Over the past couple of months, and leading up to the London Marathon, 13 April, I've been testing various online training regimes in an attempt to get marathon fit.
(These regimes and all my previous articles are on one handy Stumble Upon page, for your lovely reference. There are also photos of me in action available on both Flickr and Facebook.)
This week I'm looking at Fartlek (Swedish for 'speed play') regimes, designed by coach Gosta Holmer in the 1930s in a bid to revive Sweden's cross-country ski teams.
So, how did I get on over Christmas week?
More miles than I expected but still less than I should have.
I should have run 34 miles (the median average of all recommended schedules for the week) but only ran 27 miles, walked 10 miles, and cycled two (I'm learning to ride a bike, having been inspired by Phil S' column).
The dearth of sweaty self-flagelation is due to my first week of not following a prescribed training regime (not to beer and cake), but I have learned the following:
First pre-emptive Fartlek session (plus normal jog): Always take the southbank from Twickenham to Kew - there is a convenient and pleasant towpath all the way. The northbank is actually nowhere near the Thames aside from the odd 20 yards through an overpriced riverside development. I apologise for running through Syon Park gift shop, I was lost.
Running four miles in proper, thick, Sherlock Holmes' London fog is cool. Literally and figuritively. Couldn't see more than 20 yards ahead of me. Again, had a practice of Fartlek principles: sprinting up hills and varying what I ran on (in London that's a choice of pavement, cycle lane, or ocassional grass).
As promised, I ran six miles at 8am on Christmas morning. Waved to all four other joggers on the way. The M4 is an odd place when there are no cars about. The shop on South Ealing Road really is always open.
I can run dead on eight miles in an hour, though my 10k split time is 20 seconds off my PB and my 20-minute split is still 700m off my PB (5.1km). Although this was on a treadmill it was still a Fartlek variant. With gradient set at 1, I varied the speed from 10km/h to 16km/h, using five-minute, one-minute, and 30-second intervals.
Also, when pushing new boundaries in a public gym never cry out "woo-hoo, I've done it! I rule! I am the daddy", etc. You never know when Football Focus presenters will be stood close by (sorry, Droity, no Sharon Davies) and you're known as the unprofessional maniac among BBC Sport by the time you get back to the office.
So, in a Carry On... stylee, has one of you fartlek'd?
The routines are variants on interval training to increase anaerobic threshold, and so can be painful, but, as the examples below show, can be tailored for many sporting needs and in conjunction with other training styles ('no pain, no gain', Maffetone, team sports).
The emphasis is to run for your usual length of time (say, 45 minutes) but divide that in to bursts of anaerobic exercise to test lactate thresholds and simulate the urgency of racing, and jogs to let the body recover and stimulate aerobic exercise.
Many of the articles and sessions below suggest listening to your own body to judge when anaerobic exercise is getting too tough, or jogging is just too easy, and improvising with the landmarks and gradients you find on your run, rather than fixing times and distances.
For those that want fixed times and distances, there are a couple of them included, too.
So what makes Fartlek any different from how you or I probably run anyway? Well, I'll be trying out some regimes of varying flexibility and will let you know my findings each day (below).
The schedules I'll use are below, one for each day of the week. Each should be around five miles long. Handily, according to my hugely unscientific analysis, with 15 weeks to go until a marathon, we should all be running 35 miles.
Friday - Wikipedia's definition includes a detailed and varied regime to introduce you to Fartlek.
Saturday - I'll be trying Gerschler or Hill, depending on where I fancy running. There are many other routines in the link above, hopefully one to suit all of us.
Sunday - San Domenico Running Club's guide also includes a detailed session, in the context of other training such as hill or speed sessions.
Monday - Momentum Sports advocate the fun and laissez-faire structure of Fartlek.
Tuesday - Shrewsbury Athletics Club add heart rate measurements to the mix, for those that have monitors.
Wednesday - GB Personal Training have a session designed for treadmills.
If you don't have a treadmill, Teach PE (scroll down the page a bit) include a simple outline of a session.
Thursday - finally, one from a public Men's Health forum, why don't you add your own below? - I'm using Longy's suggestion at the end.
As ever, have a good run!