If you are training for an Ultra Marathon or Trail Race, just going out and doing the same old workout day after day just isn’t going to cut it. By training this way you will never get stronger or faster or improve your overall endurance for these types of races.
There are various running workouts you can incorporate into your training that will help improve your speed, strength, and endurance and have a better overall experience of your runs and races.
Would you prefer to finish a 50-mile race in pain and completely exhausted or actually enjoy the experience and finish with a smile on your face?
If your answer is the latter then read on and let me explain the different types of workouts you can try, with some examples thrown into the mix for you.
RPE – Rate of Perceived Exertion
At this point, I think it would be a good idea to add in a chart outlining RPE (Rate of Perceived Exertion). This is a scale of 1 to 10 showing your work rate for running. It will be much easier for me to explain your effort levels when doing your workouts.
Want to improve your speed and strength? Then Tempo runs are for you. These are runs that are performed around your 10k pace – or 7 – 8 on the RPE Scale.
A Tempo run will help you to develop your Lactate Threshold which is absolutely necessary for running faster. Your threshold is the point at which Lactic Acid begins to accumulate in your muscles. This in turns causes the fatigue and soreness in the muscles that we feel when we are running hard.
So, it would make sense that we can improve our Lactate Threshold by doing regular Tempo runs, therefore having the ability to run faster without causing early muscle fatigue. They are also very useful if you are going to be racing as you will be used to running outside of your comfort zone.
It doesn’t really matter if you are training for a 5k or an Ultra Marathon, the Tempo Run is an important part of any training program.
At this point, I think it would be a good idea to add in a chart outlining RPE (Rate of Perceived Exertion). This is a scale of 1 to 10 showing your work rate for running. It will be much easier for me to
Tempo Run Examples
- 10 minute warm-up at an easy pace (2-4) followed by 20 minutes at Tempo Pace (7-8) and finish off with a cool down at easy pace (2-4).
- 20 minute warm-up at an easy pace (2-4) followed by 20-minute Tempo Pace (7-8), 5 minutes easy pace (2-4), 20 minutes at Tempo Pace (7-8), 10 minutes cooldown (2-4).
- For a longer workout, 10 minutes warm-up at an easy pace (2-4), 60 minutes at Tempo Pace (7-8) followed by a 10-minute cooldown (2-4).
The Easy Run
Often overlooked but very important for your training. The Easy Run is very much a recovery type of run but it also helps hugely with your overall endurance and allows you to run in the correct running form.
As well as this, it’s also an important factor in your base mileage and should be the most common run that you do. On average depending on you, it should cover about 60% – 80% of you’re overall mileage per week.
The easy run is your aerobic workout and you should be staying at an effort between 3-5 on the RPE scale. So you should be able to hold a conversation whilst running without too much effort.
Probably the hardest thing about this type of run is ensuring you do stick to the pace and not be tempted to run faster.
Easy Run Examples
Nothing too hard to work out here. It’s an easy run so don’t exert yourself too much.
- 6 miles at an easy pace (3-5) – don’t rush it, take your time and enjoy the run.
- 1 hour at an easy pace (3-5) – don’t stress about the mileage, just run for the hour and the mileage will take care of itself.
I can hear it now, not the hill workouts, please. You will grow to love them honestly.
There was a time that I used to hate the hills, but when you run trail races and ultras, the chances are you are going to come across quite a few of them. The best thing is to embrace it.
When you are running up hills you are improving your explosive power that will, in turn, improve your overall speed and running economy. I noticed a huge difference in my general running after a few hill sessions.
It’s not just about running uphill though. Running downhill also has it’s advantaged by working your quads and building strength in your tendons and joints – and it’s also harder than you think.
Running both uphill and downhill is important so I really recommend adding uphill and downhill sessions into your training.
There are mainly two types of hill workout:
1. Running hard short sprints up or down the hill.
2. Running a gradual hill at a sustained pace.
Hill Workout Examples
- Hill Sprints – start with an easy 3-mile run (3-4 RPE) followed by 10 to 12 hard uphill sprints at 10 seconds each with a 2-minute recovery between each of them. End this with a 10-minute easy cool-down run (3-4).
- Find a hill that is around half a mile in length. Run 5 x 1/2 mile uphill, with an easy run (3-4) back down to recover. Finish with a 10-minute easy jog (3-4).
- Find yourself a hilly trail run and just get out there for 60 to 80 minutes and have fun. Add in some hill sprints and some nice downhill running. It doesn’t always have to be regimented, just run those hills.
- If getting outside is an issue, get yourself on a treadmill and set it to a hill workout and run for 60 minutes. It’s not something I’m happy doing but sometimes you just need to do what you can right.
It’s a funny name I know but Fartlek is the Swedish word for Speed-Play and that’s what this workout is all about.
This workout gives you the chance to vary the workout as you see fit. Run fast, run slow, add intervals, change the interval distance and time up. It’s completely up to you to get out there and mix things up a little bit.
There are no particular rules to a Fartlek run other than mixing up your distances and pace throughout the run.
Fartlek Run Examples
- Warm-up for 2 miles (3-4 RPE). Run 4 minutes Hard (8 RPE), 2 minutes easy (3-4), 3 minutes Hard, 2 minutes Easy, 2 minutes Hard, 1 minute Easy, 1 minute Hard. Run Easy (3-4) for 5 minutes and then repeat the 4,3,2,1 session again. Finish with a 1 or 2 mile cool down run(3-4).
- Warm-Up (3-4) for 2 miles, then 8 x 3 minutes at Tempo (7-8), 2 minutes Easy (3-4). Finish with 2 miles cool down run.
The Long Run
Probably the most important run of the week for any long-distance runner. This is the run where you will build your endurance over the long miles and also start to get your mind mentally prepared for longer times on your feet.
The key to this type of run is you run slowly for the most part. It’s effectively one of your easy runs so treat it like this if you can.
It is, however, an opportunity to prepare yourself for your races too. So you may want to consider adding in a couple of pace changes that you might do in a race.
You should also build up your long runs overtime. Don’t just go out there and push a 20-mile run when you haven’t trained much. Progress the run over the weeks and months.
Think about starting your long run at say 10 miles and add 2 miles per week so you build up. But also have recovery weeks in between – 10, 12, 14, 10, 14, 16, 18, 10 miles over an 8 week period.
Another helpful tip to get you used to long runs and race situations is back to back runs. I might do 10 miles on Saturday and then 8 miles on Sunday or 20 miles then 10 miles.
The idea of the back to back runs is that you don’t do everything in one go. On Sunday you are running on tired legs from the day before – this helps you get used to race conditions too.
Not only that, we can’t always spare the time to go out running for 5 or 6 hours straight, so the back to back runs help with that too.
Long Run Examples
- 2 mile warm-up run (3-4 RPE) followed by 1 mile at 5-6 RPE, 1 mile (3-4). 2 miles (5-6), 2 miles (3-4), 3 miles (5-6) followed by 3 miles cool down.
Change the mileage up depending on how far you intend to run and play around with the pace as required.
Putting It All Together
Clearly, there are many types of running workouts and there should be some structure to this where possible. Below is an example of how you might put all of these workouts together over a week.
Don’t let your running get stagnant and boring – it will only lead to failure. Mix things up a bit and try out different workouts to bring some life to your training.
Don’t forget to add some cross-training where you can as well.
Let me know if there are any techniques you use with your running or maybe a plan that works for you – I would be really interested to know.