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Different Types of Training Sessions That Runners Should Do

Updated on July 16, 2013
Not all runs are limited to the track or asphalt. Try replacing an easy run in your neighborhood with an easy run on the beach or trail.
Not all runs are limited to the track or asphalt. Try replacing an easy run in your neighborhood with an easy run on the beach or trail. | Source

Base Run

A base run is where you don't run too far, and you just run at your usual comfortable pace. A way to make sure you're doing the normal run at the right pace, is to just forget about the watch and just run. The run should not feel too challenging, nor should they feel too easy either. While these runs don't specifically train your body in a particular aspect such as VO2 max or endurance. These runs are designed to improve your overall fitness and running economy. The distance of these runs depend on what distance your training for. The majority of your weekly mileage should be from base runs.

Tempo Run

A tempo run is designed to help you maintain speed over distance. You should feel like you're pushing yourself, but after the run you should also feel like you could of ran longer. It should feel hard, but achievable at the same time. One way to determine your tempo run pace is to do a 2400 meter test run and plug it in to this calculator found at: The pace should be steady throughout the entire tempo run, warm up by running one or two miles at an easy pace before the tempo run (don't forget your cool-down too). When you decide to add tempo runs to your training, start off at two or three miles and eventually build up to five to eight miles depending on your race distance. A tempo run teaches your body to delay the build up of lactic acid and to clear it more quickly. By increasing your lactate threshold, you can sustain higher speeds over longer distances before experiencing that burning feeling that we all know too well. It also increases VO2 max which is your body's ability to take in oxygen and use it to convert energy in your muscles.


Hill Repeats

This type of workout is similar to interval training. It involves short segments of fast paced runs up a hill. It increases your aerobic capacity, leg strength, pain tolerance, and stride length. A good hill would be a smooth but somewhat steep hill at 5-8% incline. Personally I'd recommend a hill that is 200-400 meters long but location doesn't always allow that so don't worry too much about the distance of each hill. A few things to keep in mind is that during an intense workout such as hill repeats, your form and posture tends to decline. Now and then check on your form and make sure you keep your back straight. Many runners tend to lean forward when running uphill. If you're running up a particularly steep hill, raise your knees slightly higher (but you don't want to raise it too high). When descending down the hill, control your speed and avoid over-striding. This workout is extremely helpful in preparing for any race distance that contains a hilly landscape.

Long Run

This particular section I invested more time in because of its importance to all distances 5K or longer. The distance of a long run varies depending on the race distance you're training for. In most running training plans, the long run is maxed out at 13 and 20 miles for the half and full marathon respectively. When training for a 5K or 10K, I wouldn't recommend doing a long run more than 10 miles. You might wonder why the long run for marathons usually top out at 20 miles right? That's because the fitness gains of running any more than 20 miles isn't worth the risk of fatigue and/or injury. Generally it is advised to do your last 20 mile long run two to four weeks before race day depending on your fitness and prior experience. This run should be about the same speed as an easy run. Don't worry too much about the speed or the time, just focus on getting the distance covered. This run may you severely fatigued, so plan to do a recovery run or just simply take the day off on the next day. If the long run will take longer than an hour (regardless of distance), it is recommended to carbo load the night before. Long runs do more than just improving raw endurance, it also teaches your body to rely more on fat and less on glycogen which delays glycogen depletion (or also known as "hitting the wall"). According to, it also results in: increased max VO2 and blood volume, maximum stroke volume (how much blood is pumped through each heartbeat), more capillaries, and more red blood cells (which means more oxygen being carried throughout the body more quickly).


Interval Run

Interval runs are supposed to be run at a fast pace in relatively short distances such from 400m to 1600m. In between each run, you could have a slow recovery jog or just walk. Due to the nature of these distances, a track would eliminate the need for a GPS or any other tracking device. This is meant to allow a runner to put in more fast running in their workout session than they could if they ran the distance without stopping. For example, rather than running 2 miles at a 6:00 pace all at once. You could probably be able to run six sets of 800m at a 6:00 pace. This way, you ran at a fast pace for a longer distance then you would of if you ran it all at once. The pace should be your 5K race pace when training for a half or full marathon. For a 5K race the training pace should be slightly slower or at your mile pace. I suggest doing this run once a week but no more than that. Running more than one interval session a week could lead to injury. A warm-up consisting of a slow one or two miler is also advised to loosen up your muscles and prevent injury.


A recovery run is just what it sounds like. A nice and easy run to recover after a race or an intense session. Why not just take a day off after a hard day or running? One might ask that, and they do have a point, you don't have to do recovery runs, you can just take the day off to relax and let your body heal itself. But at the same time, one could ask, why not? The purpose of this run is to add more mileage to your week without wearing down your body and leave you prepared for harder runs. While there is no magic number or formula on how fast you should run, a good rule of thumb is that if you can't keep a conversation, your running too fast for it to be a recovery run.

What's your favorite type of run?

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