In order to maximize your training, you want to tailor each workout to focus on an aspect of your running. This will target each skill and put additional stress on it, forcing your body to adapt and grow in that area. When your next run focuses on another aspect, the first aspect may support but it is still allowed to recover and grow.
When you try to focus on all aspects at the same time, none of them receive extra focus and therefore only moderately improve. Think about weightlifters, each day they focus on a different body part to maximize that growth and the end result is that they have a strong body. Rarely, if at all, do they focus on the whole body every day.
Here are the main types of runs that you might add into your workouts:
These workouts focus on the Fast Twitch Muscles and increase your peak speed:
Intervals - One repetition (rep) is a specific time or distance at a faster pace followed by a specific time or distance at a slower recovery pace (ie. 60 seconds fast with 90 seconds recovery). You can vary the number of repetitions, the paces or recovery times to vary the intensity of the workout.
Hills - Similar to intervals, except that you’re doing the repeats on a hill. This focuses on speed but gives you additional intensity because of the incline.
Fartleks - Often thought of as a randomized interval set. Generally speaking, you set a duration for your Fartlek workout, choose a spot in front of you and speed up till you get there. Choose a recovery period. Then repeat by choosing another distance and recovery period. The distances and speeds you choose are meant to vary throughout the workout.
A longer distance run at a targeted race pace or effort level to help build your endurance at a specific speed. Depending on the distance of race you’re targeting, the duration of your tempos will vary. Your tempo pace should be a mix of what you would like to run (within reason) and what you can currently do. This focuses on both Fast Twitch and Slow Twitch Muscles.
Tempos are also great for improving your cardio. Depending on your coach, they may get you to do your tempos just below where your breathing changes from aerobic (surplus of oxygen) to anaerobic (oxygen deficit). This is an important threshold because it is where your body starts to deplete its oxygen stores and will eventually become the major limiting factor for your run. When you can stay just below this threshold, you can ensure that oxygen is never depleted. Training just below this point helps your body to speed up the threshold that you switch to anaerobic breathing. Ie. you can run faster before your breathing switches to oxygen depletion.
Easy runs should be easy. This means your breathing is easy and should be able to talk comfortably. The focus of these runs is increasing your weekly mileage, so your endurance/Slow Twitch Muscles. The faster you go, the more you will exhaust your Fast Twitch Muscles and they won’t be top notch for your speed workouts.
Easy Runs are great because you can focus on your run form or talk to your friends. They should generally be run at least 60-90 seconds per kilometer slower than your race pace. YES, that may seem ridiculously slow, but the focus of this run is not speed. You have other workouts for that.
These runs increase your endurance. They should be at an easy pace and long. The idea is that they are not for speed, they are for building your endurance. The closer you do long runs to your race pace, the more exhausted you will be and that exhaustion will impact your other workouts later that week.
If your race is a 10K and all of your training runs are 10K or less. On your race, when you hit 9K your endurance muscles will be close to their max. We want to run longer so that that doesn’t happen on race day. In my training experience, most runners will do long runs longer than their race duration with the exception of marathons.
When choosing paces for these workouts, I like to run by effort. Learn to listen to your breathing and choose your speed based on your effort level rather than sticking to a pace that may be too easy or too hard for you that day. Running by effort and listening to your breathing is an excellent skill to have to ensure that your training is maximized for your body. Find a mix of these runs for your weekly training plan, so help maximize your target.
Choose targeted runs to help boost different aspects of your running.
When you train at the same speed/effort level all the time, your body begins to recognize that pace as the hardest and slowest pace you run. Giving it diversity allows you to train your body to the actual effort level.