  So,,,,,Intervals (and especially alternating the lengths and duration of the intervals) jump starts the body and your Metabolism every.single.time.you.do .them!  Now that’s a Payoff I can Learn to Live With Very Easily!!

Well…..boy was this Friday Run amazing.  Never did I expect my Perspective around my 12 minute mile pace to change so instantaneously.  But I love it.  Intervals taught my Mind a lesson by surprising it with a NEW experience.  It just goes to show ya.  You can think you KNOW something…….but you don’t really KNOW anything….. until you Try it.

Ciao for now…..Diane

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