Becoming a better runner takes time, endurance, and a lot of patience. However, it will also require a bit of education. If you’ve been running the same course or city blocks for the past few months, you may have noticed a plateau in your progress—maybe you haven’t been able to PR in weeks, or perhaps your distances are maxed out. The best way to improve your times and distances is to switch up your runs; varying the types of running workouts you complete will help to strengthen your cardiovascular system and muscles in new, challenging ways. You’ll boost endurance, efficiency, and aerobic capacity, plus you’ll reduce your chance of injury. Here are the seven types of runs you should incorporate into your weekly schedule, whether you’re just trying to switch it up or reaching for that next PR.
- Base Run—This is a short- to moderate-length run that will take up the bulk of your weekly mileage. This should be done at your natural pace, and it is not meant to be overly challenging. Basically, this is what you’ve been doing.
- Progression Run—This type of run is designed to begin at your base run pace and end at a faster pace—closer to how you’d like to perform during a race, or the pace your new 10K PR would be at. For example, this type of run would consist of four miles at base pace, then one mile at PR pace. Designed to be challenging, this is an excuse for you to go all out at the end of the workout.
- Long Run—The goal of a long run is to increase distance. You don’t need to run faster than your base pace, but you should introduce adequate nutrition and hydration prep in the days before these runs. If you generally run 5-6 miles every day, a long run should be in the double-digits—or whatever you feel comfortable with.
- Fartlek—In essence, a Fartlek run is a less rigorous form of interval training. You’ll want to mix in a few intervals (Spring at maximum speed until that tree in the distance), but nothing too intense. An example of a Fartlek would be 5 miles at your normal pace with 10 spurts of increase speed for 30-60 seconds.
- Intervals—Interval training is difficult but invigorating. These runs contain both short and long bursts of intense effort separated by equal or longer segments of slower running or jogging. Intense segments should have you pushing yourself to an uncomfortable pace. This type of running will increase speed and boost efficiency and fatigue resistance.
- Tempo Run—This is a run performed at the fastest pace you can sustain for a period of time. Also called threshold runs, these workouts will help you to increase sustained speed. Tempo runs are very challenging, and they often require a lot of recovery time.
- Recovery Run—These are short runs done at a relatively easy pace. This is the best way to reintroduce yourself to workouts after an especially difficult tempo or interval run. Go as slow as you need to in order to overcome fatigue or soreness.