Run Paces Explained
If running looks simple on the outside, you may be surprised at some ambiguous terms when you first look at a training plan. A few simple definitions will have you incorporating awkward words like “fartlek” into your training and random conversations in no time!
Let's start there, with the fartlek workout - a favorite introduction to speed work.
A funny-sounding term, “fartlek” is Swedish for 'speed play.' A true fartlek workout is not pre-planned, but instead incorporates random bursts of speed or “surges”. Whether done solo or in a group, each surge or “pick-up” can be set between landmarks on your route or based on time. Surges are typically less than 5 minutes in duration and are followed by enough recovery time that you are breathing comfortably before you begin the next pick-up.
Intervals are segments of hard running separated by periods of recovery. These workouts are a great tool to build speed and endurance since shorter bursts of speed allow for faster training.
Anaerobic Threshold (AT) Run
This workout is targeted at improving your pace for 5k/10k races. It features training around the anaerobic threshold - roughly the point where the body shifts from burning a combination of fat + carbohydrates, to burning only carbohydrates for energy. Above AT, endurance is more limited as acidity builds up and inhibits pace. This workout is a grind but can be highly effective.
This term is vague, and not favored by some coaches for that reason. Broadly, a tempo run is typically a 20+ minute run at a sustained pace above your easy run pace. It often refers to an intensity similar to AT runs, though not always. If you see a tempo plan listed in your program, look for additional details around pace.
An easy way to keep your easy runs, easy! This doesn’t require fancy technology but instead keeps your pace focused on how easy it is to carry on a conversation. Most base-building runs should be done at an intensity where you could carry on a long conversation with a friend. Synonymous with “Easy Run”.
Slower than an easy run, the goal of this run (or walk) is active recovery. These runs are often short, planned the day after a strenuous workout or long run.
Long Slow Distance
A long slow distance involves holding an easy, aerobic pace for your long runs. This builds endurance for long races while minimizing the stress from intense exertion.
Hill repeat workouts are running up a hill and walking or running back down, multiple times. This builds strength and power in your quads & glutes, and makes you feel like a champ!
Broadly speaking, hill circuits are a loop or loops that feature a hill or multiple hills. Instead of running directly back down the hill after you reach the top, you continue around the loop and repeat as needed. A hill circuit could feature loops as short as 200m, or as long as 1.5 miles depending on your route options, fitness, and workout goals. If your training area features hilly, winding roads where you can create a hill circuit, this adds more variety to your hill training.
These are workout segments performed at a specific target race pace, such as 5K pace or Marathon Pace (often abbreviated MP).
A run completed at a pace that is faster than your easy runs, but below AT. These are often invigorating, but not exhausting.
Each of the challenging workouts above should include an easy warm-up & cool down. Including 1-2 training runs per week above your easy run pace can help you build fitness and get ready for a virtual or in-person race. Have fun and mix it up with confidence!
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