Find some balance in your mileage portfolio by adding these running workouts to your training routine.
If variety is the spice of life, it’s time to amp up the flavor. Running your regular route can get a little mundane and if you’re only going through the motions, you might hit that dreaded performance plateau.
Every exercise routine could use some reinvigoration now and then, so when you’re looking to switch things up with a little diversity, give one of these running workouts a try.
Read through the different styles to get inspired or click on the links below to jump to your running workout of choice.
- Different Types of Running Workouts
- Base Run
- Long Run
- Progression Run
- Hill Repeat
- Tempo Run
- Strength Training
- Recovery Run
Different Types of Running Workouts
Your track coach would tell you that there’s nine different types of traditional running workouts: base runs, long runs, progression runs, hill repeats, fartleks, tempo runs, intervals, strength training, and recovery runs.
These have evolved over the course of time (with each runner making a few tweaks here and there), but all of these running workouts have survived because they’re successful at helping you step up your stamina and speed.
Whether you’re training to become an Olympic athlete or you’re just looking to get a bit more fit, playing around with different running routines is guaranteed to improve your athleticism.
As an added bonus, incorporating new challenges and keeping things fresh will help stave off boredom on those days when running motivation is a little lacking. (We’ve all been there.)
Here’s a peek at the various types of running workouts alongside some handy info on how they can help take your performance to the next level.
Base runs might seem like pretty common knowledge, but chances are you’re a little fuzzy regarding what they’re actually for. As it turns out, this type of running workout is about much more than just logging easy miles.
It’s true—base runs are held at your natural pace for a short to moderate distances. Although they might not be super challenging in nature, they’re designed to be done frequently during your “base phase”.
Base training helps develop your aerobic potential before moving onto anaerobic training.
Aerobic exercise is what you typically think of in terms of running, swimming, dancing, or any sort of cardio.
Strictly speaking, it means “with oxygen,” because during this form of exercise our cells get their energy from oxygen to fuel their metabolism.
When oxygen and fuel (mostly fat) is plentiful, your muscles are happy, capable of contracting repeatedly without fatigue. Minimal waste (lactate) is produced from the burning of fat, and whatever waste is present can be easily removed.
At a certain point though, you kick the intensity up a notch and hit the limit known as your anaerobic threshold. Your muscles can’t get enough oxygen to burn the most efficient fuel, so they begin to pull from your limited glycogen reserves.
Lactate starts rapidly building up in the bloodstream. Your muscles tighten, breathing gets heavy, and everything stats to feel like it’s burning with the intensity of a 1,000 suns.
Sound familiar? Base running workouts can help you go harder, for longer, before feeling that burn, cramp, or dead leg.
Base training conditions your muscles to adapt to improve oxygen transportation, reduce the rate of lactate formation, increase the rate of lactate removal, and optimize energy utilization. You also increase your heart’s stroke volume, meaning it can pump more blood per beat, delivering more oxygen in red blood cells.
It might seem counterintuitive, but starting slow with this type of running workout actually improves your running economy and paves your way to success.
Base Running Workout:
- 5 miles at a natural, conversational pace
Focus on your form, watch your foot strike, and prepare yourself for the intensity to come.
After your base training, you can start pushing into long runs. Long runs will improve your endurance, showing you just how far you can push yourself before feeling fatigued and giving you confidence that you won’t quit when the going gets tough in your next race.
Long runs should go on at a natural pace until you feel pretty exhausted. That might sound like a hard sell, but the all the feels you get at the end of this type of running workout are borderline addictive. Emptied, worn out, purged of sweat, a good ache reminding you of what a badass you are and what your body is capable of… there’s a certain magic to the misery.
A long run might not sound like your cup of tea, but don’t knock it until you try it. The endorphins spinning of your raw endurance are pretty epic.
Long Running Workout
- 15 miles at a natural pace
- 1:30:00 at a natural pace
Run by distance or run by time, and bring along a motivational running playlist to keep your head in the game. The only thing that matters here is that you just keep moving.
Progression runs put a twist on long running workouts by structuring them around a pace that gradually increases with time. You start at a nice and easy pace, slowly progressing into a marathon, threshold, or even interval pace.
Not only do progressive runs help build speed and stamina, but this type of running workout is essential for improving concentration and mental patience. Too many runners are eager to floor the gas pedal right out of the gate, but progressive runs help strengthen discipline.
Progressive Running Workout
- 5 miles at a natural pace
- 1 mile a marathon pace
- 1 mile at a 5K pace
It’s your call on how far you choose to run and at what speed, but watch—practicing this type of running workout will turn you into one of those people who gets faster near the end of the race, not someone trying desperately to hang in there.
This type of running workout isn’t the most fun, but it’s definitely one of the most beneficial. You’ll see massive gains in terms of speed, strength, and aerobic power. It might be pretty grueling to run at max effort during repeated uphill segments, but you’ll increase your pain tolerance, as well as resistance to high-intensity fatigue.
Hill Repeat Running Workout
- 10 x 0:45 uphill sprints with 2:00 recovery periods in between
When scouting for the perfect terrain, look for a steady incline with a gradient of 4 to 6 percent. Consider adding the type of running workout to your routine at the end of your base-building phase to safely transition into higher-intensity training.
After an intense workout, reward yourself with a little fun! A fartlek is a funny-sounding Swedish word for “speed play,” and it’s as fun to run as it is to say out loud.
By playing around with different speeds in a fartlek running workout, you’ll be better prepared for the uneven paces of a race. It’ll teach you how to change gears, recruit different muscle fibers, and deal with any bad patches you might face during competition.
A fartlek is unstructured—get creative with your alternating segments! Point out a tree or a sign and then sprint to it, and then follow it up with some easier effort.
Fartlek Running Workout
- Run hard for two mailboxes, recover for three
- Or, match your speed to different parts of a song
The beauty of the fartlek running workout is that you’re untethered to timers and mile marks, so they’re a great way to breathe a little freedom into an otherwise strict training routine. You’ll benefit from both aerobic and anaerobic exercise, plus you’ll help stave off boredom.
A tempo running workout is a wonderful way to add some diversity to your longer runs. The purpose of a tempo run is to increase your anaerobic threshold, sometimes called your lactate threshold because it’s the point at which lactate levels skyrocket in the blood stream.
During a tempo run, you’ll drop to a comfortably hard pace—one that you could sustain for about an hour or so, using 85-90% of your maximum heart rate—before going back up in speed. Practicing such concentration and control will help your mindset tremendously come race day.
Tempo Running Workout
- 5 miles at a marathon pace
- 3 miles at a tempo pace
- 5 miles at a marathon pace
By improving your anaerobic threshold, you’ll increase the speed that you can sustain for a prolonged period of time—which makes this running workout doubly important for all you long distance runners out there.
An interval session will make your running workout fly right by. Break up bursts of extreme effort with recovery periods of slower running, jogging, or walking. The point here is to increase speed, boost running economy, and improve fatigue resistance.
Interval Running Workout:
- 5 x 1000 meter runs at a 5K pace, with light jogging between intervals
It’s important to push the intensity of your intervals if you want to feel all of the effects of HIIT. If you’re not gasping for air, counting the seconds until it’s over, you’re probably doing it wrong. Remember: if it doesn’t challenge you, it won’t change you.
If you’re all tapped out on standard running workouts, give yourself a challenge and add strength training to your exercise plan. Working on your strength can make you a faster, more efficient runner and can give you the explosiveness necessary to conquer any challenge.
Strength Training Running Workout:
- Run ¼ mile
- 10 push ups
- Run ¼ mile
- 15 squats
- Run ¼ mile
- 45 second plank
It’s quite a workout, but it’ll keep you confident, conditioned, and well-rounded.
Following an intense running workout, give your body the rest it deserves. You might have fallen in love with those feel-good endorphins, but it’s critical to take it easy at least one day per week—even if you’re feeling time crunched or want “the most bang for your buck”.
Rather than resting altogether, the low-intensity active effort engages soft tissue (muscles, tendons, ligaments) by promoting blood flow, which in turn helps flush byproduct waste. They also let you add mileage to your training schedule without overly exerting your body.
Recovery Running Workout:
- Run for 30 minutes at a nice, easy pace
A true recovery run should not be hard in the slightest. They should feel great while still offering a ton of benefits, so take it slow and drink it up.
Adding a variety of running workouts to your training schedule will help ensure you get the best results out of your exercise efforts. Plus, it keeps things fresh and exciting! Pick your favorite and give it a go.