It is important to remember that all aspects of training are as important as the other, as each area compliments the others. I am continually telling clients at boot camp that you need to work on the areas that you find more difficult. It is human nature to do the things we are good at; this raises the problem that the body adapts to the repetition of training the same way. The best way I can explain it is if you regularly attend a Body Pump class you may find that the first time you find it difficult to lift a relatively easy weight and within several sessions the weight on your bar has doubled. Several months or years down the road however you are still lifting the same weights and no longer seem to be improving your performance. Remember variety is not only the spice of life but also the key to â€˜improving performanceâ€™.
We are going to look at â€˜fartlek trainingâ€™; this is a Swedish word meaning speed play. It involves training at a high intensity for short periods of time that require the body to work the muscles in an anaerobic (without oxygen) capacity. When we work at these high intensities our muscles produce several metabolic by-products, one of these by-products is lactic acid. Years ago believed that lactic acid was detrimental to training as it causes our muscles to fatigue early and our performance to decrease. It is now widely acknowledged that lactic acid plays several important roles within the body.
Firstly, it acts as a safety mechanism that prevents us from pushing our bodies beyond their limits. When our muscles produce lactic acid it causes a burning sensation in the muscles that can become very unpleasant and makes us reduce our training intensity. If we continue to work at these increased intensities the lactic acid can build up so much that it enters the stomach and causes us to vomit.
Secondly, it plays an important role in developing our bodiesâ€™ training systems and improving our overall performance. Lactic acid in the presence of oxygen will turn into a substance called pyruvic acid which will turn into energy. As energy is the currency the body requires to perform movement and exercises it is paramount to performance that we develop our lactate system.
So how can we carry out a fartlek training session? Letâ€™s begin by looking at how the professionals develop their training. For this we will look at Paula Radcliffe; as a long distance runner she will carry out sprint sessions on a track that will involve a 400m track. After a warm-up and stretch she will carry out various sprints over differing distances with relevant recoveries in between each sprint. A typical sprint session on a track would involve 2 x 400m sprints with 400m recoveries, 4 x 200m sprints with 200m recoveries in between and 8 x 100m sprints with 100m recoveries in between. During the sprints her muscles produce lactic acid and when she enters a recovery period her breathing rate and depth increases to feed the muscles with fresh oxygenated blood. She continues to repeat this process throughout the session enabling her body to become more efficient at dealing with the lactic acid and turning it into energy. Paula Radcliffe is so accustomed to this type of training that when she competes it seems like she is sprinting a marathon. Her body is continually producing lactic acid and rapidly turning it into energy to produce more lactic acid and so on.
I am not suggesting that you all need to go to a running track tomorrow unless you are training for a 5km race or further distance. Most classes that you attend at your gym involve this type of training. You just need to make sure that the classes you do attend adjust the type of exercises, intensities and time durations you train for, week in week out. Whether you attend a spin, circuit, step, boxing, pump or aerobics class it needs to be varied to avoid the body becoming stale.