Types of Pace Workouts including some examples  


Basic Speed - Short, fast speedwork to improve leg turnover and improve running economy. Your basic speed is how fast you can run 400 meters or shorter. Workouts don’t have to be on a track. Once or twice a week after an easy workout, run 4-8 pickups (aka striders) accelerating to a speed that is fast but not so fast that you tighten up followed by complete recovery between each pickup. This is the least important type of pace work for distance runners, but it is still valuable.  

Fartlek - Fartlek is a Swedish word meaning speed play. It is unstructured speed training at your own pace that can be worked into a daily run. (Intervals run on a track are an example of structured speed training). During a run, you accelerate from landmark to landmark (telephone pole, end of the block, etc). When you have pushed as long and as fast as you want, you should jog to recover. Then, after the recovery jog, take off again. When running with a group, the workout may be referred to as “follow the leader” or “running light pole to light pole”.


Progression Run -Progression runs are a good strength/speed combination workout. In a progression run, you begin running at a slow, easy pace but finish at a fast pace. A progression run is a run with structured pace increases from beginning to end. A benefit of progression runs is that they allow you to insert fast running into your training runs (feeding your need for speed) but in a way from which you can easily recover.


Examples of three types of progression runs:

  • Out and back progression run - Start out at an easy pace including a warmup. When you turn around, pick up the pace and finish the second half of the workout faster than the first half.
  • Thirds - Break your run into three equal parts or thirds. For the first third, run at a relatively slow, comfortable pace. As you progress to the second third of the run, your pace should gradually increase to your normal steady running pace. Over the last third of the run, increase your speed so that you’re running a strong, comfortably hard pace.
  • Finish Fast - Start out at an easy pace including a warmup. Run your normal steady running pace for most of the run. Then increase your speed so that you’re running a strong, comfortably hard pace for the last 10 minutes (or a predetermined amount of time or number of miles).


Tempo Runs (Lactate Threshold) - Tempo runs train your body to delay lactate acid buildup. Lactate threshold (LT) determines how fast you can run. Your lactate threshold is the most important factor in determining running performance in races longer than 10K. LT workouts should be run at a comfortably hard pace, but not as fast as possible. Tempo runs are like progression runs except that you warm up slowly and then run for a certain period of time (generally 20 or 40 minutes) at your 10-mile race pace. They serve the same purpose as the progression run – teaching your body how to run efficiently and faster while building strength and confidence. Be sure to include an easy 1-2 mile warm up and a 1-2 mile cool down.


Repeat Intervals

Interval training is the most effective way to increase running speed. If you are thinking about improving your speed it is important that you first establish a good running base. The key difference between repeat training versus interval training is the recovery period. In repeat training we allow full recovery; in interval training the recovery time is limited. It is important to warm up before and cool down after interval training. Begin the workout by warming up your muscles with 5 to 10 minutes of easy jogging. Cooling down by jogging or walking for 5 to 10 minutes after the workout helps your body remove lactic acid from the muscles reducing post-exercise soreness.

Types of Interval Workouts

  • Standard interval session - On a track or other measured surface, run a set distance (example: 800 meter repeats) followed by a set distance recovery jog. Repeat the fast run/slow jog combination multiple times. As you improve, you can increase the number of sets performed. The fast run pace for repeats is usually race goal pace.
  • VO2 Max - This type of workout includes longer repetitions of two to six minutes at 3K to 5K pace with adequate recovery (intervals) between repeats. For example, if you run 600 meters in 2:15, walk/jog for approx 2 minutes to recover. An improvement in VO2 max increases the amount of work you can do allowing you to run faster and/or farther.
  • Ladder workout (or Pyramid intervals - This is a variation on the standard interval session. Run in ascending or descending length intervals (example: 800m, 600m, 400m and 200m) for one set. You can build up the number of sets you run as your fitness improves.


Race pace

This workout is a pace run of the indicated number of miles at goal race pace (marathon or half marathon pace). A benefit of this workout is your body and mind learn to function efficiently at racing speeds. Race pace runs are probably the most effective type of speedwork training for distance races like marathons and half marathons.