Always the same route, always the same speed. Not only does it get boring over time, but it doesn’t do much to help you develop as a runner either. Do you want to vary your running sessions, just for a bit of a change or to improve your performance? In this article, we reveal how you can add variety to your running session with different workouts.
The workouts you choose to build into your running session should depend on what level you are at and what you want to achieve. Long-distance runs allow you to work on your endurance, for example. But if you want to work on your speed and power, it makes sense to do short, intensive exercises—like with interval training. A variety of different training workouts are possible depending on the purpose.
Interval training or interval running involves alternating between high-intensity phases and recovery phases. This is a form of repetition training, with high-intensity workouts at a specific speed each followed by a break. For example, you could run 6 x 800 meters, each time with a break in between. Runners should aim to run at the race pace that they would like to achieve in their next competition. The reason behind interval training of this kind is to get the body accustomed to higher-intensity workouts and to get it to provide the energy needed at higher intensities. Interval training can not only help make your heart work more efficiently but your breathing, muscles and cardiovascular system as well.
Another workout you can incorporate in your running session is a tempo run. To do this, you run for between 20 and 60 minutes at a fast/high pace. This means running too fast to be able to have a conversation. The aim here is to boost aerobic endurance and, in so doing, train the body to provide your muscles with sufficient oxygen during the run.
Before attempting an endurance run of this nature, you must first be able to run for an hour at an easy pace. Tempo runs are not recommended for beginners. It is also important to do a gradual warm-up run for 10 to 20 minutes and then a warm-down run for 10 to 20 minutes afterwards.
As the name suggests, this workout is all about training at a specific threshold, the threshold between aerobic and anaerobic running sessions. When you train at precisely this threshold, the body produces lactate at the same rate as it is able to break it down. If you train in the aerobic range, you are breathing in enough oxygen to supply your muscles with the energy they need. In the anaerobic range, however, you are no longer breathing in enough oxygen, which means that the body then produces more lactate than it is able to break down. Running sessions in this range pushes your body to its limits. If you train at the anaerobic threshold, you will gradually be able to push this threshold up and so train your body to enable it to produce more power.
With a surge run, instead of maintaining the same tempo you increase it. However, it is important to make sure you warm up your muscles for at least 10 minutes beforehand. It’s best simply to start off with 10 minutes running at an easy pace. You can then gradually increase your speed over 80 to 120 meters, surging until at some point you reach a fast sprint. It is important to make sure you can complete the surge cleanly, including the end. You can then run at an easy pace again for one or two minutes before starting the next surge. To begin with, incorporate four or five surges into your workout. As you get more experienced, you can then start doing more.
Surges can also be used at the end of an endurance run. Simply build in a few sprints shortly before the end of a long run. Of course, you should only do this if you still have enough power left at the end.
As the name suggests, hill training involves training on a hill, which is to say on a definite incline. Here, too, it is important to have a certain level of basic endurance ability first. You should already be training at least three times a week before you start to incorporate this kind of workout into your training regime. Hill training of this kind can then be highly effective. As a result of the incline, both the muscles and the cardiovascular system are given an intense workout. This not only allows you to work on your endurance but also helps train muscles which don’t get used when running on flat ground. This kind of workout is also particularly gentle since the impact force is reduced compared with a normal running session. Runners with Achilles problems should be careful, however, as hill training is especially hard on the Achilles tendon.
Whilst running uphill is in some respects gentler, runners should be particularly careful when going downhill. The movements made when running downhill put a great deal of strain on the musculoskeletal system, simply because the impact forces are higher. If you find yourself having to run downhill, keep your stride short and run slowly and with control.
This is another workout which involves gradually increasing the intensity during your run so your own body can help you achieve full power, even at the first sign of fatigue. Start your run at a workout intensity of 70%. Run the first lap at this intensity level, then the next at 75%, then 80%, and so on until you reach 90% to 95%—the anaerobic threshold. Once you reach this threshold, run the last lap at an easy pace. For this workout to have the desired effect, it is particularly important to give your body enough time to recover after the running session.
With all the different workouts mentioned here, it is important to make sure you only incorporate them into your training regime once you have already worked on your basic endurance. This is because the intensive workouts in this article can do more harm than good if you are not a proficient runner. The takeaway from this? Trying these different training workouts is only a good idea if you are already a regular runner who trains several times a week!