Fartlek: A swedish word that means speed play—varying both the rate at, and terrain on which you run, to make you faster.
“Most people are not thinking of that when they hear the word,” says John Honerkamp, a coach with the NYRR who, starting Tuesday, will help lead the organization’s next eight-week-long Group Training session, Fartleks included.
But now that you know what fartlek means, you probably also know you would not choose to do it on your own. Because it’s hard to be that tough on yourself. Which is why NYRR group sessions work especially well. And the twice-weekly outings would be particularly useful, by the way, for the 27,500 of you signed up to run the Brooklyn Half Marathon (the eight week training period wraps up a couple of weeks before race day, May 21). The meet-ups will provide you with a bunch of running peers, professional running coaches like Honerkamp, and, best of all, major accountability for all the Half Marathon training you say you will do, and complete, if you know what is good for you.
But don’t take my word for it (I’ve trained for two marathons on my own and, I confess, it was not the funnest thing I’ve ever done). Instead, take it from a man who has reaped, and now gushes about, the benefits of training with others so that, potentially, you will escape silently hate-running alone.
Don Eschenauer, 38, lives in Park Slope, and just completed his first eight-week NYRR Group Training in Prospect Park. The man is hooked. (E-mailing with him, he ended the sentence, “I start my next [group training session] next week” with an exclamation point. Many in his position would have inserted a crying emoji instead.)
Eschenauer started running in late 2013, and has not been able to stop himself since. There are a lot of benefits to group running in particular, he says–many of which wouldn’t occur to you at first, when you are more focused on not embarrassing yourself in public. “After a couple of weeks, you build great camaraderie with everyone,” says Eschenauer. “You find your running buddies who are at or around your pace, which is great to really help push you further.”
That is lovely; peer pressure, we learn once again, is effective. But that doesn’t even touch on the benefits the sessions provide from professionals, who are also replete with professional advice. “The coaches really help by giving tips on what you may or may not be doing well. There’s a lot of one-on-one time,” Eschenauer says. “They also ensure you’re warming up and stretching properly,” (something I do, on my own, no percent of the time), “Each session starts with a warmup and ends with a quick strength/core workout; it’s important to work more than just your running muscles, which you are grinding on over and over,” Eschenauer explains, like a man who has previously benefited form the advice of people who know what they are talking about.
It’s not just that running on one’s own–and exercise in general–is inherently unappealing; pragmatically speaking, it’s also difficult. Where do you squeeze it in? You are so busy. And if it’s up to you, you can easily ignore the hour-long time-block you entered on your calendar that says “run now.” It’s not as easy, though, if there are other people waiting for you at the park. And once you do show up, there’s also a bag check so you may run as nature intended: without your phone, and with others.
Eschenauer also appreciates the variety of the workout. Technically, Tuesdays are interval and speed-training heavy, and Thursdays concentrate on tempo and endurance. Together, he says, the combination is perfect. But if you can only make one session, NYRR coaches will also flip-flop workouts one week, so that you can experience, and get to know the benefits of both.
Oh, and this: You get better at running. “My running has really improved a lot,” says Eschenauer, after his first eight-week session. “I’ve not only gotten faster, but was able to build my endurance and strength. When I started 8 weeks ago, I was running just over 9-minute miles consistently,” he says. But at the Al Gordon 4-mile race in Prospect Park two weeks ago, he ran his personal best: a 7:55 pace. Even the terrifying hill at the end of the 3.36-mile park loop felt like a flat road, said Eschenauer.
So runners: Listen to Honerkamp, listen to Eschenauer–listen, for heaven’s sake, to Aristotle, if no one else: Man is by nature a social creature. Embrace your humanity and sign up for NYRR Group Training sessions next week (and most importantly, don’t feel vast disappointment in yourself, or let down all your new friends, come May 21).
NYRR Group Training sessions, Tuesdays and Thursdays in Prospect Park starting next week, 6:30am or 6:30pm slots. Sign up here.