Freeletics Running Sphinx – why the hell do I do that??

I am right between the fourth and the fifth interval. The music of some strange progressive band pulses in my ears, at exactly 180 beats per minute. Maybe it’s just 90 beats and I’m running double time, but I don’t care. Too much focus is set on breathing, staying up, and recovering for the next interval. The music fades for a bit, only to make room for the Freeletics Running coach. He tells me: “Get ready for 1500m. This is a maximum intensity run, push yourself. You have ten intervals left!” Between two desperate breaths, all I can silently, in my head, respond to that is: “Why the hell do I do this!??”


In my quest to get fit again, I chose the road of freeletics. I signed up for the coach in spring, but through various circumstances that led to my current challenge, I did not really get into it. After the initial high I quickly went back to being lazy, smoking and drinking white wine. Now, starting again, I am on week four of the coach, and I do Freeletics Running as well as Freeletics Bodyweight.

What I really like about freeletics in general is that you do not need anything at all. Besides motivation. Lots of motivation. There are nice explanations, and the workouts are rich in variety. You get statistics about your timing and your progress, which is nice for a numbers person like myself.

On the other hand, the Freeletics Running app has a much simpler approach.

Freeletics Running – the App

I was never really into running. It seemed pointless to haste from one point to another, without kicking a ball in front of you. Running itself still seems pointless. It’s exhausting, mundane, I would even say boring. But boy, the results do feel great. So my main requirement for running is simple: It should be fun and easy. The fun is provided by Spotify, the easy part by freeletics.

Freeletics Running, as I mentioned, has a really simple approach – just run. And do what the coach tells you.

After a simple setup with a few questions you start. Depending on your goals I suppose, I never cared about testing different inputs. And you run.

Completing your current workout, the coach tells you if you had a personal best. That’s it – “Great job, you did what you are supposed to do!”. You do not get a lot of statistics, you don’t get to share the map of your run on Facebook, and you don’t get a calories count or anything like that. It’s just the basic data – you ran 5km in 25:13. That’s what you can share with your friends.

I was a little disappointed in that at first. Now I like it. Even better – I love it. It’s about running, for myself. If my pulse is too high, I listen to my body and go slower. If I’m too slow, I don’t get the intrinsic reward of having achieved something afterwards.

Just. Run.


The reason I am writing this piece is this specific workout. Combined with my thoughts in the introduction. Yesterday Freeletics Running made me run the Sphinx workout.

To those of you who are not familiar with it, it is a maximum intensity interval run. It consists of:

  • 4 x 200m (2 minutes pause after each)
  • 1 x 1500m (3 minutes pause)
  • 4 x 400m (2 minutes each)
  • 1 x 1500m (3 minutes)
  • 4 x 200m (again, 2 minutes pause)

That’s why it is called sphinx:

freeletics running sphinx

I did not want to go home from work. I reluctantly put on my running clothes, and after 15 minutes of warmup, the regret and the doubts came crawling into my thoughts.

Pushing through

Exhausted after the first four intervals I am on the brink of just giving up. Is it worth it? Why the hell do I do that? Am I too old for that shit? Do I want to prove a point? What is this stinging feeling in my lungs? Why can’t I just be a lazy average computer nerd? DO YOU KNOW I AM NOT EVEN ONE THIRD THROUGH?

“Prepare for your 1500m!” The coach suddenly tears me away from thinking, loathing and self-pity. “5-4-3-2-1-GO!”

One step at a time, exactly to the beat of the music (thanks for that great feature Spotify!!), I put one foot in front of the other, again and again. There is no distraction, just running, as fast as I can, and trying to keep my breath in check. My lungs are ready to burst, when suddenly I hear “DONE!” in my sports headphones. Relieved, exhausted, nearly coughing blood I take a few deep breaths. I did it. Barely, but I did it. I still don’t know exactly why, but I dit it. The belief in myself grows, and I am more confident than ever that I can finish these three months, and achieve my goals. I get lost in some thoughts and dreams while slowly calming down, when I suddenly hear a voice: “Get ready for 400m”.

Just nine more intervals to go…

The Aftermath

I still couldn’t really believe what I just did, without anyone watching, and without anyone supposedly judging me to keep me from quitting. My times are not great, they are far from it. Maybe they will get better, that is not the thing I am worried about now. I want to keep this schedule up. However bad the results are – they are achievements.

So there I was, sitting on my throne, drinking soda stream water. Thank god I had no wine at home. I would have killed a bottle in no time. It took nearly an hour to fully calm down, but two things stayed the same: my belief in pushing through, and the smile on my face.


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