During the past year or so of half-marathon training, I began to actually pay attention to the types of workouts Nike+ was throwing at me. When I did the Hal Higdon programs, I just…ran. I focused on getting my distance in and that was it. But as I began to focus on time goals and not just finishing the race, I began to look ore closely at the different types of workouts, what they do for you, and how you should run them.
Maintenance run: These are the most disposable. If I feel bad or notice shin splits coming on, maintenance runs are the first to go. These are your middle distance runs that should be done at a pace around a minute slower than race pace. In the marathon training programs that have you run just three days a week, they largely eliminate maintenance runs altogether.
Progression run: This falls somewhere in between a speed workout and a maintenance run. Progression runs model the way you run the end of a race: a steady pace for a mile or so, and then speeding up every mile after that. For shorter distances, it may just be running the last mile the fastest.
Long run: These are your weekend long-distance runs. They are always followed—and sometimes preceded—by a rest day. These runs are crucial toward building endurance. They are run more than a minute off race pace. These runs are great for relaxing and catching up on a favorite podcast.
Tempo run: This is a run, or portion of a run, done at the pace you hope to run during your race. Use these to really observe how race pace feels so that you know it without having to look at a watch, phone or app.
Speed workout: You’ll know these by their short, quirky distances. That’s because intervals or fartleks are run by cycle, not distance. An interval run may consist of an all-out pace for .5 miles and a .25 mile recovery jog, done 3 times with a warm-up and cool-down run before and after. Fartleks are timed intervals: all-out for 4 minutes, jog for 1 minute. I love the PodRunner podcast for great interval runs. The PodRunner is a DJ who mixes house music and he’ll change the tempo 4 up and then 1 down to help you run fartleks without having to look at your watch ever. Just pick the timing you need and let the music guide you. Another kind of speed workout is running hills. Simply pick a hill and run up it and jog down 10 times.
These workouts are tough, but short, and that’s what gets me through them. But, they really work! After a few weeks of introducing speed workouts, try a 5k race. I guarantee your speed will improve!