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.
Most interval sessions are pretty straightforward in their construction: X number of [fill in the blank] intervals @ Y pace with Z recovery between repetitions. There's nothing wrong with these types of workouts. They're easy to understand and effective at producing a desired adaptation. Hammer intervals, made popular by coach Scott Simmons of the American Distance Project, throw a slight twist into the mix: every third or fourth repetition (whatever cadence you choose, really), you "hammer" it (i.e. run it quite a bit harder) before returning to the prescribed pace. The catch? You don't get any more recovery time after the hammers than you do the other intervals in the session.
One-mile repeats are a bread-and-butter session for distance runners prepping to race 5K, the marathon, or anything in between. Every once in a while I like to mix up the intensity and recovery a bit to work on both stamina and speed while also keeping my athletes more engaged throughout the workout.
The Mona Fartlek can also serve as a good 20-minute benchmark session every 4-6 weeks by simply comparing your total distance and overall average pace (and heart rate and power, if you’re into those sorts of things) from one attempt to the next. What I love about this session is that it’s efficient and versatile: it can be done anywhere and you can make it as hard or an easy as you need/want it to be.