Improving your running pace and endurance requires work, hard work! But maybe even more importantly, it requires the right kind of work. As with all things in life you can work hard or work smart. In this case it’s a combination of both. Running Workouts!
You can spend all your running hours gradually building your pace and distance over time only to find that what you will achieve in terms of improvement is minimal. What you are effectively training your body for is consistency, it is getting used to one kind of run.
It is a little like going to the gym and only working your biceps and expecting your glutes to get stronger. It won’t happen. Ok.. that’s a little bit of an exaggeration but hopefully you get the point.
If you are serious about improving your pace and distance I recommend looking for a training plan. The structured approach of a training plan will guide you as you progress, pushing you in the right way and incorporate a variety of runs.
Taking a Closer Look at Training Plans
Below you will see a training plan from Runtastic below for a 60 minute 10k goal. As with most training plans whether it is for 5k, 10k, Marathon or beyond, all good training plans will emphasise different workouts throughout your plan. These workouts will build in intensity as your program and your ability grows.
In the case of the Runtastic plan, they refer to runs as easy, long and interval. The names and the variety of these runs will vary slightly but the principles will be the same regardless of the plan you chose.
What Are Running Workouts?
Whenever you look at a training plan or read about varying your runs you will come across the terms such as: base run, tempo run, long run, recovery run, intervals, fartlek and the list goes on. These are all running workouts that aim to develop your power, strength and endurance and overall fitness and conditioning. Incorporating this variety of runs will not only make you a better runner, but will make you healthier.
Whilst these workouts will improve your muscular strength they will primarily also build on your cardio strength developing your lung and heart capacity which will enable you to run further and run faster.
Different workouts will help you develop you in different ways and applying variety in your running workouts will enable you to maximise the strength, pace and endurance that you build.
In this article we will explore the different type of running workouts you will often hear about. We will look at how they help to build your fitness, which components of your run they will help improve and we will look at some example workouts.
This is your comfort zone run
Your base runs should be the natural pace that you come to when you run. This is a pace that you should be able to sustain comfortably over a period of 7-8k /5miles. Your base runs will be great for helping you build your aerobic capacity but in order to build endurance and pace it is your base running pace that you will be looking to improve.
In order to improve your base running pace and endurance you will need to step out of your running comfort zone and venture into the varying your running workouts.
What is important to know is that running day after day at your running base will not significantly help you increase your pace and endurance. For this you will need expose yourself to variety in your running.
Goal: Build Endurance
Long runs are an extension of your base run. Taking your base pace and increasing the distance. These runs will help you build endurance and strengthen your base pace.
Long runs will serve you well regardless of whether you are trying to build you pace or your distance. Long runs play a significant role in strengthening both your muscles as well as your mentally. The long run plays a key part in improving your running confidence.
Whilst long runs will increase your endurance, the will also require a longer recovery time. Whilst you may run regular base runs. You will typically not run your longs runs with the same frequency.
Building your long runs
Your long run build up should be gradual. Trying to increase the distance of your long runs too fast will increase your chances of injury and fatigue. Both will have an impact on your desired ultimate distance. If you are training for an event this can impact your race readiness on race day.
As a general rule add no more that 1-1.5 miles to your weekly run run distance. This will enable you to recover and able your muscles to strengthen.
This also emphasises the need to start a training plan early to ensure race readiness if you are building up to a half marathon or marathon.
How Much Recovery Time do You Need?
So how much time do you need to recover between long runs?
In the article The Benefits of a Long Run in your Training on active.com they reference Jeff Galloway’s formula to long runs with a need of 1 day recovery for every mile run. So by this definition a 15 mile run requires a 2 week recovery. As your runs get longer, so does your recovery time. This should be factored into your training and your tapering when preparing for a long distance race.
Jeff Galloway competed in the 1972 Olympics for the USA in the 10,000m. He is the inventor of the run-walk method and has turned his knowledge to coaching. He has authored numerous books on running including Galloway’s Book on Running and The Run-Walk-Run Method
Related Reading: What Can We Learn From Ultra Trail Runners?
Goal: build stamina
Progressive runs play a role in building stamina and pace whilst minimising the strain you put on your body.
Progressive runs focus on starting your run at your base pace and increasing your pace as you get further into your run. You may have heard of runners talking of running a negative split meaning a run where the second half of the run was faster than the first half, this is an example of a progressive run.
Whilst this run helps build stamina it also helps reduce the risk of injury with a lengthy warm up at base pace before you begin to pick up the pace and pushing your body and muscles to work harder to maintaining a higher pace.
Progressive runs can vary in structure, some will focus on splitting your run in two with the second half faster than the first. You may split your run in thirds and gradually pick up your pace in each third. Or you may focus on a base paced run with a particularly fast finish.
Run and out and back: Run 20 minutes at your base pace. After 20 minutes turnaround to come back. Run your return faster than your outbound run.
Goal: build Speed, Strength and Endurance
Fartlek, the Swedish for ‘speed play’ is ideal to incorporation to daily runs. Fartlek is simple, it is all about including speed variation into your run to ensure that you have slow and fast segments of your run. In Fartlek the fast sprints are typically short bursts of speed where your interval training may look to incorporate longer periods at a faster pace.
A fartlek exercise can be a structured run where you may run 2 minutes fast followed by 1 minute slow and repeat this combination a number of times. Fartlek can also take a less structured form where you can have fun with your running environment. This may mean sprinting for 3 lap posts and then running slow for 2 and again repeating this as you make your way around the park.
In previous runs I have also incorporate accelerations based on music, and song length. Using the song duration to measure the duration of my effort and recovery. To read more about this take a look at my article on the concept of Run Gamification
- Warm-up jog: 20 minutes
- Accelerations: 90 seconds fast, 60 seconds recovery (repeat 4 times)
- Pyramid: 1 min fast, 2 min fast, 3 min fast, 2 min fast, 1 min fast (each fast session is followed by 1 minute slow recovery run)
- Warm down
Goal: Burning Calories, Healthier heart, endurance and speed
Intervals follow the same basic principle as fartlek but will typically focus on longer periods at a higher pace. As with fartlek, intervals will focus on running at fast pace and recovery pace pushing your body for periods of time.
Interval sessions are often done on a running track allowing for an accurate measure of distance and time making the interval distances you run constant.
During an interval session you will push your heart rate up for the duration of your fast effort followed by recovery meaning that you are only spending short periods at a time working out at your higher heart rate zones. As your heart is a muscle this type of training will help develop and strengthen your heart.
Interval training is also one of the most effective methods of burning calories and due to the fact that an interval training session is usually shorter, you will be able to get greater results in a shorter time.
Example exercises (on a running track)
- 3 Laps fast, 1 lap recovery X 3
- Pyramid: 1 lap fast, 1 recovery, 2 laps fast, 1 recovery, 3 laps fast, 1 recovery, 2 laps fast, 1 recovery, 1 lap fast, 1 recovery
- Sprints: Run fast 200m (80% of max effort), recovery jog 200 metres don’t stop. sprint again as soon as you reach the start line (repeat 8x)
The repetitions can vary depending on your level.
Related Reading: Benefits of Group Running
Goal: Build Speed and Strength
As articulated in the Runners World article What Exactly is a Tempo Run? This is a run that carries most benefit for longer distance runners and focuses on running a constant fast pace. It focuses on running a pace that sits in between your base run and your all out race pace, a pace where your body has the ability to clear lactate.
Your tempo run should be around 6 miles (8-10 km) at a sustainable fast pace. These runs will focus on your ability to sustain your pace over a period of time.
Goal: Build aerobic power & fatigue resistance
As the name suggests this his all about running uphill.
Hill repeats can take different forms depending on the length and steepness of the hill you are training on. Hill sprints bring a number of benefits primarily the increased resistance from the hill combined with the sprint power that is exerted as a key builder of strength. Secondly the short duration of the high intensity sprints reduce the level of lactate build up reduce the fatigue.
Sometimes incorporated as part of and interval type session, hill sprints bring similar benefits with a short but intense workout which puts the body and muscles under strain for a reduced period of time whilst achieving great results in terms of developing your fitness levels.
- Find a hill that you can run up for 45-60 seconds.
- Once warmed up, run up the hill at 80% effort for 45 seconds. When you hit 45 seconds, mark this as your ‘finish line’. Turn around and slowly jog back down to your start point. without stopping turn back up the hill and sprint back to your finish line.
- Repeat this 4-5 times to start and add a repetition weekly
Relevant Reading: Build Your Own Home Gym. Boost Your Fitness!
Goal: muscle repair and fitness
Your recovery runs should be slow!
You should feel a distinct difference in pace between your base run and your recovery run with your recovery runs potentially up to 2 minutes per mile slower than your long runs.
Recovery runs will often be run on a day following a long run or a run with high effort. Your recovery run will help build on your fitness without putting any strain on your muscle allowing for them to repair.
Your recovery run should be a short run of about 20 minutes.
There is a typical tendency to run recovery runs too fast turning them into another base run therefore losing the benefits of your recovery run. Your recovery run may actually feel uncomfortably slow but it serves a specific purpose in your training…. recovery!
Chicago Endurance Sports offer a pace calculator that will help you establish your recovery/easy run pace. You may find that your recovery run is slower than expected.
Jeroen is a keen runner and triathlete. With over 10 years of experience training and participating in races, simply for the joy of sport he has turned to sharing his experience through the articles he writes. As a founder at Loop Social Sport Jeroen has focused his passion on creating a community of like minded individuals who not only train together but also motivate newcomers to take up sport, whether in person or via this blog.