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Different Types of Runs and Why You Should Do Them

In order for your training to have purpose, so should your runs!

There are several different types of training runs and each one has a different purpose in the grand scheme of your training. These runs are meant to develop your aerobic endurance to get you crossing the finish line feeling strong and possibly setting a new PR!

Different types of runs helps keep variety in your training and allows the body time to recover after hard efforts. Each run also has a different purpose in a training plan and offers different benefits.

Base Run

This is your easy conversational paced run. Eighty percent of your training should be easy base running. This pace should be anywhere from 1.5-3 minutes slower than your 5K pace and you should be able to run at this pace for what feels like forever. The purpose of these runs is to build your aerobic capacity. Base runs help strengthen muscles, bones, and tendons to be able to withstand the impact of running. These runs also give your body an opportunity to recover from harder efforts you will have throughout your training plan.

Speed Work

Speed work involves running at harder effort paces for different durations. Some training plans will prescribe speed work at tempo, 5K, 10K, half marathon, and marathon paces. If you are unsure of what these paces should be for you, the Jack Daniel's VDOT calculator is a good resource. The calculator will ask for your most recent race time and calculate paces based off of that time.


Intervals are segments of speed with segments of jogging recoveries. The speed segments are typically based on a threshold pace or goal race pace followed by a jogging recovery. Intervals are defined by a set amount of time or distance. The interval runs you perform during a training cycle should be appropriate for the race distance you are training for. For example, short sprints are not really appropriate during a marathon training cycle. Instead, longer intervals at tempo or marathon pace are more appropriate.


Fartleks are very similar to intervals, however they are unstructured. They are typically measured by time rather than distance. They can also be determined by landmarks. For example, the runner will run at a hard effort from the stop sign to the next street light. The main difference is that the pace is not as strictly defined as it is in interval training. Efforts generally should be a 7-9 on a scale from 1-10, 10 being the hardest. Similar to intervals, the recoveries are jogging recoveries. Fartleks provide more flexibility for the runner and help runners ease into speed work sessions.


Tempo runs are a hard sustained threshold workout. Tempo pace is a hard effort, usually your 10k pace. It's generally a pace that you can sustain for 30-60 minutes depending on your experience level. Tempo runs are a steady state effort, unlike intervals and fartleks which include recovery periods. Tempo runs will help improve your VO2 max and help you mentally become comfortable with hard sustained efforts.

Hill Repeats

Hill Repeats are essentially sprints up a hill with bouts of recovery. Both incline and duration can be varied in this type of workout. You can choose to do short sprints on incline for 20-60 seconds or choose to run more gradually up the incline and sprint for a desired distance (i.e., 400 meters). Hill repeats can be done on hills outside or on a treadmill, I usually recommend an incline of 4-7%. This type of workout helps to generate power and speed, especially if you are training for a race with hills.

Progression Run

A progression run is somewhere in the middle between a base run and speed work. It is an endurance run that progressively gets faster. Progression runs are a great way to practice negative splits, which most runners try to achieve in a race.

Long Run

The bread and butter of every training plan. Long runs are typically done at an easy conversational pace in order to increase aerobic capacity. These runs will build the cardiovascular system and improve muscular endurance. The long run will build in mileage as the training plan progresses to prepare you to the cover the distance you are training for. A good training plan will incorporate cutback weeks approximately every 3 weeks in order to avoid overtraining. The long run should also not account for more than 30-40% of the runners' weekly mileage. When the long run starts to make up majority of the weekly mileage, the body ends up needing more time to recover and making injury more likely. Similarly, the long run should not exceed approximately 3 hours. Once a run exceeds this time frame there are diminishing returns because the runner will not adequately recover before their next training run.

Recovery Run

Recovery runs are usually performed the day after a hard effort run. It is done at a very easy conversational pace for no more than 20-40 minutes. The goal of recovery runs are just as the name suggests, recovery! The purpose is to flush out your legs and promote circulation while keeping your heart rate very low.

A good training plan will incorporate these different types of runs into the plan. Each type of run serves a different purpose in your training, all of which will help you develop into a stronger runner! Leave a comment below to connect or follow Hit Your Pace on Facebook or Instagram!

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