Eating & Running in Sweden

The Södra Promenad in Norrköping is a good example of Sweden’s urban trail network - keeping runners separate from car traffic and protecting from weather.

...View of the Promenad in December

Eating in Sweden
Picture this: While grocery shopping for your upcoming Christmas dinner, you swing by the freezer section of the store to check out what’s available for the centerpiece of your special dinner. Instead of the freezer being filled with individually-wrapped turkeys, like in North America, it’s filled with individually-wrapped salmon filets instead. Welcome to Sweden - home of the Nordic diet!

The Nordic diet is a traditional way of eating that is characterized by a focus on whole, unprocessed foods such as fish, whole grains, and seasonal fruits and vegetables. For residents of Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, and Sweden, the Nordic diet is based on locally-sourced, seasonal foods, which can help reduce the environmental impact of food production. (The longer foods spend in storage and transit, the greater the chance of spoilage.)

The Nordic diet has plenty of local fruits and vegetables, which are rich in antioxidants and other compounds that may help reduce the risk of cancer. Local vegetables include root vegetables (potatoes, carrots, beets, turnips), cruciferous vegetables (Brussels sprouts, broccoli, cabbage) and green peas. Berries (lingonberries), apples, pears and plums are the predominant local fruits.

A moderate amount of fish is consumed in the Nordic diet; a good source of protein and omega-3 fatty acids, which have been shown to have a positive effect on heart health. Herring, mackerel, sardines and salmon are protein sources rich in omega-3 fats regularly eaten. Also, lean game meats such as deer and reindeer are enjoyed occasionally. And skyr, an Icelandic-made yogurt that’s high in protein (25 grams per cup) and low in fat, is also eaten.
Fusion cuisine! Salmon and potatoes fused with tomatoes, harissa, and hummus - for a melding of Nordic and Middle Eastern cuisine.

Additionally, the diet is low in saturated fats and cholesterol, which can also help reduce the risk of heart disease. The Nordic diet emphasizes rapeseed oil (a.k.a. canola oil) an excellent source of heart-healthy unsaturated fats. 

With the Nordic diet being high in fiber and low in added sugars and processed foods, it may be effective for weight loss. Nordic menus feature steel-cut oats, lentils, beans, and breads and crackers made with whole grain rye.

Swedes also enjoy taking “fika” during the day (a casual time for coffee, conversation, and a sweet treat). Oftentimes, fika takes place mid-morning around first coffee break. If intermittent fasting is in your quiver of nutrition strategies, you may want to consider breaking your fast during mid-morning fika.

With an emphasis on local vegetables and fruit, rich in omega-3 and unsaturated fats, lots of fiber, and limited processed sugars; runners will likely find the Nordic diet to be more than enough to fuel their running while visiting Sweden.
This rye crispbread is topped with nonfat skyr yogurt, sardines in tomato sauce, and dried herbs; which provides a good source of carbohydrates, fiber, omega-3 fats, and protein after a training run.

Going for a Run
View of Motala ström from riverside trail in Norrköping

Sweden’s cities have rich urban trail networks for pedestrians and cyclists. So it’s more a question of where can’t you run in Sweden!?! Of the three cities I’ve visited so far - Malmö, Norrköping, and Stockholm - each has a great urban trail network to explore, like the Södra Promenad or along the Motala ström in Norrköping or near the waterfront in Malmö. 
Malmö’s Turning Torso as seen from a pedestrian walkway in recently-renovated Västra Hamnen district.

Oftentimes, outside the city center there are trails connecting to outlying towns. For instance, a trail connects Norrköping to a beautiful town, Söderköping, roughly 21k (half-marathon) in distance and separate from the motor highway.

There are even trails linking several communities. A sampling of the best known include:
The King’s Trail (Kungsladen) 400k long in northern Sweden
Sörmland Trail (Sörmlandsleden) 1,000k long in south-central Sweden
Skåne Trail (Skåneleden) 1,400k long in southern Sweden

Going for a Race
Mens 5000m final at Sweden National Track & Field Championships in Norrköping 

A sampling of the race calendar:
Tjejmilen (Stockholm in September)
The Tjejmilen is one of the largest women-only races held in Europe with about 30,000 runners. It has two versions held on the same day - 10k road and 10k trail (possible for runners to do both). The route of the road race overlaps with some of the route used in the Stockholm Marathon. Now, for the guys, you haven’t been forgotten;). As pictured below, the trail route takes runners through another urban trail network in the Gärdet district of Stockholm, which runners can access the other 364 days of the year.
Route Map for Tjejmilen Trail Race in Stockholm 

Göteborgsvarvet (Gothenburg in May)
This race aims to be the world’s largest half-marathon and can attract 40,000 runners winding through the streets of Gothenburg. (My son-in-law signed up for the 2024 Göteborgsvarvet and he tells me this race will attract 70,000 runners!)

Arctic Circle Race (Arjeplog in August)
Fancy a helicopter ride to start your race experience? Located above the arctic circle, runners are transported by helicopter 18k to start their trail run back to civilization.

Getting There
Sweden can be reached by air, car ferry, and train. Arlanda Airport just outside of Stockholm is the main international hub serviced by major airlines. For further information on transportation, accommodation, events, and sites - the website Visit Sweden is recommended.

Depending on where you go in Sweden, you’ll need to consider climate and weather conditions for making decisions about amount of time to spend outdoors and clothing. Winters in the north are long and cold, with the possibility of temperatures going below -30 degrees C (best not to run outside at this temperature). However, during summer months, temperatures there can reach +20 degrees C (70 degrees F); meaning running and other outdoor activities can be enjoyed. In central and southern Sweden, winters tend to be short and cold with average temperatures around 0 degrees C (32 degrees F); meaning running outside with an extra layer(s) of clothing can happen. During summer months, temperatures often reach +20 degrees C (70 degrees F); meaning running in shorts, a tech shirt, and a light jacket may work best.

Hours of sunlight needs to be considered into clothing decisions. In winter, it starts getting dark by 3PM in southern Sweden. So I recommend runners consider wearing clothing with some high visibility material during fall, winter, and spring months, especially if running near car traffic.
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It's worth noting that a Swedish track coach, Gösta Holmér, developed fartlek running in which runners 'play with speed'. For more on fartlek running, check out:

For other travelogues, check out:
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Thanks for reading.



Experiment of One Coaching covers topics ranging from running, strength training, health & wellness, sports nutrition to travel. I usually post once or twice a month.