The fartlek is an interval training used by many athletes and specifically to build speed in runners. Fartlek is Swedish for “speed play,” giving the runner some idea that this type of training is play-like: fun, joyous, invigorating.
It is not. It is exhausting, grueling, and a bit painful on the feet/calves/hips.
What’s the Swedish work for “speed hell?”
According to Google Images, fartlekking looks like this:
Notice her long stride, her relaxed posture during the slower intervals, how nice her t-shirt and shorts still look at the end of the last interval.
Clearly, no one at Google has ever done one of these workouts. The truth: The first fast interval feels awesome (for me, this is 2 minutes at a 6.5mph pace). After the two minutes, I slow to a 5.6-6.0 mph for one minute and think, Gosh this is so easy! I could do this all day. I am the picture of health and fitness! I repeat this 2 minute speed/1 minute jog 3 times until minute 9. I am progressively starting to feel a little twinge in my legs and think, Twinge? That’s fitness, baby! Keep rockin’ out these miles! By minute 9 (when I get to walk briskly for 1 minute) I am thankful for a chance to rest a bit. That 1 minute of walking goes by extremely fast, but I remind myself I am 1/3 of the way through the workout. Only 20 more minutes to go. So I repeat the 2 speed/1 jog cycle, but this time by around minute 15 I am ready to pass out. I tell myself, You are already half way. So stupid to quit now. Just finish. Stop looking at the clock and just run. I am drenched in sweat. I smell awful. After a drink of water the saliva sticks to the top of my water bottle and makes a gross, gooey bridge from my mouth to the spout as I put the bottle back in it’s holster. By minute 19 (the next chance to walk), I am feeling better and decide to forgo my rights to a walking minute and run at a 7.0 mph pace through that minute. I pay for this at exactly 25:43. The last 10 minutes of the fartlek are a blur of Just get through it. It will be done soon. and The pain in [fill your your favorite body part here] is quite noticeable. By the time the little treadmill clock ticks from 29:59 to 30:00, I can hardly contain my joy. I am a wheezing, sweating mess.
All because Gosta Holmer, a Swedish running coach, was sick of getting beat by the Finns in the 1930s, once a week I have to sacrifice for the running sins of the slow Swedes.