What are the 8 different types of running workouts?

We explain the eight different types of running workouts, including interval training, fartlek training, and tempo runs.

While you may be guilty of lacing up your running shoes and going for any old ‘run,’ mixing up your training and including different types of running workouts will make you a faster, stronger, and less injury-prone runner. Nevertheless, here are the eight different types of running workouts you should look to include in your training.

1. Base/normal runs

These runs are your usual natural effort runs, making up the majority of your training while building your aerobic capacity. Base runs should not be too challenging and run at a comfortable pace, allowing these to be run often.

If training by heart rate, these would be run around 70-80% of your max, else known as zone 2.

2. Progression runs

Progression runs are similar to base runs yet finish at a much faster pace. You are, therefore, increasing your speed as the run goes on. These runs are more challenging than standard base runs but are great for building running stamina.

If training by heart rate, the start of your run would be run around 70-80% of your max known as zone 2, while towards the end of your run you could be looking at as high as 80-90% entering zone 3 or even 4.

3. Interval training

Interval runs combine fast uncomfortable hard effort runs with low-intensity jog recoveries. This allows us to simulate fast running resulting in increased tolerance to lactic acid, improved running economy among many physiological changes. These include an increased ability to deliver oxygen to the working muscles as well as increased heart strength. These are essential to faster running.

If using a heart rate monitor, you will be training in zone 4 (94-100% max) for the intervals and zone 1 (60-70% max) and 2 (70-80% max) for the recovery jogs.

An example of an interval training session is as follows:

  • 10-minute warmup & dynamic stretching
  • 4×4 minutes at goal 5k pace
  • 2-minute jog recovery between each interval
  • 10-minute cool down jog & static stretching

4. Fartlek training

The word ‘Fartlek’ is Swedish for ‘speed play.’ Fartlek training is basically interval training but with less structure and intensity. Fartlek training is all about having fun while running fast while alternating with slow recovery jogs.

With a less structured approach, fartlek training usually consists of picking an object such as a lamppost, running fast until you reach it, and then running slow until your next object such as a blue car. This process is repeated by alternating between slow and fast running and obstacles to reach.

Fartlek training combines zone 2 (70-80% max), zone 3 (81-93% max), and occasionally zone 4 (94-100% max) heart rate training.

5. Tempo runs

Tempo runs are run at what is commonly referred to as ‘a comfortably hard’ pace. This pace is slower than your 5k pace and similar to your marathon pace. Tempo running builds up lactic acid within our muscles. Regular tempo runs will increase our lactic threshold allowing us to run faster without fatiguing as quickly.

We recommend using the macmillan training pace calculator to work out your tempo run pace if training by pace per mile. However. if using a heart rate monitor, tempo runs should be run between 85-90% (zone 3) of your maximum heart rate.

6. Hill repeats

Much like trail running, hill repeats are a great way to strengthen your muscles while building stamina. Hill repeats also allow our regular base runs to feel much more comfortable. Make sure not to run as far as your regular base runs as hill repeats are run at a much higher intensity. Doing too much, especially too soon will increase your risk of injury.

To run hill repeats:

  • 10-minute warmup jog & dynamic stretching
  • Find a medium-long hill
  • Run up the hill fast
  • Jog down the hill slow
  • Repeat a minimum of 3-4 times
  • 10-minute cool down jog & static stretching

7. Sprints

Sprints are no longer just for short distance runners. Incorporating sprinting into your training will improve your muscular strength and power as well as your sprint finish. Running greats such as Sir Mohamed Farah include sprint training regularly.

An example sprint training session:

  • 10-minute warmup jog & dynamic stretching
  • 4x100m
  • 3-minute rest between each interval
  • 10-minute cool down jog & static stretching

8. Long run

The long-run is a staple in all runner’s training programs. Commonly run on a Sunday, the long run is responsible for a variety of physiological benefits. These include an increased capacity to use fat as fuel, improved cardiovascular health, and the strengthening of the leg muscles. The long-run also develops mental toughness due to the long duration of running.

Recommended blog post: Everything you need to know about the long run

To finish

Including these eight different types of running workouts in your training while making you a faster, stronger, and less injury-prone runner. Be sure to build into these workouts while performing no more than three hard runs per week. One interval session, one tempo run, and a long-run is the standard training schedule many athletes can safely follow year-round.

For reference: Strava article on the different types of runs.

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