6 Must-Do Runs to Get Faster and Stronger

Emily Abbate
by Emily Abbate
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6 Must-Do Runs to Get Faster and Stronger

Making running a consistent part of your routine is a major accomplishment. Whether you’re new to the sport or are easing back into it, the benefits of running — including a longer life and increased mood — make it extra worthwhile. But if you’re going out day after day and are always running the exact same route, you could be making a major mistake. (Kudos for consistency, though!)

That’s right: There are multiple different types of runs that can be excellent to integrate into your weekly programming. Here, experts break down what those are and when to incorporate them into the mix.

1

BASE RUNS

Frequency: At least two times per week

Why you need them: These are the runs that help build a foundation for the runner. Base runs are kept at a runner’s natural pace, with an emphasis on building aerobic endurance and biomechanical efficiency of movement. “Think of it as the foundation to building a house,” says Bianca Beldini, DPT and USA Triathlon Level 1 coach. “The foundation needs to be strong in order for the house to be solid.”

2

THRESHOLD RUNS

Frequency: Once per week or once every other week

Why you need them: “Training at threshold encourages the runner to experience sustained exertion but not to the point of exhaustion,” Beldini says. These are often referred to as a lactate threshold run, because the desired pace is just under the threshold of where lactate begins to accumulate in the blood. Threshold efforts are performed at a pace just under what a runner would consider “hard,” typically 25–30 seconds slower than a 5K race pace, says Beldini.

3

TEMPO RUNS

Frequency: Once per week or once every other week

Why you need them: Tempo runs would be longer in duration and truly challenge the endurance of the runner, says Beldini. Typically longer than a threshold run, but with a similar effort. With this effort, you’re running only slightly less hard than your threshold pace. In a marathon training plan, for example, it may look like a 2-mile easy warmup, followed by a 9-mile tempo run, ending with a 2-mile easy cooldown.

4

INTERVAL RUNS

Frequency: Once a week, maybe twice weekly for more experienced athletes

Why you need them: “There are tons of benefits to adding these in, including improved cardiovascular efficiency, VO2 max and anaerobic metabolism,” says Natalie Niemczyk, DPT, and an RRCA-certified run coach. Consider these structured efforts that include bouts of high intensity and rest. The rest can be complete (not moving or slow walking) or active (an easy jog), depending on the prescribed workout at hand. Intervals can come in loads of different forms, and be formatted for distance or based on time.

Four types of Interval runs include:

  • Classic intervals: This is the type of effort you may do at the track, performed to challenge your speed and overall efficiency of both the musculoskeletal system and the cardiopulmonary system, says Beldini. “Speed drills are typically short and fast and can vary in length of time and pacing,” she says.

A few different examples of interval workouts include 4 x 200 at 5K pace, 5 x 800 at 10K pace, each with an allotted rest time between each sprint set. If you don’t have a track or a stopwatch to track specific distance interval work, you could always translate these efforts to estimated time. This could look like 4 x 20 seconds on, or 5 x 4 minutes on. The best part is you can play with different distances and durations. This facilitates challenging the heart to return to a baseline before being exerted again, adds Beldini.

  • Hill repeats: More often than not, this looks like a runner giving a hill all they’ve got, then jogging back down. “Hills intensely challenge the entire posterior chain and are often considered equivalent to performing heavily weighted back squats,” says Beldini. “Techniques include learning how to lean into the hill, using smaller and quicker steps and engaging help from the arms and upper torso to counterbalance the legs against the slope of the hill.” Plus, your cardiopulmonary system is strongly challenged during these efforts.
  • Fartlek: The Swedish word for “speed play,” a fartlek is literally playing with speeds during a run session. It could look like running hard for 20 seconds, followed by an easy 1-minute jog. Or, Niemczyk says it can be a little less structured. “Perhaps it’s: ‘I’m going to sprint past every other fire hydrant’ if running outdoors.”

Playing with speed challenges a runner’s quick turnover as well as their cardiac system in how quickly their heart rate returns after quick bursts of exertion.

  • Speed ladder: Ladder runs can be a blast with the right mentality, says Cortney Logan, co-founder bRUNch Running and RRCA-certified run coach. She recommends adding this particular interval style into your running about once monthly to switch up your training and try a new challenge. Format-wise, think about going up the ladder and then back down.

Logan offers an example of a speed ladder:

    • Start with a 10-minute warmup
    • 30 seconds all-out, 1-minute recovery
    • 1 minute at hard pace, 1-minute recovery
    • 3 minutes at race pace, 1-minute recovery
    • 3 minutes at race pace, 1-minute recovery
    • 1 minute at hard pace, 1-minute recovery
    • 30 seconds all-out, 1-minute recovery
    • Finish with a 10-minute cool down
5

LONG RUNS

Frequency: Once per week (typically on a weekend)

Why you need them: These efforts build endurance and are not just for distance training, as the actual mileage varies depending on where you are in your personal running journey. Typically defined as anything over 60 minutes at an easy-to-medium effort pace, running long helps you to build muscle stamina and endurance as well as mental fortitude, says Beldini.

Logan offers a tip for anyone aspiring to add time to their long run. “The more time you can spend on your feet, the more endurance you will build. These runs are not about pace but building that base.”


Read More > TRY THESE FOUR ACTIVE RECOVERY WORKOUTS AFTER YOUR NEXT RACE


6

RECOVERY RUNS

Frequency: 1–3 times per week for 10–40 minutes total, suggests Beldini.

Why you need them: Low-intensity, comfortable efforts that are aimed at decreasing soreness from previous training sessions and improving overall strength of the cardiovascular system, says Beldini. When you’re running, you should be able to maintain a conversational pace, or be able to chat with a buddy IRL or on a phone call.

Whether you want to run your first mile or set a PR, having a plan gets you there faster. Go to the MapMyRun app, tap “Training Plans” and set your next goal — you’ll get a schedule and coaching tips to help you crush it.

About the Author

Emily Abbate
Emily Abbate

Emily has written for GQ, Self, Shape and Runner’s World (among others). As a certified personal trainer, run and spin coach, she’s often tackling long runs or lifting heavy things. In addition to that, she’s working on Hurdle, a podcast that talks to badass humans and entrepreneurs who got through a tough time —a hurdle of sorts— by leaning into wellness.

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