It’s Not All Mary Poppins

Fartlek. Who knew?

“Can we climb on the rocks?”

On one side of the quiet, dead-end street that ends at the park, there are several modest homes with lovely gardens. On the other side of the street there are no homes, just a grassy verge which, after a metre or so, slopes down to the reeds which edge the river. On the grassy side of the road, some cranky, anal-retentive civic-minded soul has placed a line of large rocks. I’m sure they are there to prevent cars from parking on the grassy verge, but when the tots see them, they are not thinking “damned cars, churning up the grass and obstructing my view of the river”, but “Hoo-boy! Rocks to jump on!!”

And because it is a quiet, dead-end street, I say “yes”. All along that short stretch of road, they trot, step up, stand, and jump off. They step up, using JUST YOUR FEET AND NO HANDS, because we are entering an off-leash dog park, and a LOT of dogs traverse this stretch of road. A lot of those dogs are male dogs, and the thing about male dogs is that if it’s not moving, THEY HAVE TO PEE ON IT.

And if ONE dog has peed on something, then you know that every other male dog (and even some determined females) which passes this way is obliged to PEE ON IT, TOO. This is written in the Doggie Rules for Living somewhere. It is Inviolable.

So those rocks? They have been peed on many, many, many times. And yes, I know that urine is pretty much sterile. (At least, people pee is. I assume canine pee is similarly germless.) That is why they are allowed to climb on the rocks at all. But, if dogs are OBLIGED to pee on anything that doesn’t move, toddlers are similarly OBLIGED to put their hands in their mouths. And their noses. And their friends’ mouths. And sometimes, yes, their friends’ noses.

So. We don’t touch the pee-rocks.

But we do step on them! And jump off! All the way to the park! (About, oh, 30 metres.)

“Can we run to the bench?”

There is a bench along the path about 20 metres inside the park entry. If there are no cyclists approaching, the answer is always ‘yes’. It’s a big treat to be able to let go of the stroller and run ahead, even in carefully controlled segments, 10, 20, 30 metres at a stretch. And off they go, Noah and Tyler and sometimes Emily, running in the jerky, bouncy, up-and-down-y way of toddlers, clumsily constructed wind-up toys wound a bit too tight. They reach the bench, climb up on it, then clamber down and trot back toward me.

“Can we run to the next bench?”

And away they go again, running hard to the next bench. Then they trot back to me. Or trot over to the tree in the field. Or clamber over the bench.

“Can we run to the sign?” Run hard, trot back.
“Can we run to the tennis court?” Run hard, trot.
“Can we run to the bridge?” Run hard, trot.

This is our pattern, three or more days a week, all summer long. It’s about a kilometre from my home to the park, so these kids are running/trotting about half that distance. Not bad for little critters with foot-long legs. (Yes, I do mix my measuring systems. Comes of having been in school when metric was introduced here. Spent a few years learning Imperial, the remainder learning metric, so now I have both. Except for temperature, which is always, only, Celcius. And my weight, which is always, only, pounds. Call it a true Canadian mish-mash compromise.)

So. A decent run/trot for such short little legs. The other day Noah did the run/trot through the entire length of the park, about a km, and then walked the remaining 1.5 km to the mall beyond the park. AND did the same on the way back.

You know, his endurance really is increasing. I’d noticed it, but hadn’t given it much thought. He’s an active, healthy child, he’s growing, he’s getting stronger. That’s what kids do, right? They get stronger.

Well, yes they do, particularly if they’ve been FARTLEK TRAINING.

No, I did not make that up.

But I had not heard of it until this week, when Kristen mentioned “doing fartleks”. (“Fartlek.” Snort. Yes, it makes me snicker, too. Comes of spending too much time with toddlers, I’m sure. Anything that would generally be contained in a diaper is screamingly funny.)

She mentioned it, I googled it, and now I know. That ‘gogoFASTFASTFAST … go slow… GOLIKEACRAZYPERSON … go slooooooow … goGOgoGOGOGOgogogo … sloooow’ thing that toddlers do? They are not trying to drive you crazy. They are not even being inconsistent.

They are fartlek training.

And now we all know.

June 10, 2010 - Posted by | Canada, eeewww, health and safety, Noah | , , , , ,


  1. Fartlek? What sorta name is that?? As for the imperial/decimal mishmash, I’m right with you. Decimal was introduced here when I was 11. We had to learn both lots of measurement. A cricket pitch is a chain in length, there are 80 chain in a mile (I think), an inch is 2.4 centimetres. 250g = 8 oz. All this double think means I can talk measurement with my parents (in their late 80’s) and my teenagers.

    Swedish, I think, meaning ‘speed play’. It’s in the link I provided if you’re really interested… Chains? Another good reason to be glad we don’t play cricket here…

    Comment by Maisy | June 10, 2010 | Reply

  2. Ha – now you can add personal trainer to your CV.

    You’re RIGHT. I am a woman of so many talents, I hardly know I even have them. 😛

    Comment by Darcy's Mom | June 10, 2010 | Reply

  3. I am a true Canadian as well! That is exactly how I measure things. I think everyone our age is in the habit of using both systems, and now we are passing that on to our kids!

    I should ask my kids which system they think in. I certainly have used both around them, and they’re ‘fluent’ in both systems, but I honestly don’t know if they have a preference.

    Comment by Tammy | June 10, 2010 | Reply

  4. Given that you don’t even display ads on this blog, what’s the deal with suddenly requiring me to click through to read?


    Click through what? I don’t think that’s my doing!

    Comment by Rini | June 10, 2010 | Reply

    • Hmm. It’s showing the condensed version in my feed reader – only the first paragraph and then a […] to read more. According to my archives, it started on May 21st…

      Comment by Rini | June 15, 2010 | Reply

  5. Of course you time this to happen just before lunch so they can eat and take nice looong naps?!!

    The day he essentially ran 4 or 5 km to the mall and back, Noah slept for THREE HOURS. Did I time it that way deliberately, or was it strictly serendipity? You tell me… 😉

    Comment by jwg | June 10, 2010 | Reply

  6. I always understood it was how Boy Scouts could keep going forever. I really doubt they ever gave it a name that started ‘fart’.

    I am equally at home in Metric and Imperial, though I’ll always think in Imperial, and in this country people still don’t instinctively understand the metric system. I mean, anyone who knows what a foot is can visualise it, but younger people have to measure 30cm. And no one knows their height in metric.

    We think Celsius for low temperatures and Farenheit for high ones! Though our idea of high is “England sizzles in the Seventies!”

    Comment by Z | June 11, 2010 | Reply

  7. My hubbie accuses me often of being entirely too literal. So when I read this post, my thought was, “Who in their right mind increases a child’s endurance on purpose?!” thinking only of the athletically crazed parents who encourage their children to lift weights and run laps. It took several minutes, most of those thinking about using fartlek training to get back in shape after this baby arrives, before I rolled my eyes and realized you were instigating the training and not exactly on purpose. Oh my! DH is frequently right about me, and this was yet another time. Increased playing, higher endurance and sounder sleeping are some of the best parts of Summer. I’m glad toddlers are able to enjoy it too.

    Comment by Katie | June 21, 2010 | Reply

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