Many beginning runners are often surprised to learn that a variety of running workouts exist. Contrary to popular belief, most runners do not simply run easy for every run. In fact, for runners who training seriously for a race, they often have a different type of workout to complete every day. Listed below is a guide to the different types of workouts, when they should be run, and their varying benefits.
The easy run is the foundation that all running programs are built upon. This run is performed at a pace where the runner can easily hold a conversation. The purpose of the easy run is to build fitness, endurance, cardiovascular strength, and health.
Tempo runs are staple workouts for anyone trying to improve their ability to run fast for a sustained period of time. A tempo run lasts anywhere from 10 – 60 minutes and is run 10 – 20 seconds slower than race pace. For instance, someone training for a 10k may run a 4k tempo run 10 seconds slower than race pace in order to train the body to run even splits at a faster pace. Tempos are a great way to condition the body and prepare for running fast.
Fartleks, which are runs that alternate bursts of hard running with periods of easy running, are geared towards the athlete who is looking to increase anaerobic capacity and leg speed. Fartleks are deceptively tough workouts that require a mix of speed and strength. Typically, runners training for a 5k or 10k would incorporate this type of training into their routine.
Intervals are typically run on a track and, like a fartlek, alternate periods of running hard and resting. Intervals (also known as repeats) are typically completed at distances of 200 m up to 1600 m, and may be performed 2 – 20 times. They are geared towards runners who are looking to become comfortable running a certain pace, as the track is the most accurately measured distance available.
Hill repeats are important for all types of runners, from those simply looking to lose weight to those who wish to race competitively. Hill repeats are exactly as they sound – a runner finds a moderate sized hill, and then runs up the hill 2 – 10 times. This type of run helps a runner develop both speed and stamina, and is a good strength workout as well.
The long run, which usually occurs once per week, is a run that is comprises roughly 25% of a runner’s weekly distance. The long run is especially important for runners who are training for a half or full marathon, as this type of workout helps a runner develop the strength necessary for spending long periods of time on his or her feet.
Recovery runs occur the day after a long run or hard workout. This run is intended to be easy (typically easier than an easy run), and are meant for improving circulation in the legs and flushing out any lingering lactic acid.