Fartlek - a Swedish innovation June 18 2015, 0 Comments

A normal training programme for a running event will include distance work to build stamina and shorter faster elements such as intervals to build strength and speed. In the 1930s Gösta Holmér, the Swedish national cross country coach, put these together into the Fartlek, near-literally speed-play in Swedish.  This is how it works.

In the course of a normal run, you insert periods of increased speed, for instance a faster two-minutes within each kilometre, with longer normal running spells in between to allow for recovery.  The advantage of this is that it does not require dedicated times or places for speed training.  It can take place almost anywhere, on roads or trails, and features occurring on the run can be put to use - lamp posts can be counted to set distances for the fast and slower stretches, or hills can be used for shorter, flat-out uphill work.  All of this will add spice to a normal run, and has been shown to be extremely effective in building both speed and stamina.

Sweden gave the world ABBA and the car safety belt, and punches above its weight in international sports competitions.  Distance runners can thank it for the Fartlek, an innovation used to this day by many serious runners.