Whether you are a beginner or seasoned runner, it is useful to understand the different types of runs to incorporate into your training program. Varying your runs will help to improve your cardiovascular system, muscles, endurance and recovery. This will also reduce the risk of injury.
Using the range of running workouts will help increase your overall speed and distance over a period of time.
So, let’s look at the different types of runs and how you should use them.
1. Base Runs
The base runs are the normal runs you will be more familiar with. They are the ones runners will tend to do as part of their normal training. They should be run at a comfortable pace, not too challenging, allowing you do perform them regularly without too much pre-planning.
Base runs help to build your aerobic capacity.
These runs should be around 70 – 80% of your max heart rate, known as ‘Zone 2’.
2. Progression Runs
The progression run is very similar to a Base Run, but you will progressively increase your pace. You will effectively be starting at a comfortable speed, like in the base run, and increase the speed as you progress.
Progression runs are great for building running stamina.
They start at around 70-80% of your max heart rate (Zone 2), and increase towards the end of the run to around 80-90%, into Zone 3 or 4.
3. Interval Training Workout
As with any interval training, these runs combine high-intensity runs with low-intensity jogs or recovery runs. The high-intensity sections are usually short bursts of intense effort. The lower-intensity sections tend to be slower runs, even to a jogging or walking pace.
Intervals are essential to improve faster and increased efficiency running.
They are performed in Zone 4, or 94-100% max heart rate for the high-intensity sections, down to around Zone 1 (60-70% max) to Zone 2 (70-80% max) for the recovery sections.
An example of an Interval Training Run:
Warm-up – 1-mile jog and dynamic stretching
5 sets of 1000-metre runs at 5k pace, with 2-minute light-recovery jogs in between each
Cool-down – 1-mile jog and static stretching
4. Fartlek Training
Fartlek is a Swedish word for ‘speed play’. Fartlek training is very similar to intervals but less structured. They are base runs mixed in with a few intervals of different distances and durations. As they are less rigid, they should be more enjoyable than the more structured running workouts.
A simple way to perform Fartlek is to sprint to the next tree or lamp post, then jog to the next red car, for example. You are mixing up fast and slow running, using obstacles as your targets.
Fartlek training combines a mixture of max heart rates, from Zone 2 (70-80% max), Zone 3 (81-93% max), and the occasional Zone 4 (94-100% max).
5. Tempo Runs
Tempo runs should be performed slower than your 5k pace, more your marathon pace. Some refer to Tempo runs as ‘comfortably hard’. Your breathing should be such that you are unable to hold a full conversation, but can still manage a few, perhaps broken sentences.
The workouts build up lactic acid in our muscles. Running regular Tempo runs will help build up your lactic acid threshold, enabling you to run faster for longer over time.
If you are using a heart rate monitor, Tempo runs should be performed at around Zone 3, or 85-90% of your maximum heart rate.
6. Hill Repeats
Hill repeats (Hill sprints) are great to increase your stamina and strengthen your muscles. Doing them regularly will improve your Base runs, making them feel more comfortable.
To do Hill repeats, find a medium-to-long hill, run up for about 45 seconds and then jog down. Repeat between 5 and 10 times, making sure you warm-up and cool down.
Your hill runs should be short in the distance as they are performed at a very high intensity. Don’t do too much too soon, or too often as you will increase your risk of injury.
Even if you are a good long-distance runner, sprints are a great way to improve your muscular strength and power. Sprinting is also great for improving your sprint finishes at the end of a race or competition.
An example of a sprint training session is to do a 10-minute warmup, 4 sets of 100m sprints with a 3-minute rest in-between, followed by a cool down.
8. Long Run
Every runner should do a long run as part of their weekly training program. Long runs help to increase your cardiovascular health and strengthen your leg muscles. They also improve your mental ability for long duration running.
Your weekly long run should be around 20-25% of your total weekly distance, no more. So if, for example, you run forty miles over the course of a week, your long run should be between 8 and 10 miles.
Long runs should be performed at a natural pace.
Conclusion - Run Types
It is important to use a variety of running workouts in your training program. This will not only improve your stamina, strength, speed and cardio but also make your training more enjoyable.
Use a selection of these eight runs in your weekly programs to incorporate a maximum of three hard runs a week, such as; one Interval, one Tempo, and one Long run.
Always warm-up and stretch before each run, and cool down with a stretch afterwards. Include a recovery run once a week, performed at a comfortable, gentle pace, and make sure to have 1-2 rest days.
To help you stay on track with your running program, you could train with a partner, join a running club or use one of the many running apps available for smartphones and smartwatches.
The main benefits of running are cardiovascular health, weight loss and mental health.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
What type of running should I do? There are 8 basic running workouts that runners of all levels use to create their training program; Base Run, Progression Runs, Interval Runs, Fartek Training, Tempo Runs, Hill Repeats, Sprints, and Long Run.
What are the three types of runs for training? There are 3 types of runs every runner should do, based around Speed work, Long Slow Distance, and Recovery Run. They can be implemented using the 8 basic running workouts: Base Run, Progression Runs, Interval Runs, Fartek Training, Tempo Runs, Hill Repeats, Sprints, and Long Run.
What is a Progression Run? A Progression Run is a run that starts at a comfortable pace and gradually increases in speed. They are great for improving running stamina.
What is a Fartlek run? A Fartlek run is a less structured form of interval running. The runner normally uses physical objects, such as a tree, lamp post or car as their targets. For example, you could sprint to the next tree, jog to the next lamp post, and sprint to the next red car. Do this repeatedly, alternating between fast runs and recovery jogs over the distance or duration of your run. Include Fartlek runs in your training program every couple of weeks.
Is it OK to run 3 miles every day? If you manage to run three miles a day on a regular basis you are building up a great habit. Running regularly is great to promote weight loss, increasing your calorie deficit. A calorie deficit is when you burn more calories than you take in.
Can you run a mile everyday? You can easily run a mile every day, especially if you are just starting out. Use a training program to increase your distance and/or speed over a number of weeks. Use a mixture of speed work, long slow distances and recovery runs to build up your strength and stamina.