I thought I would share with you my Sunday run. Currently, I am not in a structured training mode, just running frequently and consistently. Over the last two years, I have not been putting in the long miles typical to my training schedule and have stumbled upon a great workout to keep the legs "alive" during your off season or to "wake" them up from always doing the same type of run.
I call this run free form or free form intervals because you are including a few intervals within a short run. The key is to peform these intervals during a run of 30-40 minutes only. This way you are not tired at the end, and they are short enough so mentally you can run fast, not worrying about fatiguing prematurely during a longer run. These are also a must for ultra runners who are used to putting in long miles and never do many 30 minutes runs...they are refreshing and get your legs away from long and slow.
Here is what you do:
Get in a good warm-up of 10-15 minutes. Then perform 2-3 X 6-8 minutes runs where you just run as you feel, but fast. Just start out and run as fast as you feel like and respond by how you feel. If it feels good, speed up until you need to back off. Or continue to increase your effort throughout the 6-8 minutes. Speed up, slow down. Pick a pace and try to maintain it the entire time. The only rule is to just do what feels good on EACH interval and try to run between 5k and 400 meter pace. Again, let your pace respond to the moment and how you are feeling physically and mentally. What you will find is that since there are no expectations or set structure, you end up challenging yourself, but you also stay within your ability. Remember, train, don't strain.
You might say well this sounds like a fartlek run. Typically fartlek runs are short and hard with short easy recovery. This could be part of a free form interval, but you may also find that free form intervals are progessive in nature. Start out easy and continue to progress your efffort until you need to stop. Or just a steady, hard effort, harder than if you were doing MANY more intervals. Free form are not as confining as a fartlek. And by doing only a few intervals, you keep the legs working hard one or two days a week during the off season that can really help you to maintain fitness, without needing recovery. They leave you feeling very strong.
These are also a great way to work on building good form and technique if you are new to mid-foot striking. Running faster, helps create better foot strike and free form running could be a great way to train foot strike. Simply run faster than your normal endurance pace or your zone 2-3 HR until you feel your form falling apart. Slow down to recovery and then pick it back up with good form again.
Structure is very important for long term growth and improvement, but so too is a little creativity and free form running.