Five Runs to Improve Your Race Time
By Breanne Bakan
If you’re a runner, you know that some days out on the road or trails can get monotonous. Whether you’re new to the scene or a seasoned running veteran, it’s important to know that there are different types of runs you can be doing to spice up your training and help improve your times.
Even if you’re not training for a specific race or distance, incorporating different types of runs into your weekly mileage can greatly enhance your fitness and keep you from getting bored with each run. Check out five of the main types below and try some of them out for yourself.
Long Run – Adding in a longer run to your week is a perfect way to help build up your endurance. On average, long runs should be about 20-30% of your weekly mileage. This means that if you run 40 miles a week, your long run should be 8 to 12 miles long.
Tempo – A tempo style run contains a harder sustained effort. A tempo run is an excellent way to improve your race times, as you are running continuously at a faster pace, which trains your body to be prepared for it during a race. It is important to know that a tempo run is not at or even near race pace, but is faster than an easy pace run.
If an average run for you is 4 miles at a 9:00-minute pace, try making the middle two miles an 8:00-minute pace to start, with one mile warmup and one mile cooldown. Your tempo pace can vary and will get faster as you improve, but it is important for it to be around the same pace for the whole portion and should feel more difficult than your easy days without feeling too strenuous.
Fartlek – This type of run is a great way to get your heart rate up and your legs moving. A fartlek is an easy way to get some speed work in. This type of run is very similar to interval training, which is where you run set distances at a faster pace with a walking or jogging break. A fartlek does not contain set distances, however, making it a little easier if you don’t have a track or GPS watch handy.
A fartlek is based on time and has quicker periods of running mixed in with easier jogs. For example, you can do 1-2-3-4-3-2-1 minutes of hard running with equal rest. This means you would run one minute hard, then take a one-minute jog break, run two minutes hard, take a two-minute jog break, and so on until you complete the cycle. The pace should be significantly faster than your tempo, as you are doing it for a shorter amount of time and with rest periods.
Hill Repeats – These are an excellent way to incorporate strength training into your running routine. Running uphill helps build strength that translates to increased speed and endurance. Plus, you’ll be ready to tackle any hills that come your way in a race.
These are pretty easy to do; just head to your nearest hill and run hard up it and then jog easy back down. Start small with just 3-4 reps, and keep building up until you can do 8-10.
Recovery – A recovery run is just as important to improving your race time as any of the other runs! Recovery days give your body the chance to heal and rest. If you don’t take easy days then you won’t be able to go as fast as you need to on your harder days. Remember to not do harder days back-to-back, and to space them out with at least 1-2 easy days in between. These should be slow enough that you can carry on a conversation without feeling too winded.
I hope this helps make your running schedule a little more exciting. If you’re looking for a more specific training plan, there are lots of free ones on the internet. If you want a customizable plan, you can consider hiring a running coach to help keep you on track. Try out some of these runs and chase some new PRs.
How to Improve Your Race Time