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Have your runs started to feel repetitive? Many amateur runners fall into the habit of nearly always running the same speed and distance.
Although this strategy is okay for beginners, intermediate runners should strive to add variety to their running sessions.
Adding variety to your runs is important for two reasons. First, it’s a great way to keep running interesting.
Second, switching up the types of runs you do will help you become a faster runner.
Mixing in speed work and long runs promote adaptations in your body that you wouldn’t ever achieve otherwise.
Below are five of the most popular variations that you can introduce to your running schedule.
Interval training may sound intimidating, but it simply means regularly alternating between fast and slow running speeds.
For example, an interval session could include four fast 400-meter runs with a slow recovery jog in between each one.
The distance of intervals can range from 100 meters to a mile or more. In general, shorter intervals are used to help prepare for shorter races, and longer intervals are used for longer races.
Many runners don’t have a way to measure their distance, but this doesn’t mean they can’t do interval training. If you don’t have access to a track, you can simply time your intervals instead of measuring the distance.
Before the intervals, it’s important to run a slow warmup to avoid injury. The intervals themselves should typically be run at about a 5k race pace. They should feel fast, but not like an all-out sprint.
2. Fartlek Training
A variation on interval training is fartlek training. Fartlek sessions are runs with mixed speeds, just like intervals.
The difference is that fartlek training is unstructured: instead of running set times or distances, you can vary your speed as you see fit. You can mix in slow runs, fast runs, and even occasional sprints.
Fartlek training is a good way to see the speed-increasing benefits of interval workouts without having to put in as much rigid planning.
Because of this, fartlek training is a great option for beginners looking to try speed workouts for the first time.
Another good speed workout for beginners is running strides. Strides are very short bursts of high-speed running, typically lasting only about half a minute.
To perform a stride, start from a slow jog and gradually accelerate until reaching a 5k race pace. Then, hold the pace for about fifteen to thirty seconds until slowly decelerating back to a jog.
Strides are a great way to introduce speed workouts without overwhelming new runners. Adding just a couple of strides to the end of your runs will typically be enough to start seeing speed increases in your running.
Strides can also be a great part of your race day warm-up because they allow you to reach your race pace without tiring you out.
Running up hills is yet another variation of interval training. Hill repeats are tough no matter what speed you’re going. This allows runners to get the benefits of interval training without carefully monitoring their speed.
Hill repeats can be performed on hills with any grade, but a 5 percent grade is a good starting point for beginners.
If you’re unsure how steep a hill is, it’s fine to just eyeball it. To perform a hill repeat, run uphill for about one minute, then slowly jog back to your starting place.
You can reap big benefits from repeating this exercise just a few times. Like with interval training, it’s important to perform a slow warm-up jog before starting the hill repeats, or you will risk injuring yourself.
5. Long Runs
A final variation that you can include in your running schedule is a “long run.” Just as the name suggests, a long run is simply a run that goes more miles than your typical distance. Most experienced runners include one long run per week in their running schedule.
Long runs vary significantly in length between different runners. If you’re used to running about three miles at a time, your long run might be just five miles.
For marathoners, long runs often reach up to 20 miles. A rule of thumb is to never increase your long run by more than one mile each week.
If you feel like your running progress has been stalling, or that running has started to get boring, adding a bit of variety is likely to help.
You don’t have to try every workout at once. Start by simply adding a long run and one-speed workout to your running schedule each week.
Even with this small change, you’ll likely start noticing immediate improvements.