Toby or not Toby – Miles for Smiles Update (a Fartleker’s Guide)

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Martin Moodie
Martin Moodie is the Founder & Chairman of The Moodie Report.

Miles-MediumSince my last Blog full of training tips for the ‘Miles for Smiles’ fun run in Dubai this November, my in-box has been overflowing with helpful hints – and a fair smatter of abuse – from fellow runners and also those who know better than to enter such ill-advised and fundamentally painful events.

Sifting through this disparate advice I was alerted to an e-mail from Toby Hampton, an Account Manager at excellent UK Public Relations consultancy Kavanagh Communications.

After reading my last Blog, Toby wrote: “Keep on training is the best advice. I’ve run four marathons over the past five years and six years ago I hated running – I now love it!”

Such endearing enthusiasm, especially capped by the dreaded exclamation mark, strikes me as the definitive articulation of masochism.

But full of admiration for Toby’s transformation and seeking some insider tips, I informed him that I planned to bring my 10k time down to 47 minutes this year (from 49 minutes, 56 seconds last time round).

That revelation prompted this helpful response which I feel compelled to share with readers of The Moodie Blog.

“I do ‘Fartlek’ training, which is about alternating your gradients and speed when running. This really helped me. If you do some of your training in a gym it is easy to do this on a treadmill.”

The ever-helpful Toby even sent me a link to Fartlek training and signed off his e-mail with a cheery “Good luck!”

fartlek2_138[Picture courtesy of Fartlekers’ World]

Now before half the travel retail industry turns into fartlek fanatics, some words of warning and explanation.

Firstly you have to blame the Swedes for the rather unsettling word. Fartlek, a Swedish term that I promise you will never find in Generation’s ‘Best n Most’, means ‘speed play’.

In essence it is a form of interval or speed training, said to be highly effective in improving your speed and endurance. It apparently involves varying one’s pace throughout the run, alternating between fast segments and slow jogs – unlike the consistently more comfortable 100% slow then slower jog approach recommended by The Moodie Blog.

Fartlek sessions, you will be pleased to know, are more unstructured than ‘conventional’ interval training (personally I only train until the interval, never after it). Work-rest intervals can be based on how the body feels, I learned. Presumably that means you can lie down on the dreadmill if you start to feel tired (though you must remember to turn it off first).

Another benefit of fartlek training is that it doesn’t have to be done on a track and can be done on all types of terrains, including – listen to this from the official guide – “roads, trails, or even hills”.

Readers, there are no hills in Dubai. So why would you train on any? Other than perhaps to drive up one and start your run at the top?

Fartlek while you are running by all means but on no account take it too seriously. As the travel retail industry begins to recover from crisis, the last thing we need is a mass outbreak of fartlek fever.

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  • Martin,

    There’s another glorious Swedish word with a striking similarity to fartlek, but almost opposite meaning – farthinder.

    This might sound like something you’d need whilst running on a full stomach, but in reality it is something you will be praying you don’t encounter in Dubai – a speed bump.