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Fitness | Fitness Q & A

'Speed play' helps runners gain ground

May 19, 2003|Stephanie Oakes | Special to The Times

I'm just getting into running and reading about how to train for distances of seven to 10 miles. Can you explain what fartlek training is?

Fartlek is a Swedish term that means "speed play" or playing with speed. It was first used successfully by two great Swedish milers of the 1940s, Gunder Hagg and Arne Andersson. The runs are for lengths of time, rather than distance, at various pacing -- fast, medium and slow -- over a variety of terrain. Wooded areas, trails, parks and golf courses are ideal places for fartlek running, especially if they have rolling terrain or hills. You don't need to run set distances, such as five miles, and your pace can include all-out sprints, fast strides and even easy jogging with no predetermined recovery time.

This type of training can be truly effective because all runners (especially distance runners) need to have strength, endurance, speed and recovery racing tactics. Fartlek training can contain all these qualities in one workout, without the boredom that can sometimes come with track running. I'd advise combining fartlek training with other methods, such as interval training and repetition running, to provide effective results and fewer injuries. For starters, add at least half an hour a week of this type of training to your sessions.

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Stephanie Oakes is the fitness correspondent for Discovery Health Channel and a health/fitness consultant. Send questions by e-mail to: stephoakes@aol.com. She cannot respond to every query.

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