As a runner, sometimes — or even most of the time — you just head out the door and start running. Simplicity is indeed beautiful. But when you are interested in improving your running performance, you generally think of workouts as being purpose-specific.
There are many ways to look at running workouts, and many of those can be quite scientific. It’s fun to nerd out on the details…I must admit. However, my goal with today’s edition of the Running Performance Series (RPS) is to simplify running workouts. After this short read, you’ll have a better understanding of the major types of running workouts and what they can do for your running.
We are going to approach the concept of running workouts using a table that will form the basis of our discussion. Put simply (to use the theme of this article), a running workout has a purpose and a pace, and it’s either steady-state or interval-based. That’s pretty much the gist of it. Sure, we can get fancy with warmups, supplemental exercises, cooldowns, and other components. And we can split hairs regarding the energy system the workout is focusing upon. But when you boil it all down, there are only 5 types of workouts. The table below tells all.
|EXAMPLE||30’ jog||90’ long run||20’ tempo run||8 x 400m||6 x 60m|
Now we can break down each of the 5 types of workouts with respect to purpose, pace, continuity, and sample sessions.
- The“R” words dominate here. Restoration, recuperation, regeneration…I think you get the picture. It’s all about going EASY.
- The goal is less about creating a conditioning stimulus (and thus adaptation) but more geared towards increasing circulation, metabolite exchange, and loosening up your tissues.
- A recovery run fills in the time between “fitness maker” sessions and provides a non-stressful opportunity to get some more running into your legs. Sometimes a soft surface and gentle terrain like a field or dirt path is desirable. And occasionally, some cross-training (XT) such as cycling or swimming may be indicated to reduce pounding exposure to your legs.
- Fatigue resistance is the key term with an endurance run. The goal is to enhance your ability to go LONG.
- Metabolically, improving fat oxidation, or using fat as your main fuel substrate for energy production, is the objective. This enables you to spare, or limit the draining of your stored glycogen (sugar) for higher intensities.
- Economy in fuel usage is the outcome of endurance training. You improve your “miles per gallon” capacity.
- Put loosely, this is the maintenance of moderately challenging output. This is the art form also known as “comfortably hard.”
- Here we are mainly trying to raise the lactate or second ventilatory threshold. This elevates the upper end of aerobic metabolism so that you become proficient at running mostly aerobically at a slightly faster pace.
- Power is represented by the equation Force times Distance divided by Time (F X D/T).
- This is work done at or just below redline. It’s the metabolic efficiency to deliver and utilize as much oxygen as possible.
- Power is also the ability to manage lactic acid production and processing. The acid is quickly converted to lactate (which becomes a fuel source) and hydrogen ions (which must be buffered/cleared). Power training helps you to both produce less lactic acid at a given workload and to better tolerate its presence overall.
- True or absolute speed is maximum velocity. This is sprint training. Even marathoners benefit from it.
- Speed training improves mechanical and neuromuscular efficiency. It enhances form, force production, and coordination. This trickles down to every pace.
- In many cases the slower the better, but with good technique. Many runners fall into the habit of “jogging ugly.” This is to be avoided.
- Rhythm running
- This is “pouring the pitcher” out very gradually.
- Equates well to marathon pace even if you are not a marathoner.
- Sustained pace that requires concentration to maintain.
- 15k to half-marathon pace for most runners.
- Most runners can maintain this pace in a workout for 20-30 minutes. Elites often go up to an hour.
- Running fast but controlled.
- 800m to 10k pace depending on the athlete.
- Running as fast as possible without straining.
- Sprinting at 90-95% max effort.
- Continuous jog at a very easy pace.
- 20-40 minutes.
- Just a couple of miles. Any further and you are defeating the purpose of the session.
- Continuous run which often has a slight progression of pace through the workout to the later stages then tapers down near the finish either as fatigue sets in or as an intentional cooldown.
- Usually continuous but can be broken into several large chunks or intervals.
- Minimal amount of warmup and cooldown usually required.
- The secret is to walk away from this session feeling refreshed and not exhausted.
- Always performed as interval training.
- Can include track, grass, roads, or hills.
- Requires rest intervals based on intensity and length of repetition as well as specific goals of the workout.
- Moderate amounts of warmup and extensive cooldown are recommended. This is the most systemically taxing type of training and you really need to wind down from it.
- Intervals only…you can’t sustain max speed for more than 7 seconds physiologically.
- Best performed on a track or field.
- Long rest breaks between relatively few efforts.
- Significant warmup and modest cooldown indicated. You have to progressively ramp up your body to get an effective workout and avoid injury.
- The easy 2-3 mile jog. Most recreational runners should not do more than this amount. It’s hard to resist not going for 5-6 miles, but honestly, that’s not a recovery run and it has a negative impact on true recovery.
- The long run of varying distance based on your conditioning level and goals. This is typically anywhere from 6-20 miles.
- The tempo run done in “sandwich fashion.” This might look like a 10-minute warmup jog, a 20-minute tempo section, and then a 10 minute cooldown jog.
- Can also be performed as “cruise intervals” such as several 10-15 minute efforts with short recovery walks or jogs of 1-2 minutes. If you need to rest more, you are going too hard.
- Resist the urge to either sprint it out at the end, or do a super-long cooldown. Either will turn this into a different, and less effective training session than originally intended.
- 8 x 400m @ 5k race pace with 200m walk rests between. This is only one of a myriad of power workouts you can utilize. Nothing helps you to learn pace and effort as well as this type of training.
- Power training is powerful in its effects. You get a lot out of it. But you need to “pad” these sessions by going easy both before and after for 1-2 days.
- 6 x 60m fast but controlled with 3-5 minutes rest between reps, after a progressive warmup of exercises, drills, and strides.
- Most neglected type of training among most running enthusiasts. Don’t fear this workout. Done right, it will change your life.
OK, so that’s enough of a description for the major types of workouts you can use to get more out of your running. Comprehensive training is fun and can make your fitness endeavors and performance quests more interesting. Next up, we’ll look at how to put these workouts together effectively into your very own personalized training program. Thanks for reading!