If I were only allowed to use one interval—but could manipulate the intensity, recovery, and number of reps to suit my needs and desires—it’d be 3-minute repetitions. What makes them magic? Three-minute reps are short enough to keep your attention, long enough that you can’t fake your way through a set of them, and versatile enough to achieve different objectives depending on the day.
Long intervals or short hill sprints for your next workout? Trick question. The answer is both! I like to combine different training elements from time to time to keep workouts interesting and help us get a little something extra out of them. In this workout, we’ll “interrupt” a session of 2-mile repeats with two 10-second hill sprints at near max effort.
Tempo runs tend to get the best of you? You’re not the only one. This classic workout tends to intimidate a lot of runners because of its stop-free nature, e.g. 3-8 miles at half-marathon pace is a popular prescription and anything but an easy assignment during a heavy training week. The Broken Tempo Run serves as a nice alternative, especially early in a training block when you’re just not that fit or if you tend to have a hard time wrapping your head around a long workout.
Running long this week/weekend? Those miles are going to be a sizable chunk of your total weekly volume. Don’t waste ’em! Avoid a sloppy slog and help the time pass a little quicker by throwing in a 30-60 second surge at the end of every mile. Here are the details:
Early season hill workouts help to lay a solid foundation of strength and fitness that will set you up for success the rest of the season, whether you're aiming to run a fast mile, go the distance in an ultramarathon, or tackle something in between.
It’s hard to go wrong with 800m repeats. Do them fast enough and you’ll stay pretty sharp; do enough of them and the strength gains will take you a long way. An example of a pretty standard session many coaches will assign their athletes consists of six reps at 5K pace with 2 to 2-1/2 minutes recovery in between, or maybe 10 reps at 10K pace with two minutes recovery between the two-lap intervals—you get the idea. These workouts will help you build the specific strength you need for race day, practice getting your pacing down, and improve your overall efficiency. Every once in a while, however, I like to throw my athletes a curveball and have them switch gears halfway through, running the final 400m 4-5 seconds faster than the first.
While half marathons and marathons are a matter of resisting fatigue during the later miles, 5K and 10K racing is like fighting off a firestorm for the final third of the race. No matter how comfortable the early pace may feel to you, about two thirds of the way into a fast 5K or 10K a spark suddenly catches fire and starts to spread rapidly as your legs begin to lock up and your stride shortens ever so slightly. Your quads are screaming at you to stop and your upper body tenses up as you seemingly start going backward while you struggle to maintain pace or stick with the runner in front of you. There’s nothing wrong with any of this at the end of a hard race, of course; it simply means that you’re doing it right. While your muscles are inevitably going to catch fire toward the end of a competitive 5K or 10K effort, you can train your body to slow down the burn and better handle the demands of the race in training. One of my favorite ways to do this is with the descending ladder workout.
If you look at the training schedules of top runners throughout history it's more likely than not that you'll find regular bouts of tempo running in there. Why? Quite simply: They work. Tempo runs, which involve maintaining a steady effort for a prolonged period of time (e.g. 5-8 miles at 1/2 marathon effort or 10-14 miles at marathon effort), give you a lot of bang for your aerobic buck. It's hard, but not too hard, running that helps build aerobic strength, improve efficiency, and/or practice running race pace. The Tempo Plus workout is the leveling up of a standard tempo run by pairing it with a short set of faster intervals afterward.