Does your training consist of simply heading out that door for your daily run? Maybe you think that you just need to run until the point of exhaustion. And then you are done.
Check that one off your list for the day!
If so, you are not alone. A lot of new runners think they simply need to run until tired. And this somehow trains them to be a better, faster, stronger runner.
There’s really nothing wrong with running like that. It’s definitely better than not running at all. But it won’t necessarily improve your running, either.
And if you don’t shake it up a bit, that kind of training just might make you hate running.
So, if you are serious about your training, and want to run farther and faster – I’ve got a better plan for you!
Try adding these 10 different types of runs into your weekly training routine!
When someone says, “I’m going for a three-mile run,” with no additional explanation, they are most likely running a base run.
What is a base run?
A base run is a basic, normal run, at a basic, normal pace, for a basic, normal distance.
They are, well, pretty basic.
Base runs are the most common. Most people run them without even realizing it.
What is the purpose of a base run?
A base run is used to build up or maintain your endurance.
Base runs help you get used to aerobic exercise. It teaches your body to run for a certain amount of time or distance.
They are the base, or foundation, of your training. Before moving on to any other type of run, you should have the base run down.
When to do a base run
If you are new to running, the base run should be your go-to run, because you will need to build a strong cardio foundation before moving on to other types of runs.
When you are just starting out, your goal is to build a strong foundation for your training. You should be able to run easy miles at a conversational pace before adding other runs to your training plan.
This typically takes about 6 to 12 weeks, depending on your fitness level. After you have a strong aerobic capacity, you can start adding in other types of runs.
Even if you are a more experienced runner, base runs should still make up the bulk of your weekly mileage. You will have more intense runs interspersed throughout the week, but the base run will still be the heart of your training.
How to do base runs
Base runs are pretty easy to do. You should run at a natural pace for you. You don’t have to push yourself. Even if your pace is slow, that is okay.
You should also run a ‘normal’ distance. This will be a comfortable, relatively easy distance for you. Typically, a base run is anywhere between two and five miles, depending on the runner’s fitness level.
Example of a base run: 3 easy miles
A base run has no frills. It is just a nice, normal run.
Long runs are normally the next step for beginners.
Long runs are also known as LSD’s – long, slow, distance runs.
A long run trains your body to sustain the movement of running for longer periods.
These types of runs help strengthen your heart, muscles, and build endurance.
What is considered a long run?
Pretty much anything beyond whatever you normally run.
Long runs don’t have a quantifiable distance. It’s different for each person. One person may consider five miles to be long, while another may consider 25 miles to be long.
It’s all dependent on your fitness level and how long your base runs are.
When to do long runs
You should add long runs to your running schedule when you are training for a race, such as a 10K, half marathon, or a marathon.
Or, if you simply want to build up your weekly mileage.
Before adding in long runs, stick to your base runs for 6 to 12 weeks. That way you have a solid training foundation before adding in more miles.
How to do long runs
Long runs are pretty self-explanatory. You simply run farther than you normally would.
Add mileage slowly. Give your body time to adjust, by adding ½ mile to 2 miles, every couple of weeks.
Long runs should be at a nice, conversational pace. Meaning, you can talk while you run. You should also be able to breath relatively easy while running.
Example of a long run: 5 – 25 miles, at a slow to comfortable pace
Keep your pace steady. Don’t start out too fast or speed up at the end.
After you’ve nailed the long run and the base run, it’s time to start having a little fun. If intense, quick workouts are your definition of fun, they you’re in luck.
You’ll love the interval run!
An interval run, or a ‘mile repeat workout’, consists of repeated short runs at high speeds, followed by a period of rest.
You can do short intervals, where you run 200 to 300 meters at a time, or long intervals, where you run a mile at a fast speed and then rest. It totally depends on your fitness level and your running goals.
Interval runs teach your body to run hard and fast, for longer periods. They also increase your aerobic capacity, helping you to ward off fatigue.
If you are trying to increase your speed, you may want to add an interval run into your weekly routine.
When to do interval runs
The best time to start doing intervals is when you have the raw speed, but you cannot maintain that speed for very long.
For instance, if you can run hard and fast, but not for more than two minutes at a time, then it’s time to start doing intervals.
If you are training for a race, have a nice mileage base, and want to run faster, then it also might be time to do intervals.
How to do interval runs
Intervals are most often run on a track. But you can use a treadmill or your normal running route as well.
To run an interval, start with a nice jog to warm up. Then, break your run up into intervals, anywhere from 200 meters to 1 mile.
Run the intervals at your goal pace. Then, slow it down to a walk or a jog for a minute or so, then pick it back up again.
Do this for each interval, and then cool down with another jog.
How far you run, how fast and how long your intervals are all depends on your fitness level and your running goals.
Example of an interval run: 1 mile warm-up, 5 1-K’s at a 5K pace, with 400M’s recoveries, followed by 1 mile cool down
The point is to run your goal pace during the intense portion of the run, and jog or walk much slower than your natural pace during the rest portion.
Tempo runs, also known as threshold runs, can be confused with intervals, but the two are not at all the same.
With an interval run, you run hard, rest, and repeat. With a tempo run, you start out slow, then run hard for a very long time, then end slow again.
The intense portion of a tempo run is slightly less intense but sustained for a longer period than the interval. And there is no rest break.
If you aren’t comfortable running hard and fast, you might like the tempo run more than the interval, because you can slow it down a bit. Of course, running the entire tempo portion without a break can be a bit challenging.
The purpose of a tempo run is to train your body to run faster for longer periods.
When to do tempo runs
You are ready for tempo runs when you can hit your goal pace, but you can’t keep it for very long.
For instance, if you can run a 6-minute mile, but you can’t keep that pace for an entire 5K, then a tempo run can benefit you.
If you are training for a race, you will want to add tempo runs to your training schedule.
Or, if you run with a friend who runs faster than you. If you don’t want to be eating your friend’s dust, tempo runs can help.
If nothing else, a tempo run will challenge you to beat your own personal best.
How to do tempo runs
To run a tempo run, start out with your normal base mileage. If you typically run four miles, use four miles for your tempo run.
Run your first mile at a warm-up pace.
Then, pick it up to slightly less than race pace for the duration of the run. Keep this pace for 20 minutes, or even longer, if you can. It’s okay to use 10 or 15 minutes if you are new to tempos.
And then cool down for a mile.
Example of a tempo run: 1 mile warm-up, 3 miles at just below race pace, 1 mile cool down
When attempting a tempo run, remember:
- Run the tempo portion close to your goal pace
- The duration of the tempo portion should be very long – at least 10 minutes
- You should be able to maintain the tempo pace for the entire tempo portion, without stopping or slowing down
‘Fartlek’ is a Swedish term that means ‘speed play’. And that’s exactly what you do with a fartlek – play around with the distance and speed at which you run.
Fartlek runs are fun because you actually feel like a kid again when you run them! You run your normal run, but periodically throughout the run, you just all-out run. Just like a child does.
The fartlek is a form of interval or speed training, but it is more flexible and not as demanding as intervals.
With a fartlek run, you basically run really fast for a short amount of time, such as 30 – 90 seconds, and you do this during your normal run.
Fartlek’s improve your running speed and endurance, but in a more playful way. And just like intervals, they develop efficiency and fatigue resistance.
You can use fartlek’s to get used to running fast in the beginning of your training, or to get some speed training in during the latter portion of your training cycle.
When to do fartlek runs
The best time to incorporate fartlek runs, however, is in the beginning stages of training. Perhaps even before you start interval training.
It might be a good idea to just get your body used to ‘all-out’ running for short bursts, before attempting intervals or tempos.
Plus, the freedom and joy you feel when you just ‘up and run’ at fast speeds will help you to enjoy the structure of intervals and tempos down the road.
How to do fartlek runs
Start out running your normal run. And then, simply run fast at some point during the run.
Aim for a pace just below an all-out sprint. Run hard and fast, but don’t sprint. Your pace should be faster than your goal pace, though.
After your fartlek segment, return to your normal running pace, without stopping. There is no rest in a fartlek run.
This can be done on a track, but it doesn’t have to be. Fartlek’s can be done anywhere – on hills, roads, or trails. You can use landmarks, such as streetlights and houses, to mark your intervals as well.
Or you can run for 30 – 60 seconds, or until the song ends.
Example of a fartlek run: 4 miles at normal pace, with 10 30-second break-out sessions at a hard, fast pace, followed by 3 – 5-minute recoveries at a normal pace
It’s all up to you. Play around with it and have fun!
Tempos, intervals, and fartlek’s all work on speed and endurance. Hill runs, on the other hand, target muscle strength.
Running uphill in a race is almost unavoidable. Very rarely will you find an entirely flat course. And when you run 13 or 26 miles, those hills can be tough.
So, it’s best to prepare for it.
A hill run, also known as a hill repeat, is when you continuously run uphill, from medium to high inclines.
Hill repeats strengthen your glutes, calves, quads, and hamstrings. These runs also engage your core muscles and boost your upper body strength.
The muscles you use to run hills are the same muscles you use to run sprints. But, like sprints, hill training also increases aerobic endurance, fatigue resistance, and pain tolerance.
When to do hill runs
The most obvious time to incorporate hill runs is when you are training for a very hilly race. But you can also run hills if you want to do high volume leg strengthening.
You can start adding hill runs to your running routine when you have a good running base and are ready to introduce other types of runs as well. Hill runs are one of the easiest to get started with.
At first, run a hill run once every two or three weeks. You can increase that to once a week or every other week as your body gets used to it.
How to do hill runs
Most other types of runs focus on pace. Hill runs, on the other hand, are mainly about technique and efficiency.
For instance, you shouldn’t try to run up and down the hill as fast as possible. This will lead to injury and exhaustion.
Instead, work on your form. Try to improve on how high you pick up your knees with each climb, where your foot strikes, and how far your body leans in. Try to reach the top as efficiently as possible.
You can run on short, steep hills or long, shallow ones. Both will challenge you and build leg strength.
Just be sure to adjust your pace and the number of repeats based on the type of hill. If it’s shallow, run up faster or do more repeats. If it’s steeper, slow it down or repeat less.
You can start with 4 or 5 repeats on a moderately steep grade. Run up relatively hard, but not too fast. Focus more on form. Then run down, and rest for 2 – 3 minutes.
Slowly build up to more reps.
Example of a hill run: start with 1 – 2 miles easy jog to warm up, then do 5 to 10 45-second hill repeats, with 2-minute jogging breaks in between, then cool down for 1 – 2 miles
If it’s possible, run hills on grass or on trails. The treadmill also works.
After you’ve been running for a while, you’ll notice that runners often ‘pick it up’ or ‘kick it in’ at the end of the race or run. In fact, you may even hear supporters yelling this at the end of the race.
Where do you find the strength to kick it in at the end of a 26-mile run?
Intervals, of course, help you do this, as do your long runs, but progressive runs can also help you to learn how to pick up the pace at the end of your run.
What is a progressive run?
Basically, with a progressive run, you start out slow, and slowly increase your pace throughout the entire run, so that you are running race pace towards the end of the run.
Progressive runs are harder than your base runs, but easier than intervals. These types of runs teach you valuable long distance running skills: discipline, patience, and pace management techniques.
A progressive run keeps you from starting off too fast and from slowing down at the end.
They also increase stamina and build fitness.
When to do progressive runs
Progressive runs are great for when you are trying to run at a faster than normal pace for a long period of time.
If you are training for a half marathon or a full marathon, you might want to add progressive runs to your training schedule. Start adding them in after you’ve mastered the long run, for an additional challenge.
Or, if you are recently coming off an injury, a progressive run might be a good choice.
This is because the gradual increase of speed primes your muscles and joints for the run. Your body has the chance to gradually warm up before you increase your speed.
This reduces the chance of further injury.
How to do progression runs
Your progressive run should be anywhere between 3 and 10 miles, depending on your goals and fitness level. Of course, you can also run your long run as a progression run.
Start the run out slower than your normal running pace. Then, gradually increase the pace throughout the entire run, until you are finishing the last few minutes at your race pace.
Example of a progression run: start with 1 mile at a slower than normal pace, then do 1 mile at normal pace, 1 mile slightly faster than normal pace, ½ mile at marathon pace, ½ mile at half marathon pace, ½ mile at 10K pace, and finish with ½ mile at 5K pace
You might want to increase your pace with every mile or half mile, or every five minutes.
A recovery run is a run used to help your body recover from intense training.
I know, I know, it sounds like an oxymoron. But that’s because it is.
A recovery run will help ease soreness by loosening up your muscles after an intense workout. It will help you to recover faster than if you didn’t run.
With a recovery run, you can maintain cardio, while still allowing your body to rest and recover.
Recovery runs are meant to be short, easy runs, at a relatively slow pace.
When to do recovery runs
Not every runner needs to do a recovery run.
If you typically only run base runs, you shouldn’t need a recovery run.
However, if you are training for a race, you might want to incorporate recovery runs into your weekly training schedule. Especially if you run 4 times or more a week, or if you are consistently adding mileage.
Recovery runs help to build mileage without the risk of injury, since they are slow, easy miles.
You should also run a recovery run if you are feeling especially fatigued or just performed an intense workout.
How to do recovery runs
A recovery run should follow an intense workout, such as a long run, a tempo, or intervals. You should immediately run a recovery run, or run it later in the day.
Example of a recovery run: 2 miles at slower than normal pace
At the very least, your recovery run should be within 24 hours of your intense run.
To run a recovery run, simply head out the door for a very short, very slow run. They are meant to be relaxing and super easy.
A good recovery run length is anywhere from 1 to 4 miles, depending on your fitness level and training goals.
Switcharoo or “Indian Run”
The ‘switcharoo’, formerly known as the ‘Indian run’, requires at least a group of three. Four or more is best, however.
The switcharoo is often used by team sports for conditioning but is great for runners as well. Basically, the group lines up, single file, one person directly behind the other. The group runs this way, in a straight line.
And then, the person at the end of the line, the ‘caboose’, breaks rank and sprints to the front of the line. Once there, the new ‘caboose’ does the same, sprints to the front of the line.
This continues throughout the duration of the run.
When to do switcharoo runs
Switcharoo’s are best run at the beginning of the training season because they are great for building aerobic capacity. But they are also a fantastic way to ease into sprinting.
Intervals, tempos, and fartlek’s all involve a less-intense form of sprinting. If you’ve never performed a sprint before, or if the thought of running hard intimidates you, then a switcharoo might be a great way to get your feet wet.
At the very least, they are fun!
Because you need a group, the switcharoo forces you to get out and meet other runners. And other runners can encourage you and hold you accountable throughout your training.
How to do switcharoo runs
A switcharoo requires a group of at least three or more. The runners line up, single file, one behind the other.
The entire group then begins running, one in front of the other, at a pace equivalent to the slowest runner’s ‘normal’ pace. No one in the group should have to struggle to keep up.
It should be an easy run. The group should be able to talk and breath comfortably.
And then, the runner at the end of the line sprints to the front of the line, followed by the next ‘last’ runner, and so on and so forth.
All runners can cheer the sprinter on. Or taunt the sprinter. Whatever motivates best!
If you like running hard and fast, you will like running sprints.
To run a sprint, basically all you do is run all-out, as fast as you can, for a short distance.
Sprints are great for long distance runners because the sprint increases endurance, influences muscle development, and improves pain tolerance.
Sprints increase your speed and power.
The difference between sprints and intervals is that a sprint is an all-out run, while an interval is ran at goal pace. Plus, an interval has ‘running’ rest periods, while a sprint has a literal rest period – you do not run or walk. You just rest.
If you like to just all-out run, sprints might restore the exhilaration of running!
When to do sprints
Sprints are hard on the muscles, so you should do sprints only once a week, at most. It might be best to start out with once every couple of weeks.
Before attempting sprints, be sure to have your base run down.
Sprints will benefit runners who are trying to increase their speed.
How to do sprints
Sprinting involves minimal long-distance running. After a short warm-up, sprint! Run as fast as you can to whatever endpoint you determined.
Most sprints are done on a track, but you can do them on the road as well. Just sprint to the next telephone pole or streetlight.
And then, rest. Quite literally. Do not run or walk.
And then repeat.
Example of a sprint: 5 sets of 15 second runs, as fast as you can, resting in between each set
Don’t worry about your time. Your only goal is to run as fast as you can.
There are so many different types of runs! Most people think running involves three or four miles of basic running. But it is so much more.
If you are training for a race, want to increase your speed, or are just trying to be a better runner, add some variety to your routine. Each of the runs mentioned above trains your body in different ways.
Base runs, long runs and progression runs all teach you to run longer. Intervals, tempos, fartlek’s, and sprints teach you to run fast. Hills strengthen your legs.
The switcharoo and recovery runs are just plain fun!
There is a different type of run for every running goal.
So, get out there and give a new run a try!