Running Workouts Explained: The Definite Guide

In this definitive guide to running workouts, I’ll explain in-depth everything from easy runs to hill runs and tempo runs to recovery runs. 

As a runner, knowledge is the key to unlocking faster and long-term improvements in your performance.

The more you understand and know about running, in this case, about different types of running workouts, their benefits, and how to incorporate them into your training plan. This way you can tailor your training to suit your specific needs, set realistic goals, and make informed decisions about your training routine. 

This blog post aims to empower you with the knowledge needed to become a smarter, more knowledgeable runner, so you can achieve your running goals and continually improve as a runner. 

Why Do I Need Different Workouts?

Each workout fulfills a different goal (improve your lactate, VO2max, speed, cardio, etc.), and it’s essential to have a good mix of different workouts throughout your training plan to develop your fitness and achieve your running goals.

Training smart means knowing the workout’s goal, the ideal length, and the pace of each run before you do it to maximize your results.

We are going to cover six different types of running workouts:

  1. Easy Runs
  2. Long Runs
  3. Tempo Runs
  4. Interval Training
  5. Hill Workouts
  6. Fartlek Runs

Easy Runs Explained

Easy runs, also known as recovery runs or base runs, are a fundamental component of a balanced running training plan. They are typically done at a comfortable pace that allows you to maintain a conversation without feeling overly tired or losing your breath.

The primary purpose of easy runs is to promote recovery, build endurance, and improve aerobic fitness. They provide a break from more intense workouts and allow your body to recover from harder efforts while still maintaining an active running routine. Easy runs also help to develop your cardiovascular system, improve your running economy, and build the foundation for more challenging workouts.

Easy Runs Benefits

They are crucial for beginners who are just starting their running journey and need to establish a solid base of aerobic fitness. For more experienced runners, easy runs help balance hard workouts and adequate recovery, reducing the risk of overtraining and injury.

It’s important to resist the temptation to push the pace during easy runs. The goal is to keep the effort level easy and relaxed, allowing your body to recover and prepare for upcoming workouts. 

Long Runs Explained

Long runs are a crucial component of marathon training, allowing you to gradually increase your mileage as race day approaches. Typically scheduled once a week, often on weekends, long runs are essential for building the endurance needed to tackle the marathon distance.

During long runs, it’s important to maintain a slow, comfortable pace that is slower than your marathon pace.

There are a few ways to know your ideal long run pace:

  • 55 to 75% slower than your 5k pace
  • 80 to 75% slower than your 10k pace
  • 10 to 20% slower than Marathon pace

When you calculate all of these paces, you will usually find a sweet spot between them.

Long Run Benefits

By incorporating regular long runs into your training plan, you can gradually build your cardiovascular fitness, strengthen your muscles, and improve your mental endurance. Long runs also provide an opportunity to practice your race-day nutrition and hydration strategies, as well as fine-tune your pacing and mental toughness.

Tempo Runs Explained

Tempo runs, also known as threshold runs, are a specific type of workout that involves sustained running at a comfortably hard pace for an extended period of time. Tempo runs are typically performed at a pace slightly faster than your goal race pace or your current fitness level but are still sustainable for the entire workout duration.

Tempo runs are performed as a continuous run without intervals or breaks. A typical tempo run might last for 20-40 minutes.

Tempo Runs Benefits

The purpose of tempo runs is to improve your lactate threshold, which is the point at which your muscles start to accumulate lactic acid faster than they can clear it, resulting in fatigue. By regularly incorporating tempo runs into your training plan, you can raise your lactate threshold, allowing you to sustain a faster pace for longer periods without accumulating excessive fatigue.

Tempo runs help to improve your aerobic capacity, increase your running speed, and enhance your race-day performance.

running workouts explained

Interval Training Explained

Interval training, also known as speed work, is a powerful tool for increasing your baseline running pace and improving your performance. While it is suitable for intermediate and advanced runners, beginners may not need to prioritize speed work initially.

One popular form of interval training involves alternating between fast and slow speeds during your run. For example, a common method is to run 800 meters at a fast, challenging pace followed by 400 meters at a slow jog or walk to recover. This cycle can be repeated as needed, following the guidance provided in your training plan for specific details and the number of repeats.

The key to successful interval training is pushing yourself to run at a nearly unsustainable pace during fast intervals, followed by active recovery. This challenges your cardiovascular system, enhances your anaerobic capacity, and helps improve your overall speed and endurance.

It’s essential to approach interval training cautiously and gradually increase the intensity as your fitness level improves. It’s also crucial to pay attention to proper warm-up, cool-down, and adequate recovery between interval sessions to reduce the risk of injury.

Hill Workouts Explained

Hill workouts, also known as hill training or hill repeats, are a type of running workout that involves running up and down hills as part of your training routine. Hill workouts are designed to improve your strength, power, and running economy by challenging your muscles, cardiovascular system, and running form on inclines.

Hill workouts can be performed on natural hills, such as trails or roads with inclines, or on a treadmill with an incline setting. The intensity and duration of hill workouts can vary depending on your fitness level, training goals, and the specific workout prescribed in your training plan.

There are several types of hill workouts that you can incorporate into your training plan, including:

Hill repeats: This involves repeatedly running up a hill at a challenging pace and then recovering by jogging or walking back down. The number of repeats and the intensity of the hill can be adjusted based on your fitness level and training goals.

Hill sprints: This involves sprinting up a hill at maximum effort for a short distance, typically 10-30 seconds, followed by a recovery period. Hill sprints are high-intensity workouts that can improve your explosive power and running speed.

Hill circuits: This involves incorporating multiple hills of varying lengths and inclines into a continuous running circuit. This can provide a challenging and varied workout that simulates the demands of racing on hilly terrain.

Hill Workouts Benefits

Hill workouts can offer several benefits for runners, including improved leg strength, increased cardiovascular endurance, enhanced running form, and mental toughness. However, hill workouts can also be demanding and put stress on your muscles and joints, so it’s important to start with an appropriate level of difficulty, warm up properly, and gradually progress the intensity of your hill workouts to avoid overexertion or injury.

Fartlek Runs Explained

Fartlek runs, also known as speed play runs, are a type of running workout that involves varying your pace and intensity throughout your run. Fartlek is a Swedish word that means “speed play,” and these runs are characterized by unstructured intervals of faster and slower running, often based on feel or environmental cues.

During a fartlek run, you can vary your pace and intensity based on how you feel, the terrain you’re running on, or landmarks you encounter, such as a tree, lamppost, or hill. Fartlek runs are flexible and allow you to mix up your pace and effort level during a single run, making them a fun and adaptable form of speed training.

Fartlek can be incorporated into your training plan in various ways, depending on your fitness level, training goals, and preferences. For example, you can do short bursts of faster running followed by slower recovery periods, or you can vary your pace throughout the entire run, ranging from easy jogging to near-sprint efforts.

Fartlek runs offer several benefits for runners, including improved aerobic and anaerobic fitness, increased speed, enhanced endurance, and mental toughness. They can also help to simulate race-day conditions where you may need to adjust your pace based on the terrain or competition.


In conclusion, understanding the different types of running workouts and how to incorporate them into your training plan is crucial for becoming a better runner. 

Each workout serves a specific purpose and contributes to your overall fitness and performance. By incorporating a variety of workouts such as easy runs, long runs, tempo runs, interval runs, hill runs, and fartlek runs, you can effectively target different aspects of your fitness and optimize your training. 

Equipped with this knowledge, you can set realistic goals, make informed decisions about your training routine, and continually improve as a runner.

Diego Alcubierre, a passionate runner and coach, started his journey at 26 with a 10k time of 1:06:23 and has since slashed 30 minutes off his personal record. With five running and coaching certifications, Diego is committed to sharing his expertise and proven strategies to help runners of all levels enhance their performance, stay motivated, and enjoy the journey of running. At Bannister, he simplifies complex training concepts, empowering you to achieve your running goals.