After running into a local high school freshman runner, who now is on the outdoor track and field team, it gave me the idea of writing a column on speed workouts. Shortly thereafter, I happened to run into his track and field coach.

Fartlek, a Swedish term that means "speed play," is a form of interval or speed training that can be effective in improving your running speed and endurance.

Fartlek running involves varying your pace throughout your run, alternating between fast segments and slow jogs. Unlike traditional interval training that uses specific timed or measured segments, fartleks are more unstructured

The easiest way to run faster is to increase your overall flexibility, which will allow for a greater range of motion to cover more ground on each stride.

One of the greatest advantages of flexibility is that it allows the muscles to apply force more directly to the levers needed for efficient use of energy, resulting in more efficient running.

Proper training methods are also important in gaining speed. On the track, you can run a series of repeats. Run four 220's striving for a faster time with each one. This may be repeated after a slower set of four 220's, but it is important to watch your recovery.

On the road, pick an out-and-back course. Run easy to a turnaround point, and pick up your pace on the way back. Another method is the Fartlek running method: pick up your pace every six telephone poles for one mile, or longer if your body can handle the recovery.

Psychological factors can also play a role in better running times. You gain a mental high when passing competitors that can give you a feeling of strength and can actually give your body a physical surge of adrenalin.

Dr. Robert F. Weiss, a sports podiatrist, was a member of the Medical Advisory Committee of the 1984 and 1988 Olympic Marathon Trials. Weiss is a veteran of 35 Marathon & has a practice in Darien; affiliated with Stamford Hospital and member of Stamford Health Medical Group-Foot & Ankle. For info visit his Web site at www.stamford

healthmedicalgroup.org, and find a Physician-Dr. Robert F. Weiss.