I shoveled my driveway again today, and though it wasn’t hard work by any means (only a few inches of light snow), all the nagging pains acquired this winter came right back. It seems like it’s been a million years since I could get some outdoor exercise that doesn’t feel like a chore. It’s really only been since last Thursday.
We were lucky to see 60 degrees in Connecticut last week, and it felt like heaven. I drove home from school with the windows down. The sun was warm. Birds were singing.
I realized I hadn’t ran since November.
So I strapped on my thoroughly beaten Asics and got outside. I’m no high miler, but it was very tempting to go for long, slow distance. It still gets dark early here, though, and I try to keep my training intensity high. So I decided to do some Fartlek running instead.
Yeah. I said it. I giggle like Homer Simpson when he says “titmouse.” Every time.
Aside from the funny name (Swedish for “speed play”) Fartlek running is an excellent workout. Basically, you run for a while at a moderate pace. Then add in sprints of varying intervals followed by light jogging for active rest. You can keep time or space your sprints with landmarks like mailboxes or telephone poles.
Bruce Lee utilized this training protocol extensively throughout his career. One of his students, Richard Bustillo explains it in The Art of Expressing the Human Body:I ran with him [Lee] one time and I didn’t like the way he ran because, when I run, I like to relax and just jog. I like to get the cardiovascular system going. I used to box before and that’s how I used to run; only picking up the pace occasionally. Back when I was training with Bruce, there wasn’t much talk of what they now call interval training. Bruce was already doing that before it became popular. And what he used to do, he’d be jogging for a while, and then he’d be sprinting, and then he’d jog; then he’d run backward, and then he’d jog; he’d even do crossovers, bringing his left leg over his right leg–and then he’d jog; he’d do circles for his footwork, and then he’d jog. He ran backward for footwork and coordination because he realized that fighting is not just like jogging; sometimes you’ve got to turn fast or backpeddle. That’s how he applied it, and that’s how he ran. That’s no fun running! Geez, to me, I like to do things and enjoy things. Man, that was a workout!
Fartlek (lol. sorry) produced undeniable results for Bruce Lee, and it can benefit you as well. My advice would be to start easy–especially if you’re not used to intense running. My cardio may have dipped a bit this winter, but my heart could handle a good 30-minute session with some hills. My legs, on the other hand, didn’t fare so well. I’m still limping five days later.