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.
There’s a lot of confusion around the tempo run but stripped down to its core, this workout simply boils down to maintaining a steady effort for a prolonged period of time. And while the definitions of steady and prolonged can vary depending on a variety of factors, for the sake of simplicity and ease of creating a common understanding, let’s call the “classic” tempo run 5 miles at half-marathon pace. This is a pretty standard workout you’ll see utilized by a wide range of athletes and coaches to build aerobic strength, improve efficiency, and/or practice running race pace. The 5-n-Go Tempo adds a slight twist to the classic tempo run by squeezing down the pace for a mile or two at the end.
I use some version of this short-medium-long format for all of my athletes depending on who they are, what they’re training for, and where they are in a training block. This hill workout is as much a mental challenge as it is a physical one and there’s probably a place for it in your program.
We’re nearing the end of cross-country season here in the U.S., and the fall road racing schedule will also be winding down over the next 3-4 weeks. One of my favorite all-purpose workouts to assign this time of year, whether you’re shredding grass, locking into a rhythm on the roads, or going back-n-forth between the two is the 5 x 5 Fartlek.
Looking for a challenging but not-too-hard workout to knock out before your next race? Look no further than the 5-4-3-2-1 halftime fartlek. It starts fast and finishes even faster but it will be over before it really starts to grind your gears down.
Yasso 800s are perhaps the most well-known speed workout amongst dedicated marathoners of all levels. The premise is pretty straightforward: If your goal is to run a marathon in, say, 3 hours flat, you should be able to do ten 800m repeats in 3:00 with a 400m jog for recovery between reps. A 2:45 marathoner would run their reps in 2:45, and so on and so forth.
The 1-2-3-2-1-2-3-2-1 fartlek is an "introduction to power endurance" workout that can be used early in a training cycle when an athlete is still building fitness but ready to handle more work. The pickups are relatively short—1-3 minutes in duration—and the intensity—10K effort—should manageable for that chunk of time. The "recovery" intervals, which are run at more of a moderate training pace than a slow jog, are equal in duration to the work interval that preceded it. I like to use a version of this workout every few weeks during a half-marathon or marathon buildup because it forces the athlete to stay engaged the entire time and serves as a nice substitute for a standard threshold session.
These workouts require a lot of focus while improving the physiological and psychological endurance you'll need to race well at longer distances. One of my favorite threshold workouts is a bunch of 1-kilometer repeats with a short rest (30-60 seconds) in between intervals. We start at half-marathon pace—better to start on the side of too slow than too fast—and get a little faster as the workout goes on without going too crazy.
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.
My favorite workouts are pretty universal in nature, meaning you can go to them whether you're focusing on something as short as a 5K or as long as a marathon. The 3-2-1 Mile Cutdown session fits that bill.