Getting fit for the Swedish Classic

The Local's Keith Moore examines the rigours of the supremely challenging Swedish Classic as part of a new series on keeping fit in Sweden, in association with Planet Fitness.

Getting fit for the Swedish Classic

The Swedish Classic fitness events are as highly regarded as the New York and London marathons. As well as an opportunity to get fit, experience the Swedish landscape and make friends, taking part is an experience every bit as traditionally Swedish as eating meatballs, semla and a shopping trip to Ikea.

“The basic idea is to keep ordinary people fit all year round,” says Jan-Eric Österström, until recently the chairman of the Swedish Classics.

“It’s also an excellent way to see Sweden’s environment and nature.”

Planet Fitness is offering a unique opportunity for competitors to train for all four events at its Stockholm health club.

To earn a Swedish Classic diploma, competitors have to finish a race in each one of the four disciplines of running, swimming, cycling and skiing, within 12 months.

Since 1971, more than 23,400 men and 4,900 women have completed a classic circuit. Ten people have completed the circuit more than 25 times.

A classic circuit is: skiing 90 km at Vasaloppet or 60 km at the Engelbreksgatan race, 300 km of cycling at Vätternrundan, 3 km of swimming in a river at Vansbro and the 30 km Lidingöloppet run.

“I did it because it’s a tradition and a good way of getting in to the Swedish psyche” says Phil Edington, who moved to Sweden from England.

“It’s a fun day out and a great achievement to finish a race. It’s not something that every Swede has done.”

Half distance and women’s races are shorter alternatives to the full classic.

Planet Fitness is the first health club to enable competitors to train for each of the four events in one location.

“Each person will be trained individually according to their fitness requirements and Planet Fitness will attend each event to offer support” says Stuart Lascelles, manager at Planet Fitness.

“We will give presentations about the races to help participants prepare and to meet other people taking part. We’ll also be able to help with any questions they might have about traveling, transport or training.”

Three months of training for each event is required to perform well, recommends Planet Fitness’ Deri Thomas.

“We use specific training for each of the four events, as although a good aerobic capacity helps with all the events, they each use different muscle groups.”

A veteran of 16 Lidingöloppet races, Jan-Eric Österström thinks that being able to soclialise with fellow competitors whilst training and at races is a big attraction for many people. He also says that those who have competed for a number of years are “aging with glory.”

The next classic is the Vätternrundan cycle on the 12th and 13th June.

For more information about training for the Swedish Classic contact Planet Fitness on 08-440-9150 or click the link to find out more about special offers for readers of The Local.


Could Scandinavian countries lead the way in taking stand against Qatar World Cup?

Vehemently opposed to Qatar's hosting of the 2022 World Cup, football federations in the Nordic countries are putting pressure on Doha and FIFA to improve conditions for migrant workers in the emirate.

Workers during construction of the Lusail 2022 World Cup stadium in December 2019. Football federations in Nordic countries led by Denmark have spoken out against Qatar's hosting of the event.
Workers during construction of the Lusail 2022 World Cup stadium in December 2019. Football federations in Nordic countries led by Denmark have spoken out against Qatar's hosting of the event. Photo: Kai Pfaffenbach/Reuters/Ritzau Scanpix

Together with rights organisation Amnesty International, the federations of Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Finland and Iceland have ratcheted up the pressure in recent months, raising their concerns and presenting recommendations in letters, meetings with officials and pre-game protests.

“We are against holding the World Cup in Qatar, we thought it was a bad decision,” the head of the Danish federation DBU, Jakob Jensen, told AFP.

“It is wrong in many ways. Because of the human rights situation, the environment, building new stadiums in a country with very little stadium capacity,” he said.

Denmark is the only Nordic country to have qualified for the tournament so far. Sweden face a playoff next year to secure a place and Norway, Finland and Iceland have been eliminated.

Leading the charge, the Danish federation regularly publishes the Nordic countries’ letters sent to FIFA and holds talks with Qatari officials, including an October meeting with Qatar head organiser Hassan Al-Thawadi.

The main concern is migrant workers’ rights.

Qatar has faced criticism for its treatment of migrant workers, many of whom are involved in the construction of the World Cup stadiums and infrastructure.

Campaigners accuse employers of exploitation and forcing labourers to work in dangerous conditions.

Qatari authorities meanwhile insist they have done more than any country in the region to improve worker welfare, and reject international media reports about thousands of workers’ deaths.

The Nordics have also raised other concerns with al-Thawadi, Jensen said.

“Will homosexuals be allowed to attend the World Cup? Will men and women be able to attend the matches together? Will the press have free access to all sorts of issues to do investigations in the country?”

“And all the answers we received were ‘yes’. So of course we’re going to hold him responsible for that,” Jensen said.

The Danish federation said its World Cup participation would focus on the games played on the pitch, and it will not do anything to promote the event for organisers.

It will limit the number of trips it makes to Qatar, the team’s commercial partners will not take part in official activities there, and its two jersey sponsors will allow training kit to carry critical messages.

In Norway, whose qualification bid fell apart when its best player Erling Braut Haaland missed games through injury, the issue culminated in June when its federation held a vote on whether to boycott the World Cup.

READ ALSO: Norway’s economic police call for boycott of Qatar World Cup

Delegates ultimately voted against the idea, but an expert committee recommended 26 measures, including the creation of a resource centre for migrant workers and an alert system to detect human rights violations and inform the international community.

Like other teams, Norway’s squad also protested before each match by wearing jerseys or holding banners like the one unfurled during a recent match against Turkey, reading “Fair play for migrant workers”.

But the Nordic countries have not always acted in line with their own campaign.

Last month at a Copenhagen stadium, a Danish fan was ordered to take down his banner criticising the World Cup in Qatar, as FIFA rules prohibit political statements.

And Sweden’s federation recently scratched plans to hold its winter training camp in the emirate as it has done the past two years.

Sweden’s professional clubs had protested against the hypocrisy of holding the camp there while at the same the federation was leading the protests with Nordic counterparts.

The professional clubs wanted to send a “signal”, the chairman of Swedish Professional Football Leagues, Jens Andersson, told AFP.

Individual players have also spoken out. 

Finland’s captain Tim Sparv last week issued a joint appeal with Amnesty demanding that “FIFA must ensure that human rights are respected”, adding: “We are in debt to those people who have worked for years in poor conditions.”

So far, none of FIFA’s 200 other member federations have joined the Nordic campaign.

“Hopefully all these Nordic neighbours of ours and us taking these steps will have an impact on other countries,” Mats Enquist, secretary general of the Swedish Professional Football League, told AFP.

“We need to ensure that all the aspects of football, not just the richest, are really taken care of when we come to a place.”