Turn Your Workouts From Good to Better to Great

Have you been doing the same workouts over and over again? Want to make your workouts better? How about great?

When you consider the array of running workouts and paces and how it all relates to your training program, you practically need a Ph.D. to understand it all. Don't worry; a few changes to your training will make you run stronger and better than ever before.

Tempo Runs

Tempo workouts increase your ability to hold a hard pace by targeting your acidosis (lactate) threshold, an important physiological marker that represents your fastest sustainable aerobic pace.

Good: A 3-mile run over rolling terrain with many changes in pace.
If you're a beginner, this is a good workout to get you used to more varied paces.

Better: Run 4 to 5 x 1 mile on flat terrain at tempo pace with one-minute rest.
For intermediate to advanced runners, this workout will specifically improve your ability to hold a hard pace. The rest periods of the interval-style format offer a physical and psychological break.

Great: Run 3 to 4 miles at tempo pace.
Tempo pace is 10 to 15 seconds per mile slower than 5K race pace for recreational runners and 25 to 30 seconds per mile slower than 5K race pace for highly-trained runners. These runs should feel comfortably hard.

More: What Pace Should Runners Run Lactate-Threshold Workouts?

Intervals

Interval workouts alternate high-intensity efforts with low-intensity recovery periods. They target your cardiovascular system by increasing the volume of oxygen-rich blood your heart pumps with each beat, delivering more oxygen to your muscles. Of all the training methods, interval workouts are the most potent for improving your fitness.

Good: Run each rep "hard," such as 4 x 3 minutes hard with two minutes easy.
For beginners, these informal interval workouts are good for boosting fitness.

Better: Run each rep at 5K race pace.
For intermediate runners, more formal interval workouts prepare you for racing.

Great: Match the speed of the hard efforts with the purpose of the workout.
For advanced runners, it's important to know the purpose of the workout so you can train more specifically, because endurance training and speed training require different workouts. The more specific a workout, the better.

How do you know what speed to run each type of interval workout? The best interval training to enhance your cardiovascular endurance and your ability to transport oxygen to your muscles is 800- to 1,000-meter reps (3- to 5-minute work periods) at mile to 2-mile race pace (the fastest pace at which you can run between one and two miles; close to your maximum heart rate, but not all-out sprinting). To increase speed, run 8 x 400 meters at mile race pace with two minutes jog recovery or 5 x 400 meters at 800-meter race pace with three minutes jog recovery.

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About the Author

Jason R. Karp, Ph.D.

Dr. Jason Karp is one of the foremost running experts in America, 2011 IDEA Personal Trainer of the Year, 2014 recipient of the President's Council on Fitness, Sports & Nutrition Community Leadership award, and creator of the Run-Fit Specialist certification. He holds a Ph.D. in exercise physiology. A prolific writer, he has more than 200 articles published in international running, coaching, and fitness magazines, is the author of five books, including Running for Women and Running a Marathon For Dummies, and is a frequent speaker at international fitness and coaching conferences. Follow Jason on Twitter @drjasonkarp and Facebook at DrJasonKarpRunFit.

Dr. Jason Karp is one of the foremost running experts in America, 2011 IDEA Personal Trainer of the Year, 2014 recipient of the President's Council on Fitness, Sports & Nutrition Community Leadership award, and creator of the Run-Fit Specialist certification. He holds a Ph.D. in exercise physiology. A prolific writer, he has more than 200 articles published in international running, coaching, and fitness magazines, is the author of five books, including Running for Women and Running a Marathon For Dummies, and is a frequent speaker at international fitness and coaching conferences. Follow Jason on Twitter @drjasonkarp and Facebook at DrJasonKarpRunFit.

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