7 Types of Runs and Their Purpose in Your Training

types of runs infographic

A good running plan is made of different types of running workouts.

These workouts are designed to improve different aspects of fitness such as aerobic capacity, neuromuscular adaptations, VO2 max, or lactate threshold.

The ultimate goal of each workout is to improve your running performance by improving one or more of these fitness aspects.

In this post, we’ll look at the basic types of runs and what they do for you.

The 7 basic types of runs

1. Easy Run

Recovery Run

Easy runs make the largest part of a runner’s training. Even elites do a lot of it. It makes about 80 to 85 percent of their training.

Easy runs build your basic aerobic fitness by developing your cardiovascular system. They also prepare your body for hard training in the future as your body builds resistance to injuries.

Warm-ups, cool-downs, and active recovery breaks that you take between intervals fall into this category. All of these add to your weekly mileage without putting additional stress on your body.

Beginners should always start with easy running exclusively.

These runs are performed at a comfortable or conversational pace.

Conversational pace – If you are running with a partner, you should be able to hold a conversation. You should not be huffing and puffing.

Example workouts:

  • 10-15 min warm-up
  • 10-15 min cool-down
  • 40-minute recovery run
  • 16K long run at easy pace

2. Long Run

Long Slow Distance (LSD), Endurance Run, Distance Run

Long runs are crucial for developing endurance. Regardless of the intended race distance, every runner needs endurance.

Long runs become all the more important when you are preparing for longer distances such as a half marathon or a marathon.

These are simply your longest runs of the week. Your long run typically makes about 25 to 30 percent of your total weekly mileage.

Depending on your plan, a long run can be performed at a constant easy pace. Or, it can be run progressively.

Example workout:

15K long run at easy pace

3. Progression Run

Progression runs are great for building aerobic capacity. These runs allow you to include more intensity variation into one session.

In a progression run, you run the first portion at an easy pace and the other portion at a relatively moderate or hard pace. These workouts are moderately challenging and need less time to recover as compared to the hard workouts like tempo runs or intervals.

Example workouts:
A 15K progression run in which you run the first 10K at an easy pace and last 5K at marathon pace.

4. Tempo Run

Threshold Run, Cruise Interval

Tempo runs are one of the most important workouts for distance runners. These runs develop your ability to endure a higher intensity of effort for a longer period of time.

Tempo Runs help you build endurance. And they are also great for building mental toughness, which is helpful on the race days.

There are generally two types of tempo runs:

  1. Classic tempo runs – A classic tempo run is usually 20 to 40-minute long run sandwiched between a warm-up and a cool down. It is run at a steady pace and effort.
  2. Cruise Intervals – In a cruise interval, you break the efforts into several long intervals with a short jog or recovery in between. The intervals are performed at a steady pace just like a classic tempo session.

The benefit of cruise intervals over classic tempo runs is that you can get more total mileage in a cruise-interval session.

Example workouts:

  • 40-minute tempo run at a steady pace
  • 8-10 reps of 1 km with 30-seconds recovery

5. Intervals

Repetitions, Speed Intervals, Speed-work

In an interval training session, you simply alternate high-speed bouts of running with recoveries by jogging or complete rest. These recoveries are often equal to or slightly longer than the intervals.

Interval training provides you many benefits. It increases your speed. Improves your running economy. Improves your running mechanics. It also develops neurological and biomechanical adaptations that can make you a smoother and more efficient runner.

Intervals can be short or long depending on your chosen race distance and plan. For example, short intervals can be 100 to 400 meter long. And long intervals can be from 600 to 1200 long.

To prepare for shorter races you’ll need to do more of high-speed short intervals and for longer races (marathon, half marathon) you may have to focus on longer intervals.

Example workouts:

  • 8 x 400 at 5K pace
  • 4 x 1600 at race pace

6. Hills

Hills are great for improving strength and running economy. They allow you to run at a high intensity with low impact stress on your body. And if you run on the roads, most probably you’ll encounter hills on some of your races. So it is a good idea to include some hill sessions into your training.

Although you can turn any run into a hill workout; short, fast hill repetitions of 8-12 second are most beneficial.

If you live in an area that dosn’t have hills, you can perform these workouts on a treadmill.

Example workouts:

  • 8 x 10sec uphill repeats with jog or walk back down
  • 8 x 100m uphill repeats with jog or walk back down
  • 10K progression run. Run the last 3K uphill

7. Fartlek

Fartlek can be as fun as they sound. In fact, it is a good idea to do them somewhere interesting.

“Fartlek” is a Swedish word, which means “speed play”. They are great for adding variety to your running plan.

Fartlek workouts are simply a mix of fast running with periods of slower running.

Fartlek workouts can be a mix of several types of running – easy running, hills, strides, and even some short bouts of interval or tempo paces.

You can simply perform a fartlek run by running at a faster pace to a tree (or any other landmark you see), then recover by running at a slower pace. Repeat this for the intended time or distance.

Example workouts:

  • 2 minutes hard, 2 minutes easy
  • 3 x 400 at a fast pace with 3-minute jogs in between
  • 3 x 200 at a fast pace with 200-meter jogs in between

There are a lot of variations of running workouts that runners perform. These are the most commonly known types of running workouts.

Remember, To get the most benefits, these running workouts should be done at proper paces and in proper amounts. Doing more than necessary is counterproductive. It will not produce the desired results. On the other hand, you can get injured.

That’s the reason, you should follow a proper running plan. If you have a good coach, he will design a plan to suit your needs. You can also design your own plan if you have that kind of knowledge.

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