If you’re serious about running your best (while avoiding the classic training rut trap), you need to opt for a well-rounded running program. That means doing a variety of running workouts of different speeds, distances, and intensities.
And here is the good news.
In today’s article, I’m going to break down the seven most basic running sessions,
So, are you excited? Then here we go.
But first things first, before we get into the heart of the matter, let’s first briefly discuss some of the reasons training variety is so important.
The Many Benefits Of Training Variety
Sticking to the same speed and distance over and over again is the recipe for boredom and plateaus. This is a classic mistake you need to avoid if you’re serious about reaching your running goals.
A lot of runners log nearly all of their runs at generally the same distance and same intensity, usually around 60 to 70 percent of max effort.
But here is the sad truth. If you do the same workout day in day out, then you’re doing your fitness a great disservice.
Sticking to the same running routine over and over can keep you from getting faster, and stronger.
Imagine reading your favorite book or watching your favorite TV show. Now, picture doing the same thing over and over again—after a few days, the entertainment value will vanish. In fact, you’ll start to dread what was once a gratifying activity.
You Need Variety, Period
By adding a bit of variety into your running routine, you’ll make things interesting, challenge yourself, and hopefully, become a better runner in the process. Not to mention the possibility of reducing the risk of injury.
A good training base is built on a variety of workouts—that’s what’s known as well-rounded running training.
The full range of workouts teaches your body different lessons. To strengthen your cardiovascular system and muscles to endure the rigors of running, you’ll need a multi-pace, varied, training approach. That might seem like a lot to handle, but in today’s post, you’ll learn the basics you need to proceed without much second-guessing.
Here are the building blocks of a well-rounded running program
- Easy runs
- Tempo runs
- Interval runs
- Pyramid runs
- Hill runs
- Fartlek runs
- Long runs
These are the running workouts that will cover the whole range of training workouts you need to do as a runner. Each workout has a unique set of traits and benefits that contribute to the whole of your running performance and growth.
1. The Recovery Run
Recovery runs are short workouts done at a relatively easy pace.
How far and/or easy you go depends mainly on your fitness level, training goals, and schedule, but as a good rule of thumb, these are easier and shorter than any other run.
According to conventional wisdom, recovery runs might help you speed up recovery from the last previous hard training workout.
That said, there is no scientific evidence supporting this claim. But it’s something worth doing, especially if you run more than three times per week.
Further, recovery runs can help build proper form, increase endurance, build mileage, and develop training routine.
The ideal time to perform a recovery workout is after a hard session, such as interval workouts, hill reps, or long runs
Start your recovery run at an easy pace, then run while staying within 60 to 70 percent of maximum effort.
The exact distance depends on many factors, including your fitness level, training goals, and personal preferences.
But, as a general rule, recovery runs are usually between 3 to 5 miles in distance, lasting for roughly 20 to 40 minutes each session.
As the name implies, easy runs are performed at a relatively leisurely pace. No need to push the pace nor do more than you can handle.
One way to measure your pace is to check if you can comfortably carry on a conversation without much huffing and puffing.
If you can’t keep a conversation going, speaking in full sentences, then you’re doing it wrong. Slow down and catch your breath.
More specifically, the typical easy run pace is 90 to 120 seconds per mile slower than your current 5K race pace.
In other words, you should feel relaxed and easy the entire time despite lingering fatigue from your former quality workout from the previous day.
Otherwise, you’re doing it wrong.
2. The Tempo Run
Tempo runs are sustained workouts at a challenging, but controlled pace, lasting typically for no more than 45 minutes.
Often known as the threshold run, tempo running increases lactate threshold, the point at which the human body produces the optimum amount of lactate that it can clear from the muscles and bloodstream.
These, in other words, are run at the fastest you can run aerobically. And since you’re training at or as close to your threshold pace, your body becomes more efficient at handling and removing lactate, which in turn, can help you sustain a faster pace for longer.
As a beginner, start with tempo runs of roughly 10 minutes, then work it up to 20 to 30 minutes.
The ideal tempo run pace is often called comfortably hard. This is a pace that’s faster than moderate training but not too challenging.
Most experts recommend sticking to 80 to 90 percent of max heart rate during tempo running. That’s slightly slower than your 10K race pace, or at least 30 seconds per mile slower than your current 5k pace.
In other words, it’s the speed you can keep without breathing so hard that you have to slow down.
Start your run with a 10-minute warm-up jog, then gradually increase speed until you’re running at tempo pace. Sustain that pace for 15 to 30 minutes, depending on your fitness level and training goals.
Finish your workout with a decent cool-down. Stretch afterward.
3. The Interval Workout
When it comes to speedwork training, interval training is the way to go.
Interval running, in general, consists of repeated short bouts of fast running separated by low-intensity recovery jogs or breaks.
More specifically, interval training involves running—or sprinting—for a set distance, repeated for a set number of times, at the same pace. Typical interval distance can be as short as 100 meters and stretching for as far as a mile, depending on the runner’s fitness level and training (or racing) goals.
Next, the all-out effort is followed by a period of recovery.
Research shows that interval training increases endurance burns mad calories, and improve running economy, builds form, improves stride rate, strengthens fast-twitch muscles, and revs up fitness quickly.
What’s more, these workouts are also ideal for breaking off from a training rut and boosting your motivation for running.
Just keep in mind that interval training is an advanced form of training.
Interval runs are hard on your joints and muscles since you’re practically pounding them with up to 6 to 8 times of your body weight with every foot strike.
So, if you are a beginner, make sure first to build a solid form before you give this training a shot. Otherwise, you’re asking for trouble in the form of premature fatigue, injury, or even a painful burnout.
I highly recommend that you perform them on a track or along a set loop.
Make sure to run the all-out-effort portions of your workout at a controlled, 92 to 98 percent maximum effort.
If you can keep a conversation going, you’re going too slow. Ramp up the speed.
After a thorough dynamic warm-up, perform 8 to 10 400m repeats, following each rep by a 3-minute walk/jog recovery period.
Last up, finish the session with a 5-minute slow jog as cool down. Do not stop running on the spot.
You can also use time instead of distance to keep track of the length of your all-out-effort. The rule is, as long as you can measure the distance, you’re good to go.
4. The Ladder Run
This is a less known variation of the above interval workout.
Ladder workouts involve climbing up, down, or both all in a single workout. Next, the runner slows down and recover fully in between each interval.
If you are bored with the classic intervals, then the ladder variation is an excellent way to challenge yourself and mix things up.
This is a 6-4-2-1-2-4-6 pyramid run workout.
Begin by performing a 10-minute dynamic warm-up.
Then, do the following:
- Run for 6 minutes at your current 5K pace. Recover for three minutes.
- Run for 4 minutes at 85 to 90 percent of maximum effort. Recover for two minutes.
- Run for 2 minutes at 90 percent of max effort. Recover for one minute.
- Run for 1 minute at maximum effort. Recover for one minute.
- Run for 2 minutes at 90 percent of max effort. Recover for one minute.
- Run for 4 minutes at 85 to 90 percent of maximum effort. Recover for 2 minutes.
- Run for 6 minutes at your current 5K pace.
Last up, finish your workout with a 5-minute slow jog as cool down.
The recovery break between each rep is any jog for at least half the duration of the preceding pickup. That’s the golden rule.
Please keep in mind that this is a demanding workout that tests both your speed and endurance. So be careful. And remember to stay within your fitness level the entire time.
5. The Fartlek Workout
Swedish for “speed-play,” fartlek training is one of my favorite workouts in this list.
This training method is about playing around with varying distances and speeds in a single workout.
In other words, fartlek training involves intermixing fast running intervals with low-to-moderate efforts while varying the distance, duration, and speed of each interval.
Fartlek is an excellent introduction to the world of speedwork training, and it’s ideal for beginners looking to get a taste before taking the full plunge.
What’s more, you can also use fartlek training as a less-structured alternative to classic intervals sessions, such as the ones listed above.
After a 10-minute slow jog as warm up, then on a random basis, pick an object in the distance, whether it’s a street corner, a stationary car, a tree, or a signpost, then run to it as hard as you can until you pass it while keeping good form.
Next, slow down, and recover by jogging /walking to the next landmark, then sight the next object and repeat for at least 20 to 30 minutes.
Finish the workout with a decent cooldown.
You can sprint, or run at a tempo pace to reach the object.
But all in all, there are no rules. You get to dictate how fast, or slow you can go.
6. The Hill Workout
Still looking for more intensity? Then Hill runs are exactly what you need.
Once you’ve developed enough cardio power and stamina, hills are the next frontier.
Basically, hill runs are repeated short or long bursts of intense effort up a hill.
Uphill running builds explosive strength and power, which can help you improve your speed and running economy.
Not only that, uphill runs boost aerobic power, improve your pain tolerance, build proper form, and increase your fatigue resistance and endurance.
Further, the downhill portion targets your quads like nothing else, and increase strength and endurance in your joints and tendons.
Ideally, your hill reps should be hard to sustain, especially near the top.
To do that, focus on short strides and push as fast as you can while keeping good form.
And whatever you do, keep moving.
First, find a proper hill that features a stable, moderate gradient of 4 to 7 percent that can take up 30 to 45 seconds to run up at a challenging effort.
Then, after a 10-minute jog on a flat surface, perform 8 to 10 30-second hill repeats at hard effort with 90-seconds jogging recovery between reps.
Last up, cool down for 5 minutes. Then stretch afterward.
7. The long Run Workout
The long runs, as the name implies, is a sustained and long run effort at an easy and steady pace.
Long runs are, without a doubt, one of the most important sessions of the week, especially if you are serious about ramping up your endurance level, or training for an endurance event.
In short, long runs develop endurance, improve form, increase lung power, and help you get both mentally and physically strong for any distance.
Even if you are not a “serious racer,” adding at least one long session into your training program will keep your aerobic and fitness capacity sharp and up to the task. And you do want that, don’t you?
Long run distance varies from one runner to the next, depending mostly on your fitness skill, and training plans, and racing goals.
Here is how to proceed on your next long run:
Run for one hour or longer at a pace that allows you to effortlessly hold a conversation. If you’re panting for breath, walk until you’re breathing easily. Then take up running again.
You should feel moderately fatigued at the end of your session. If you’re completely exhausted, you’re doing it wrong. Leave something in the tank.
Just as a rule of thumb, do not increase your long run length—duration, distance, or both—by no more than 10 to 15 percent per week.
Putting it All Together
Hopefully, by now you have a basic understanding of the many elements that make a well-rounded running routine. Now let’s put this into action and take a quick look at how a typical running schedule should look like.
Let’s assume you’re a recreational runner looking to improve your running fitness. Maybe you’re thinking of participating in a 5K or are serious about taking your running to the next level.
Just keep in mind that the choice of workout structure and intensity depends on your conditioning level and training goals.
Here is a Weekly Training Schedule Sample to get you started on the right foot.
- Monday – Speed Workout – 8 X 200m with a 30-second recovery period.
- Tuesday – Recovery run – 30 minutes at a conversational pace.
- Wednesday – Hill reps – 10 X 30-seconds uphills with one-minute recovery periods.
- Thursday – Fartlek Workout – 30 minutes of unstructured speed work.
- Friday – Rest
- Saturday – long run– 10-mile at a relaxed
- Sunday—Rest or Cross-train
Rome Was Not Built Overnight, Neither Is Your Running Program
Just don’t get me wrong. I’m not suggesting that you have to start a well-rounded and challenging and elite-like running training program next week, with a lot of sprints, hill work and long distance running. That’s another recipe for disaster
What I’m trying to do here is sell you on the importance of variety. Add it gradually to your training program. And if you like where you’re heading, then there is more of it once your body has adapted to the new training load.
Before you jump in and give the workouts a shot, you should keep tabs on your training and progress in your workout log.
Inside of it, note some of the following:
- Running duration
- Running distance
- Running intensity
- Recovery length between intervals
- How you felt both during and after training
- Your training load, which is intensity and volume.
- Pains, aches, and nagging injuries
- Motivation level