Running - Training Techniques and Workout Plans

Thinking about training techniques to improve your running? Want to run faster, longer, or both and without killing yourself in the process?

You've got the running shoes, apparel, gear and possibly know some things to avoid or do to keep from getting injured. Additionally, you are consistently getting out and running a few times a week and the health benefits are evident. But now you've caught the running bug and you want to take your running to the next level. What do you do?

You need to add some basic training techniques to improve your performance!

On this page, we are going to look at:

  1. Training Basics for Every Runner
  2. Intermediate to Advanced Running Workouts

Training Basics for Every Runner

Listed below are training basics that every runner should incorporate into his/her workout program regardless of whether they are just beginning or have completed several marathons.

Warm up/Cool Down
Warming up and cooling down are two of the oldest and most routine running training techniques.

Warming up should consist of light jogging, massaging, and gentle stretching. The optimum time to stretch is during the cooldown period after your run when the muscles are warm and loose. The goal for warming up is to loosen up your legs as well as the rest of your body. Once the warmup is completed, you will feel an increase in energy and your body will be ready to perform at maximum efficiency.

Cooling down takes place after your run and should consist of light jogging/walking in order to decrease body temperature and remove waste products from the working muscles. Static stretching exercises should also be included in order to decrease body temperature, remove waste products from the working muscles and to increase range of movement.

The key to the cool down is to just do it. Many runners skip this step and pay for it later with muscle soreness and tightness. Cooling down helps the body to recover and regenerate for the next run.

Want to increase your endurance but just can't seem to cover the distance while running continously?

Take some walk breaks during your training runs.

Runners and non-runners alike often believe that if you stop to walk during training or a race that you are not a real runner.

Nothing is farther from the truth!

By alternating walking and running during your training, there is virtually no limit to the distance you can cover. The benefits of short walk breaks when taken early and regularly include:

  • Helps beginners to increase their endurance to 5K, 10K, or even a marathon in as little as six months
  • Allows those who can run only 2 miles to increase their distance from 50% to 100%
  • Reduces the chance of injury and over-training to virtually nil
  • Helps your legs to keep their resiliency and bounce as resources are conserved
Hard/Easy Principle
The hard-easy principle states that if you run faster or longer than usual on one day, you should follow that day with a run that is slower or shorter than usual. It also follows that if you know you are going to have a hard training day coming up, your preceding training run should be easy.

The benefits of incorporating the hard/easy principle include:

  • Reserves your strength for your hard training days (running longer or faster than usual)
  • Enables you to push yourself more
  • Allows your body to recover, rebuild, and progress
  • Helps you avoid both injury and burnout

Remember, plan an easy day the day before a hard workout as well as one or possibly two easy days after. Your body will love you for it!

Build A Base
Looking to add endurance and run longer?

Base building is the answer for you!

Without a doubt, distance running is the best way to build endurance and to improve as a runner. But as key as building mileage may be to your performance, it's also a primary cause of injury if done improperly.

Some general guidelines while base building are:

  • Use the 10 percent rule as your upper limit to safely increase your weekly mileage week-to-week.
  • Learn to stretch consistently (AFTER your run) while very gradually adding mileage, but not necessarily intensity.
  • Build a longer mileage run into your routine every other week. Make the distance anywhere up to 150 percent of your regular midweek runs and run at your normal training pace.
  • Build miles gradually. Give your body a chance to adjust to the pounding of extra miles.
  • Take a rest day after your long run. Additionally, approximately every three weeks, reduce your total mileage by 10 to 20 percent during the next week thereby giving your legs another chance to rest, recover, and rebuild. Resume your normal mileage the following week.

Don't forget, build mileage slowly and very gradually with plenty of rest mixed in between.

Want to let loose and just run fast sometimes? Striders are a great way to introduce some fast running into your training program.

Striders are 20 seconds or so of relaxed running at close to top speed. You should do striders on a smooth, flat surface at the end or near the end of your normal run. A great day to do striders would be the day before a hard workout since they don't really qualify as tough training.

The benefits of striders include:

  • Teaching the muscles and the nervous system to run smoothly at a fast pace.
  • Short enough distances to not tire you out completely.
  • Improving your running form. Running smoothly at top speed will enable you to do so at all speeds.

Now get out there and......Hit your stride!

Intermediate to Advanced Running Workout Techniques

Incorporated most of the basic training methods (i.e. warm up/cool down, hard/easy, base building, striders, etc.) into your workout program?

Passed the beginner runner stage?

Want to improve your speed and performance?

I've got just the running workouts for you!

If you are like the majority of recreational runners, you probably do the same workout day after day. You need to add some variety to your tired old workout routine before boredom and/or burnout kills you.

Alternating workout routines teaches your body varied lessons. The long run teaches endurance, speed work trains fast-twitch muscles how to accelerate, and hills teach strength. Training workouts that hit upon speed, strength,endurance, and pace will help you improve your running form, condition your body to handle the discomfort of faster speed, give you a sense of correct pacing, and build your end-of-race kick.

A well rounded training program for intermediate to advanced runners will include some, if not all, of the following workouts:

Running Pace Chart - Make use of a running pace chart to assist you in meeting your training goals.

Long Running/Endurance Training

What constitutes a long run? A long run varies based upon your goals and what level of running you have obtained. If you are a marathoner, 20 miles may be your long run but if you are getting ready for a 5K, 5 to 6 miles may be your max. A couple of good rules of thumb regarding long running are:

  1. Run long 2 out of every 3 weeks. Long run training will boost your endurance while the week off allows you to recover both physically and mentally.
  2. Your long run should be approximately 150% of your longest normal weekly run whether you measure that by distance or time.

The major benefits of doing long runs are:

  • Muscles develop the ability to store more glycogen. The result of increased glycogen stores delays the onset of fatigue while running.
  • Psychologically, helps make your normal runs seem easier.
  • Burns more calories both during the long run and at an accelerated rate after the run. Long running is great for losing weight.
  • Increases the muscles' ability to extract oxygen from the blood.
  • Enhances the muscles' ability to store carbohydrate and rely on fat as fuel.

Two final long running/endurance tips:

  1. Run at your normal training pace or even a little slower. Your long run training goal is distance, not speed.
  2. Gradually increase your mileage. Implement the 10-Percent Rule.

Speed Work

Speed work consists of several runs of a mile or less at race pace or faster with slow recovery jogging between hard runs. Specific speed work training runs include intervals, fartleks, and tempo runs.

Speed work is an important component of any advanced training program. The benefits include:

  • Training the physiological system to adapt to the additional stresses placed on it. The legs learn to turnover faster, the heart learns to work harder for a sustained period, the lungs learn to process more oxygen andthe mind learns how to handle discomfort.
  • Regenerating the body to run faster for a longer period after completing speed work.
  • Maintaining a faster race pace.

Some final points regarding speed work:

  • Complete one speed workout per week while building up for a race.
  • To maintain motivation, focus on your race/personal goal while training.
  • Do speed workouts with a group. Accountability and companionship do wonders for continued motivation.

Now that we've looked at speed work basics, lets take a look a some specific speed workouts.


Interval workouts are made up of a set of short, faster paced runs over fixed distances from 220 yards to one mile, interceded with periods of light recovery jogging. Although there are many variations of intervals, the three basic types are:

  1. Repeats - the distance of the repeating running segment does not change (ex: four 440 yard repeats with a 220 yard recovery jog in between each)
  2. Pyramids - the distance of the repeating running segments peaks and then returns to the beginning distance (ex: repeats of 220 yards, 440 yards, and up to 1 mile before returning to 440 yards and then 220 yards)
  3. Ladders - the distance of the repeating running segments either steadily increases or decreases (ex: 220 yards, 440, 880, up to 1760 yards or run in the reverse order of 1760 yards down to 220 yards)

Looking to improve your speed in a certain distance? The table below should help you pick the interval you need to run.

Distance Interval
5K 220s Or 440s
10K and Under 880s
10K to Marathon One Mile

Regardless of the type of interval training workout you do, the long term goal is to improve speed on distances ranging from one mile up to a marathon.

Some final interval training tips:

  • Interval workouts are typically run on a track due to the ease of running predefined distances.
  • Pacing for interval training should be determined in short distance races or runs such as a 5K. Use your calculated pace information to design appropriate speed workouts.
  • Remember to do a recovery jog following your repeats. The distance should be half of your interval distance or more depending on whether you are a beginner or have some interval training experience.


Sounds like an intestinal disorder, doesn't it?

Actually, fartlek is Swedish for speed play. Fartleks are an unstructured, fun way to introduce speed training into your workout and consists of bursts of speed in the midst of a training run. There are a variety of ways in which to do fartleks and they can be run almost anywhere.

The advantages of fartlek training include:

  • Training your body to run anaerobically (meaning without oxygen).
  • Preparing your legs to absorb and feel a variety of paces.
  • Enhancing your awareness of your ability to maintain varying paces at different distances.

To complete a fartlek workout you need to:

  1. Warm up.
  2. Run at an easy trainng pace.
  3. Interject bursts of speed for differing distances throughout your run.
  4. Speed should vary as well as burst times. Bursts should be maintained from 15 seconds up 2.5 to 3 minutes.
  5. Recovery time should equal two thirds of your burst time but needs to be faster than an interval recovery jog.

Some final fartlek training tips:

  • Pick out a landmark and run your fartlek at a consistent pace until it is reached.
  • Choosing a landmark to mark the end of a fartlek burst should continue until the end of the training run.

Tempo Runs

Tempo runs are the easiest of all the speed workouts to implement. No distances to keep up with and no split times to remember. Just run faster than your usual training pace and maintain a single sustained effort.

Tempo training is useful because it:

  • Increases the body's anerobic limit in order to maintain a faster pace over a longer period of time.
  • Boosts speed as the body becomes accustomed to running at close to its upper limit.

Steps to complete a tempo run are:

  1. Complete your normal warm-up routine.
  2. Once you have warmed up, pick up your pace to a level you can maintain for predesignated time or distance. Your pace should be 80-85% of your maximum heart rate (if using a heart rate monitor) or your 10K race pace.

Hill Repeats

Hill repeats are basically what you believe they would be, fast-paced efforts to run up hills. They are considered strength training and are typically implemented following the completion of a base/mileage-building stage.

The benefits of hill repeats include:

  • Combining cardiovascular training (heart) with strength training (legs).
  • Running uphill lessens the impact force of each footfall which significantly reduces the risk of an overuse injury.
  • Enhancing mental toughness for upcoming workouts and races in hilly terrain.

Hill repeats are completed by:

  1. Warming up appropriately.
  2. Running the hill at a 5K effort pace. Maintain a good running form and don't worry about sacrificing speed. Just keep the effort at a 5K pace.
  3. After reaching the top of the hill, walk or lightly jog back down the hill and repeat the process.

Race Distance Training Plans

Interested in a specific race distance (5K, 10K, Half Marathon, Full Marathon) training plan?

Check out the training plans detailed below. I know there's a 'distance' and 'experience' level that's RIGHT for YOU!


Are all these special workouts necessary?

Absolutely not.

You are still a runner even if you decide to do the same distance at the same pace day after day. However, if you want to improve both your speed and endurance, doing at least some of the specialized training listed above will help you reach your goals. Stick with it and be the best you can be!

Additional Running Training Articles/Resources:

Running Pace Chart
Running Pace Calculator
Interval Training Workouts
Heart Rate Monitor Training
Lactate Threshold Training
Running Strong as You Age
Master's Running, The Right Way
Running, Beach Style
Train Properly with a Heart Rate Monitor
Hill Running Tips
Winter Running - Go on, Get Out There!
Have You Tried The Couch To 5K Program?
5 Tips for New Treadmill Runners
Just Joined a Gym? Machines You Must Use
How Running Slowly Helps You Run Fast