The Eight Types Of Training Run You Need To Know To Become A Better, Faster And Stronger Runner

Posted by Gail Walker, 31st January 2016

Becoming a better runner requires more than just running the same loop, mile after mile at the same pace until you can more or less do it with your eyes closed!

Training the same aspect of your running again and again will only lead to a plateau in performance, boredom, demotivation and perhaps even injury.

If you want to get the most out of the time you dedicate to your training, you will need to practice many different types of running, in as many different situations and terrains as you can in order to get stronger.

A man running along the seafront at sunset


So what are the different types of running? 

There are eight basic types of runs that are practiced by runners of all levels. These evolved over the years through a trial-and-error process and have shown great results and are worth practicing.


1. Recovery Run

A recovery run is a relatively short run performed at an easy pace simply to keep active and avoid lethargy whilst the body is recuperating (often referred to as ‘active recovery’).

Recovery runs add a little mileage to a runner’s training volume without adding strain or taking away from performance in the harder, more important workouts that precede or follow them.

Recovery runs are best done the day after a hard workout. Do your recovery runs as slowly as necessary to feel comfortable despite lingering fatigue from your previous run.

Example: 4 miles easy

Canicrossers running though the woods


2. Base Run

A base run is a moderate-length run undertaken at a runner’s natural pace (working at 70% of aerobic capacity).

This is where you need to spend most of your training time.

On their own, base runs are not meant to be strenuous, but they are meant to be done frequently, and in the aggregate they stimulate big improvements in aerobic capacity, endurance, and running economy. They make up the bulk of your weekly training mileage.

This classic long distance training zone is effective for weight control and increases the network of capillaries and therefore blood circulation.

The effort/fatigue factor is low, but can be increased to higher levels for fitter athletes. The focus is to keep a natural rhythm. Heart rate and breathing rates are increased but a conversation should still be possible. Frequent sessions at this level are possible without worrying about becoming exhausted.

Example: 6 miles at natural pace

Canicrossers running up hill through a field of wheat


3. Long Run

Generally, a long run is a base run that lasts long enough to leave a runner moderately to severely fatigued. The function of a long run is to increase endurance and tolerance. The distance or duration required to achieve this depends, of course, on your current level of fitness.

As a general rule, your longest run should be long enough to give you confidence that you can finish the race.

Example: 15 miles at natural pace


4. Progression Run

A progression run is a run that begins at a runner’s natural pace and ends with faster segments. These runs are generally intended to be moderately challenging—harder than base runs but easier than interval runs. They are considered a medium-effort workout.

Example: 5 miles at natural pace + 1 mile at marathon pace + 1 mile at half-marathon pace

Canicrossers running along the river edge


5. Fartlek

Fartlek is from Swedish ‘speed play’. A fartlek run is a base run that mixes in intervals of varying and sometimes random duration or distance. They serve as a less-structured alternative to a traditional interval training session such as a track workout.

It’s a good way to develop efficiency and resistance at faster speeds. It can simulate races where you may want to hang on to another runner to overtake them on the finish line or sections that will be harder than others when you have to dig deep.

Example: 6 miles at natural pace with sections where if one runner pulls away, everyone goes with him alternating who is leading regularly. The leader decides how long and how fast to push. 


6. Hill Repeats

Oh yes! The notorious hill repeats that we have all heard about and love to hate!

Hill repeats are repeated short segments of hard uphill running. This is a hard workout but the benefits are huge : they increase leg power and strength, aerobic power, high-intensity fatigue resistance, and pain tolerance.

The ideal hill on which to run hill repeats features a steady, moderate gradient of 4 to 6%. Hill repetitions are typically done after the base-building period as a relatively safe way to introduce harder high-intensity training into the program.

Example: 2 miles of easy jogging (warmup) + 10 x 45-second hill repeats at a hard effort with 2-minute jogging recovery between reps + 2 miles easy jogging (cooldown)


A group of canicrossers running down hill through a field of crops


7. Tempo Run (or Threshold run)

A tempo run is a sustained effort at lactate threshold intensity (also called Anaerobic Threshold AT or simply Threshold).

Threshold is the fastest pace that can be sustained for 60 mins in highly fit runners or fastest pace that can be sustained for 20 mins in less fit runners. Tempo (or Threshold) work has proven to increase speed for a prolonged period of time.

In this zone, the intensity is right under or on the lactate threshold, according to the duration, physical condition, level, motivation, etc and is considered a quite high effort/fatigue factor.

Trying to keep a conversation going becomes difficult because of fast and heavy breathing. The high effort required to maintain this zone requires focus and mental toughness.

Example: 1 mile of easy jogging (warmup) + 4 miles at lactate threshold pace + 1 mile of easy jogging (cooldown)

Graphic of a running stop watch and running track in the background


8. Intervals

Interval workouts consist of repeated shorter segments of fast running separated by slow jogging, walking or standing recoveries. This format focuses on injecting some speed into the workout.

Interval workouts are typically categorised as short intervals and long intervals, and are typically performed on the track where you can precisely measure distance and time.

Long intervals are 600 to 1,200-metre segments run fast with easy jogging recoveries between them. They are excellent means of progressively developing efficiency and fatigue resistance at fast running speeds.

Example: 1 mile of easy jogging (warmup) + 5 x 1K at 5K race pace with 400m jogging recoveries + 1 mile of easy jogging (cooldown)

Short intervals are 100 to 400m segments run very fast. They boost speed, running economy, fatigue resistance at fast speeds and pain tolerance.

Distance runners typically use shorter, faster intervals earlier in the training cycle to increase their pure speed and then move to slightly longer, endurance-based intervals to improve fatigue resistance.

Example: 1 mile of easy jogging (warmup) + 10 x 300m at 1 mile race pace with 200m jogging recoveries + 1 mile of easy jogging (cooldown)


A picture of a canicrossers feet and dog feet standing next to each other on grass

The sky is the limit..

Mix it up! You can add all kinds of combinations and permutations to these formats — for example by combining two of them within a single session — but even in their most basic form, these workouts will help you become a better, faster and stronger runner.

A word of advice for the less fit runner or beginner

Remember base runs first!!! Before hitting the track for some speed work or adding Threshold runs to increase tolerance, you need to develop your raw endurance first.

It is what I call ‘building the plumbing before you can run water through the tap’.

By building your base over a long period of time first, you build your cardio-vascular system. And there is more to it than just the heart and the lungs.

It consists of a vast network of blood channels (capillaries) that will take the blood (that carries oxygen) into the working muscles. The wider your base, the more capillaries you have (the plumbing) and the easier it is for the heart to push the blood where required.

I would always advise to spend most of your time dedicated to your training building that plumbing.

Happy running everyone but remember…Don’t train more, Train smart! ?

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