I love ladder sessions. It’s a great feeling mentally when you start coming back down the ladder and know the longest intervals are behind you. This workout is not that and that’s exactly the point. Here are the details:
What: 4-3-2-1-1-2-3-4 minute intervals with 2 minutes jogging recovery between each one. Run the 4′ @ 10K effort, 3′ @ 5K effort, 2′ @ 3K effort, 1′ @ 1-mile effort. [Note: Effort is the key word here—don’t worry about hitting specific paces. The intensity should increase as you go “down” the ladder and lessen a bit as you climb back “up.”]
Why: This multi-pace workout takes you through several different gears and teaches you to be disciplined early and tough late. It takes an incredible amount of focus and mental strength—not to mention fitness!—to head back up the ladder on fatigued legs knowing that the intervals are only going to keep getting longer until you’re done. These are important skills for any runner to develop!
Warmup/Cooldown: Warm up before the workout with 15-30 minutes of easy running followed by a set of drills and 4-6 x 20-second strides (i.e., accelerate for 5 seconds, spend the next 10 seconds at near-top speed, and then gradually decelerate to a jog over the final 5 seconds. Catch your breath for 40-60 seconds and then repeat 3-5 more times). Cool down after the workout with 5-15 minutes of easy running.
Where: Ideally, off the track! Best to do this workout on the roads, trail, or grass where there’s some variety to the terrain that makes trying to hit a specific pace irrelevant. That said, you can also do it on the treadmill if you aren’t able to get outside.
When: This effort-based workout is great strength-building session for 5K-10K runners that still touches on a bit of speed. There’s never a bad time to use it after you’ve built a solid foundation of fitness but I would avoid doing it within 7-10 days of a key race just to be safe.