When I started to run I only knew one way to run, struggle through it. As I progressed, I started to run faster and had to struggle less with each week that passed. After a while I started to train for my first half marathon. My training plan was using lingo like tempo, Fartlek, and interval runs. I asked myself, what the heck is a Fartlek and should I say “excuse me” afterward? I wanted to give a breakdown of some different types of runs.
First let’s talk about what you want to get out of running. If your goal is to just run for fun, then you might not need vary your routine. If you want to get stronger or reduce your risk of injury it is important to do several types of runs each week, especially if you are training for a race. You should always warm up and cool down. The whole purpose of any speed workout is to help you get faster. Just be careful to not do them too frequently. I would suggest only doing intervals or tempo runs once a week. I alternate weeks with intervals one week and tempo runs the next. Easy runs are for helping increase your base miles (the amount of miles you run in a week) without stressing your body too much. Let’s get started.
1) Easy Run – Typically, easy runs should be at a pace where you can comfortably hold a conversation with someone without losing your breath (somewhere around 2 min/mile slower than your 5k pace). Running slow might be difficult to do at first, but gets easier with practice. It is still important to keep good running form.
2) Fartlek Run – These are easy or moderate runs where you have some short periods of increased speed. Fartlek is a Swedish term for “speed play.” While you are out for a run, look for a light pole, intersection, or other landmark that is about 100-200 feet away. Start to run, but not at an all out sprint. Slow back down to an easy run once you reach the landmark. Your speed segments should be unstructured so you can space out your speed segments as you wish. I tend to shoot for 10 speed sessions in a 30-45 minute easy run. Fartleks can be done in the same week as your speed workouts.
3) Interval Run – Interval runs are where you are able to really build your speed. There are many variations of interval runs. You can do them at a track, on a trail, or anywhere else. I find it easier to do my intervals on a track because I have a visual distance of how far I have left to run before I can rest. For 400 meter intervals, you run one lap around the track at a 5k pace (the best min/mile pace you can run your 5k at). If it takes 2:30 to run the lap, walk or slowly jog for 2:30 before your next interval set. Start at 5 sets and add a set each time you do intervals.
4) Hill Interval Run – Find a somewhat steep hill (around 6% grade) that you can run up for 30-45 seconds. Run fast, but not at an all out sprint (with good form) up the hill for 30 seconds. Walk or jog back down the hill to where you started and repeat for 10-12 sets.
5) Tempo Run – Think of a tempo run as run where you build speed gradually. Typically tempo runs are 30-45 minutes. Start with 10-15 minutes of easy running. The next 15-20 minutes you should build your pace to your 10k pace (or 5k pace if you really want to push hard). You can peak at the middle of the 15-20 minute segment or at the end, it’s up to you. Then you will run at an easy pace for another 5-10 minutes to cool down.
6) Long Run – If you are training for a 10k, half marathon or full marathon, then this will be the most important run of the week. You want to gradually build your distance and endurance, although you should not increase more than 10% per week. For my half marathon training, I start with a 5 mile long run and add a mile each week. Long runs should be run just like an easy run. The idea is to get used to running longer distances, not hurt yourself.
7) Race Runs – Every third week in my half marathon training, I do a race pace run. I will do an easy run for 5-10 minutes to warm up (untimed). I will then run at my desired race pace for that run. If I am running 5k, then I will run at my 5k race pace, 10k at my 10k race pace, etc.) You can do these runs in the same week as your speed workouts. I try to break my PR’s (personal record) during these runs if I can. If I want to run an 8:30 mile in my half marathon, my pace run should be at an 8:30 pace.
8) Pace Runs – These are runs where you will run at your desired target race pace.
I know that there is a lot of information here and I probably went on a little long. I hope that I helped if you had any questions about what types of runs there are. If you have any questions, please comment. You can also let me know what your favorite types of runs are. My next blog post will be a review of a few training plans that have used.