Running Workouts to Improve as a Runner


I am a former cross country and track and field mid-distance runner back in high school. Although I am taking a long 7 or more months to break away from running, I love researching and finding relevant information about running. So much so that I want to spread this information to those who want to improve their running for competition season. This article is for high school runners, college student runners, and competitive runners of all ages.

What to do before doing these workouts:

It is important to note that you do not have any signs or symptoms of any health conditions or concerns. Another thing to note that it is important to know where your current fitness level is. Test your fitness level and see where you are now. Lastly, plan your SMART goals. Make it believable to yourself and make a goal that is possible to achieve. If you want examples of SMART goals, google it and look at how it should look like.

Image by Dungdm93 from Wikimedia CC. R can also stand for realistic

Another important note is to calculate or test VO2max in order to understand the FITT principle of running. Do the 1.5 mile Run test and calculate VO2max from this website


Fartlek: This is one of my favorite workouts to do. Fartlek is Swedish word for “speed play” and for a good reason. The purpose of this workout is to demonstrate difference speed with the structure of hard and easy run. Fartlek runs allows you to recognize the uneven pace of a run especially during a race. Ultimately, this workout is an alternating run where you go at a specific time to run as fast as you can and go at this specific time to recover for an easy jog. Intensity is 75-85% VO2max

Example: Run 2 min at a fast pace then 1 min easy run. Another example can be running at the hard effort from one tree or sign to another and easy jog, rinse and repeat.

person running
Photo by Jenny Hill from Unsplash

The benefit of this workout increases stamina, stress-free, boost speed and improve mind-body awareness.

Interval: This workout is effective to push your body and fitness to the next level. For the RPE scale of 0-10, it should be 9-10. The intensity is very hard so the structure is different. The structure follows a pattern. For example, run hard at the 5k pace at 1000 meters or run fast at 1600m pace for 2 min followed by a slow jog or walk and repeat 5-6 times. The MOST important thing to note is that this workout is meant to challenge you and it should leave you gasping for air. Intervals are short yet intense with a longer recovery. Work intensity is 85-110% VO2max while recovery intensity is 50-60% VO2max. Interval runs should do 2 days a week, more than that could lead to injury.

Runner resting tired and exhausted after running. Jogging man taking a break during training outdoors in on mountain road. Young Caucasian male fitness model after work out. Stock Photo - 32442172
Photo by maridav from link:

The benefit of this workout is to increase speed, better running economy, and resist fatigue more.

Tempo: This is a useful workout for those wanting to know what running a 5k or 10k race feels like. It is described as somewhat comfortably hard. The purpose of this workout is to increase the anaerobic threshold of lactic acid. In other words, increase your body’s tolerance to run at race pace. At best, on an RPE scale of 1-10, tempo runs should be at 7-8. The pace should be where it is hard but you are not gasping for air at the end. If you can hold a tempo pace for at least 20 min, then you succeeded in the tempo run. The intensity is 85-95% VO2max. 75-85% VO2max is steady state run, similar to tempo run.

For example, if your current race pace is 6 min per mile, then run between 15-30 sec so run at 6:15-6:30 mile pace for 20-30 min.

Man Running on Side of Road
Photo by Pixabay from Pexels

The benefit of this workout is increasing lactate threshold to run faster at easy effort while improving focus, mental toughness, and race simulation.

Hill running: This is the opposite of fartlek run. Fartlek runs are fun to do. Conversely, hill running are not fun and challenging to do because of incline and decline. However, hill running are very beneficial to your running fitness. There are good benefits and reasons to include this workout to your training. Hill runs increase speed, stamina, and strength while improving resistance to pain or fatigue at high intensity. All you need is a hill that works in both incline and decline. For example, run hills at 30-45 sec for 10-12 reps with 2 min recovery.

Photo by Mocorunning from the article link:

Progressive run: This is a different kind of workout. What you do is start at an easy pace. Then progress the run faster by going at marathon pace or 10k pace, and increase more by going at 5k pace. This workout increases your speed and stamina. The progressive run is like a metronome, start at slow rhythm then progress into faster rhythm and speed. For example, 3 mile at an easy pace, 1 mile at 10k pace, 1 mile at 5k pace.

man in track suit jogging on concrete road
Photo by Tikkho Maciel from Unsplash

30-20-10 run: I’ve used this workout a lot after high school. I love this workout because of how short yet effective this workout is. You can use this workout for running, bodyweight cardio, or cardio equipment like elliptical, treadmill, or cycling. A study done in the article “New Workout—30-20-10—Produces Impressive Results” shows how effective this workout is.

Here is the link if you want to see the benefits of this workout:

In short, 18 moderately trained subjects divided by two groups: control group doing aerobic runs while the experimental group does 30-20-10 workout for 14 weeks. The result is that the group doing 30-20-10 improve 5k time by a minute while decreasing cholesterol and blood pressure. Although the results show positive benefits, it may not work for everyone. Experiment this workout for many weeks and see if the results show or not. The benefit of this workout is boosted PR time, decrease BP and cholesterol, and increase fitness. For example, 30-20-10 for 5 min, 2 min recovery, repeat to total 12 min. Progress it into 3-5 sets. 30 sec is easy to run, 20 sec is tempo (7-8 RPE scale) run or fast run, 10-sec sprint.

Tabata: I’ve made an article discussing the benefits of Tabata. Check out the article for more information. In short, Tabata is a short yet effective workout to increase the anaerobic system. This is a HIIT workout lasting 4 min or more depending on fitness level and use bodyweight cardio, run, or equipment of treadmill or cycling. The structure is 20 sec at very hard effort with 10-sec recovery and goes for 4 mins. If you are bold, go for 8 or 12 min Tabata. You can also try POPSUGAR Fitness 30 min Tabata workout. The benefits highlighted in my article “Tabata: The workout that might be your secret weapon”

Man Lying on Rubber Mat Near Barbell Inside the Gym
Photo by Victor Freitas from Pexels

Long run: This workout helps to boost endurance after you have achieved your base training. The purpose is to run longer and see how far you can push yourself before fatigue. The pace needs to be slow and find a path or trail to run for 10 miles or more. The example of this workout is run 10 miles at a slow pace like 8-9 min for male and female. The intensity is 60-70% VO2max and do at least 1 day a week.

man running on dirt road under cloudy skies
Image by Jenny Hill from Unsplash

Easy run: This is straight forward. Run at an easy pace. The one thing I do not like about this workout is how deceptive this workout is. I see a lot of high school runners running an “easy” run at 6-7 min pace. THIS IS WRONG. The term “easy” should be easy, run at a pace at 3-6 RPE scale, not 7-8 RPE scale. I recommend running at 8-9 min pace. You should not be breathing heavily and tired. If you are, then you are doing it wrong. The example of an easy run, run 30 min at an easy pace where you can talk in full sentence or broken talking without breathing heavy.

Image result for rpe scale
RPE Scale image by the link and credit to:


Warm-up: 5-10 min walk, jog, or dynamic stretches

Cooldown: 10 min walk, jog, or static stretches

Sunday             Monday             Tuesday            Wednesday      Thursday            Friday                 Saturday

Rest or walk Easy run Fartlek Easy run Interval 30-20-10 Long run
Easy walk or activity to keep yourself active 3-6 RPE 7-8 RPE at hard effort

2-3 RPE for recovery

75-85% VO2max

3-6 RPE 9-10 RPE and very light recovery

85-110% VO2max

Look at structure Moderate

3-4 RPE

60-70% VO2max

30-60 min 30 min 20-30 min 30 min 20 min 12 min 45 min
Depending 3-4 miles 2-3 miles 3-4 miles 1-2 miles Less than 1 mile 5-6 miles
Pace where you can talk easy and should not be breathing hard 8-9 min per mile, pace where you can talk in broken sentence and not breathing hard 10 sets

1 min hard

1 min easy


8-9 pace per mile, pace where you can talk in broken sentence and not breathing hard 5 sets

60-90 sec very hard

1-2 min easy

2 sets

30 sec easy

20 sec moderate to vigorous

10 sec sprint

(5 min)

2 min recovery


9-10 min per mile, pace where you can talk in broken sentence without breathing hard




Running is a common exercise for the general healthy population. If you are a personal trainer or a professional running coach, make sure to regard these workouts into your runners. If you are serious about becoming a competitive runner, make progression and follow the guidelines from ACSM. Be proficient with active motivation and planned SMART goals. Overcome barriers and start improving. Progress your training by 2-5% based on your fitness level, motivation, injury, age, and ability to exercise. Run to become a fighter.

Man Running on Black Asphalt Road
Image by RUN 4 FFWPU from Pexels


Thank you to Karen Thomas from my Spring 2018 PHED 237 class for providing me relevant information based on VO2max

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