Less fart, more heart

i_love_heart_lek_keychains-r7b8bb4fe9913438f9867d08227f71e16_x76wa_8byvr_152It’s been a little while since we talked training tips hasn’t it? I guess the main reason for this is that I don’t usually have anything worthwhile to share, beyond “Running’s nice isn’t it? We should all run about for a bit. Maybe sometimes we could run faster or further, but not get injured and stuff”.

But the other day I was messing around on the treadmill when I stumbled across something other than my own feet for a change. I stumbled across Heartleks.

“Heartlek” is an amalgam of “Fartlek” (Swedish term for speedplay. A less regimented form of interval training. I waffled about it here) and “Heart” (the pumpy muscle who lives in our chests and helps us to run, do carpentry, play table tennis and generally not die).

I’d started off doing some treadmintervals*and just happened to have dusted off my heart rate monitor for the first time in ages. I’d not long finished warming up when I realised I was paying more attention to my heart rate than my pace. Around this time last year, I’d started to really get into basing all my training on heart rate, but had since been distracted (most likely by a picture of a baby duck or a particularly shiny spoon) and lapsed back into the cosy familiarity of plodding aimlessly.

Anyway, enough background, back to the treadmill session. To occupy my mind (as there was a disappointing lack of duckponds/polished cutlery in the gym) I started playing around with my heart rate, and accidentally invented** Heartlek training. After ten minutes or so of steady jogging, I started upping the speed and the incline, watching my heart rate rise like the cholesterol levels of someone trapped in the stockroom of a petrol station. Once it reached a designated bpm (a totally arbitrary 170bpm, which is around 90% of my max heart rate) I maintained my pace/incline for 30 seconds before dumping the incline and settling back into a slow comfortable jog. The recovery phase went on until my heart rate had got back down to around 65% of my MHR (133bpm), at which point I’d groan, mutter something unsavoury and start whacking up the speed and incline until I was back at 90%. I repeated this a few times over, and wasn’t surprised to see that not only did it take a little longer for my heart rate to drop back each time, but I also got at least 7% more sweary with each repetition. On the second rep I’d have struggled to get a “tut” out of a dinner lady, but by the end of the workout my language would have made a bushy-moustached general’s monocle fall out and land in his sherry from 100 yards away. Perhaps his good lady wife would faint too, and then it’d cut to a scene of hundreds of birds taking flight as if startled. You get the idea.

And that, in essence, is Heartlek training. Is it actually any good as a training method? I honestly have no idea, but it kept my mind busy on what would have been an otherwise mundane treadmill session. If you’re a proper sporty sciencey type, and can suggest ways I could tweak this workout (by using different HR zones or just staying in and watching Emmerdale) then please leave a comment.


* as you can see, I’m a bit of a ninja when it comes to amalgams. Or a “Amalginja” if you prefer.
** I’ve no doubt that this type of training has already been done by millions of people, but for one glorious minute I really believed that I was the first one to think of calling it “Heartlek”. I tried googling it, and mostly just found loads of bizarre merchandise saying “I (heart symbol) Lek” which either refers to a town in Azerbaijan or a fictional currency from Star Trek (thanks, Wikipedia). But then right at the end of the web search, I found this and realised I’d been beaten to the punch by someone who is not only ace at coming up with running terminology, but is also a top blogger and endurance runner. Bah!

3 thoughts on “Less fart, more heart

  1. Tempted to try Heartlek. However, the only time I use treadmills is when trying on new shoes. Maybe I could have a go in Sweatshop and have the claim to fame of being the first person to be thrown out for being sweaty during gait analysis?

    • The beauty of it is, they wouldn’t be able to throw you out, because you’d be too sweaty to grab hold of.

      The perfect crime 🙂

  2. Man, you just made me realise I need an HRM in my life, and I’m not talking about Her Royal Majesty, although I’m sure she’d be fun to shoot the breeze with. Imagine Hearlek With The Queen, wow.

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