Variety is the spice of life

Running is running, right? Well yes and also no. Moving by foot faster than a jog is a run, nobody can deny, but there are many types of run that you can do, mixing up speed and duration and repetition. This variety is one of the best ways to keep things interesting, as well as a fine way to improve your running performance, pace and abilities.

Below are a list of run types. The best plan, IMHO, is to mix a few of these runs into your running but balanced with easy simple paced runs.

I like to run to heart rate zones. This might not be your cup of tea, and that’s fine. But to explain, I will refer to 5 zones numbered 1 (easiest effort) to 5 (hardest effort).

If you don’t use Heart Rate Zones, then in brief Zones 1 and 2 would be the kind of pace that makes you feel able to run forever, hold a good conversation and generally feel like you are well within yourself. Zone 3 begins to make you move, you can still have a decent chat whilst running, but you now feel like you are putting some good effort in. Zone 4 is making you feel it, you might find it hard to say much when running at this pace and you feel that the effort is strong, but that you have a little more in your locker. Zone 5 is as much as you have. Talking is unlikely and you probably doubt you can sustain it for any hugely significant time.

Easy Runs

Easy runs are meant to be just that. they should be in Zones 1 or 2. Steady pace, comfortable. Great for recovery after long or high intensity runs.

Intervals or Fartleks

These start and end with a warmup and cool down at easy pace (Zone 1). The intervals themselves are at the highest effort you can do (Zone 5) for a short period. Maybe 30s, 60s, 90s etc as your level can achieve. you repeat these a number of times (4, 6 or 8 maybe). in between each high effort interval, rest at easy pace for maybe 2 minutes.

As your running develops, increase the repetitions, or interval durations.

Cruise Intervals

Basic premise the same as for normal intervals, however you hit middle effort (Zone 3) rather than Zone 5, and sustain this for longer, maybe 5 minutes. Repeat 3, 4, 5 times etc. Rest for 2 minutes between intervals.

As your running develops, increase the repetitions, or interval durations.

Mixed Intervals

This is a block of intervals covering medium and higher effort speeds. Using Heart Rate Zones as an example, a mixed interval session would look something like:

  • warm up
  • Zone 5 – 60s
  • rest 2 min Zone 1
  • Zone 4 – 5 min
  • rest 2 min Zone 1
  • Zone 3 – 10 min
  • rest 2 min Zone 1
  • Zone 4 – 5 min
  • rest 2 min Zone 1
  • Zone 5 – 60s
  • cool down

Tempo Run

This uses the same effort level as the Cruise interval (Zone 3/Medium effort) but sustains this for a longer period, i.e. 30 minutes. include a warmup and cool down at low effort.

Increase the temp duration as your running develops.

Progression Run

In this run you look to break the run into a number of sections, maybe 3, 4 or 5 for example. You run each section at a high pace than the previous session.. this is good for building an understanding of what your pace feels like and enabling you to ‘feel’ your pace.

As your running develops increase the number of sections and look to hit faster section paces. Also look to increase the duration of the section.

Hill repeats

Does what it says on the tin! Find a hill and run up and down it. Do so aiming for low effort, but the act of hill running will usually mean the effort feels harder than your pace suggests – this is normal so don’t worry.

As your running develops increase the number of repeats.

Long Slow Run

Many runs in routine running will be short 20, 30, 40 minutes. But if you want to achieve longer runs such as Half marathons, Marathons or ultras (eek) then time on your feet is key. This can be best achieved by finding time, maybe each week, to go for a much longer run, maybe 60-90 minutes. These don’t aim to be fast. They are used to just get your body running for a long time so longer dsistance events are more achievable.

As your running develops you can increase the duration of these runs, consider more challenging terrain (include hills and trails etc) or look to include faster sections (a bit like chucking a few intervals at higher pace into a long run).

Putting it all together

Thats the challenge. how do you take all of this and make the best use of it. Thats does to you as an individual. If time is no question/obstacle, then run as much as you can, making 1 in 3 (-ish) runs a higher effort option and the rest lower/easy effort. Include or add a Long Slow Run too. But you need to pick the frequency and durations to fit with your other commitments and lifestyle etc.

Needless to say any run is better than no run so just running is a great start.

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