5 Key Running Workouts

The vast majority of casual runners will step out the front door, run for a period of time at a moderate speed for a while. This is fine for most runners. However, if you want to make improvements in your running, it’s best you learn about the different types of running workouts and to have a purpose for each of your runs.

There are an infinite amount of runs you can do. You could run for a kilometre, then start hopping backward for 500m and do this in intervals for 10 kilometres (not recommended). However, there are several standard types of runs you will to know to make an effective running program (Check out our free Couch to 10k in 8 week running program).

  1. Easy Run
  2. Recovery Run
  3. Long Run
  4. Tempo or Threshold Run
  5. Interval Running

I will outline the basics of each of these runs and give you a few examples of how to include these in an average training program over a week.

1. Easy / Steady Runs

Easy runs are the bread and butter of a runners training program. Easy runs are run at a pace between 10 – 25% slower than marathon pace. This is a pace where you can easily hold a conversation without hyperventilating. In combination with recovery runs, easy runs should encompass about 80% of your training volume. 

For example:

Marathon Time: 4 hours. 

Marathon pace: 5:41 min/kilometer.

Easy Pace: 6:10 – 7:00/ kilometre.

So, for a 4 hour marathoner, an easy run would be anywhere between 6:10 min/km to 7:00 min/km on the flat.

2. Recovery Run

Recovery runs are for recovery. The aim is too stimulate blood flow and growth hormones to improve recovery. For recovery runs, any pace slower than your easy runs is fine. If you think you are going too fast, you probably are. If you see someone on starva going for a 4:00 min/km recovery “shake out”, they are either an elite athlete or are doing it wrong. Recovery runs are to improve recovery time, not prolong it. A recovery run shouldn’t be longer than approximately 40 minutes.

3. Long Run

The long run the jewel of an endurance runners training program. For many runners, it’s the run they look forward to all week. The long run is usually run at an easy pace (see above). The long run improves your aerobic capacity as well as your bodies ability to handle load.

Your long run will slowly increase in distance throughout your training program, reaching a maximum distance between 8-4 weeks prior to your main race. For a marathon runner, your long run should not reach a maximum of any longer than 32kms. For a half marathon runner, 16-18kms should be your limit. The long run is also a good time to practice your race nutrition and hydration strategies.

4. Tempo/Threshold runs

Tempo or “threshold runs are running workouts done at a “comfortably hard pace”. That is, a pace where breathing is starting to become more intense but it is not a laboured all out effort. A rough guide for a threshold run for most people is about 5 faster to 15 seconds slower (per kilometer) than 10km pace. Tempo runs are usually 10 – 70 minutes in length. Anything longer is too fatiguing for most runners.

For beginner runners, it’s best to use the breathing test to figure out the right pace of your tempo run. Try saying the short sentence “ I like to run in the sun for fun”. Only toward the end of this sentence should you feel the urge to breath again. You can then alter your tempo pace accordingly. 

5. Interval/Speed work

Interval running workouts refer to the running of segments of various lengths or times with rest period between. Intervals can be used for building speed, however they can also help build aerobic capacity (endurance) when done correctly. Interval workouts can be manipulated in an endless number of ways, including distance, time, speed, length of rest periods, speed of rest periods (jog or standing still). 

Check out our 2 articles on interval training here and here.

For beginners, we recommend hill intervals, as they help build strength, good running form and have less risk of injury.

Example of interval session: Warm up 10 minute jog, 4-6 x 2-3 minutes intervals at your 5km pace with 2 minute jog rest intervals, cool down 5 minute jog.

Example of hill interval session: Warm up 10 minute jog, 5-10 x 500-800m long hill with 2 minute jog rest intervals, cool down 5 minute jog.

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