13 Types Of Running That Make Up Every Training Plan

If you’ve just been given your first structured training plan, or perhaps you’ve been reading how to run faster or further, and you’ve been bombarded with numerous new running terms. Fartleks, intervals, long runs, hill repeats, threshold runs – what exactly are all these different types of running?

Each of these has a very specific use case in your half marathon training.

If you’re a brand new runner, it’s a good idea to have some familiarity with these terms. As you start to graduate your fitness level, learning what each type of run is and why and when you should do them enables you to yield the highest results from your running.

If you’re creating your own training plan or following one of ours, that means you can structure your training to complement or improve the aspects of your running you’d like to improve.

And, if you’re following a plan, you’ll better understand how each type of running contributes to your overall speed, fitness, and endurance.

In this article, we’ll explain all the different types of runs that will show up in your training plan, so you can be confident in your approach to training.

Below, you’ll find a heart rate training zone table. Throughout the article, we’ll reference training zones, i.e. what intensity you should train at to stimulate the required physiological adaptations.

Zone % of max HR Notes
Zone 1 50%-60% Very easy recovery
Zone 2 60%-70% Conversational pace
Zone 3 70%-80% Challenging but doable
Zone 4 80%-90% Comfortably hard
Zone 5 90%-100% All-out effort

For a deeper look into how to incorporate your heart rate into training, we’ve created this guide.

Snapshot: The Different Types of Running Workouts

  • Warm ups
  • Cool downs
  • Progression runs
  • Tempo runs
  • Fartleks
  • Sprints
  • Long runs
  • Recovery runs
  • Hill repeats
  • Intervals
  • Strides
  • Base runs
  • Easy runs

A male runner against a scenic backdrop doing a base run, one of the most common types of running.

Warm ups 

What Are They: Warm ups are most frequently recommended before more difficult endurance or speed workouts, like tempo runs, fartleks, and threshold efforts.

Warm ups should be run at a very light intensity, similar but even slower than your long slow distance pace.

Why? The goal of the warm up is to increase body temperature and increase the flow of blood to your muscles, which:

  • Reduces injury risk
  • Lubricates the joints
  • May increase performance

When to Use: Perform 10-15 minutes of a slow jog alongside basic dynamic stretches (e.g., leg swings and hip circles) before high intensity running.

Cool downs

Cool downs go hand in hand with warm ups.

What Are They: While warm ups are performed before intense running, cool downs are done after.

Why? Cool down runs decreases your heart rate and help remove any built up lactic acid (and other waste products) produced from more intense efforts.

When to Use: Perform 10-15 minutes of a slow jog followed by static stretches (e.g., kneeling quadriceps stretch and glute stretches) after running.

Don’t worry at all about speed. Instead, your goal is to reduce your heart rate.

Progression runs

What Are They? Progression runs are an endurance workout that begin with a slow pace and increase in pace throughout.

Why? These runs are not as taxing runs like tempo runs or interval workouts, but teach a runner how to properly sustain an increased pace during your training.

You may find it easier to begin your progression runs at your base or easy running pace, gradually increasing until you reach your comfortably hard or tempo effort in the last kilometer or so.

When to use? Your progression runs shouldn’t be excessively strict. Have fun with your progression runs, and build up your speed as you go. You should plan to include progression runs into your training every other week.

Progression runs are often done as track workouts.

Tempo runs 

What is it? Tempo runs, also known as “threshold training,” is an effort at or slightly below your lactate threshold (this is when lactate begins to accumulate in the bloodstream — it’s the burning feeling you get in your muscles). 

Why? Training at threshold increases your body’s efficiency at clearing lactic acid, reducing fatigue and allowing you to run faster before the lactic build up. You will become more efficient running at faster speeds. This is called improved running economy.

Related: Which exercise is the best for improving running efficiency?

Running at your threshold effort is excellent aerobic conditioning. Further, it makes your muscle fibers more resistant to fatigue.

How much of a hard workout should they be? Tempo runs are often described as “comfortably hard,” run at Heart Rate Zones 3 and 4.

A tempo pace is similar to your fartlek runs pace yet slower than short distance speed workouts. Threshold training paces should be intense and you should be unable to sustain for long distances.

Still not sold on the idea? The fastest mile runner in the world at the moment, Jakob Ingebrigtsen, runs 1-2 threshold efforts a week while measuring his blood lactate to make sure he’s hitting the tempo sweet spot. Double threshold runs have been the new trend in fast running.

When to use? You don’t need 1 to 2 sessions per week. Adding 1 tempo run a week (maximum) is one of the most valuable and rewarding sessions you can add to your training for improved speed endurance. 

Fartleks 

What is it? The term “fartlek” is a Swedish word that means “speed play.” It’s a form of unstructured speed training that combines quick, short bursts of running with recovery intervals.

Typically, you’ll set markers to run to. For example, you might run quickly to the red car, jog to the fire hydrant, and sprint to the next road sign. The unstructured nature keeps it fun and breaks up the monotony that often comes with more intense running.

Why? The speed portions of fartlek training is predominantly done in Zone 4. It taps into both aerobic and anaerobic systems. If training by effort, it should feel similar to a tempo run in that it’s “comfortably hard.” 

Unstructured speed sessions improve your anaerobic and lactate threshold, and recruit both fast-twitch and slow-twitch muscle fibers. Over time, these muscle fibers will become more resistant to fatigue, allowing you to run quicker.

Fartlek training also translates well to race situations where you need to occasionally inject a little speed. It’s the ideal type of running when learning how train for half marathon or marathon impediments like speeding up before a bridge crossing, or slowing down a little on the hills.

These reps should be run between 10-20% faster than your half marathon pace.

When to use? Fartlek workout efforts are run at the same pace as your tempo and interval efforts. Many runners will incorporate rotating weekly tempo and fartlek sessions into their training cycle.

A male running on a track one of the most common types of running for speed workouts.

Sprints

What is it? Even if you’re a long distance runner, you can benefit from adding sprints as speed work to your training. 

Why? Sprints recruit and strengthen fast-twitch muscle fibers, increasing overall speed, neuromuscular coordination, and providing you a much-needed kick at the end of a race, improving your anaerobic (short-term energy) system.

When to use? Add sprints no more than 1-2 times per week. Sprint work is very intense, and, if possible, should be performed on soft ground, like on a track, to prevent excessive force from being placed through the joints.

Sprinting on hard ground, such as concrete may increase your risk of injury.

You should run sprints at Zone 5 — that’s 90-100% of your maximum HR and an all-out effort.

Long runs 

What are they? Long runs are typically performed once a week, usually on a weekend. Long runs are designed to strengthen your cardiovascular system and muscular endurance that would simulate a race distance.

Why? Regular long runs will improve your aerobic capacity, including an increase in mitochondria that increases available energy for the muscles.

When to use? Compared to other types of running, long runs should be easy, usually run at zone 2 and should be 10-20% slower than your half marathon pace at a very similar pace to base runs.

Focus on the long run pace feeling like a natural pace that can be sustained throughout the duration of the run.

Recovery runs 

What are they? Recovery runs are very similar to easy runs and base runs.

Why? While it may seem counterintuitive to add “recovery runs” vs. recovery days – these sessions increases blood flow to help remove waste products like lactic acid.

When to use? Typically, recovery runs are done the day after a hard run, such as a long run, interval session, tempo run, or hill repeats. 

This type of run is slower than most. If you think you’re going too slow, you’re probably not going slow enough! Learn more about recovery runs and more running recovery myths.

A woman running up stairs to perform hill repeats, one of the types of running.

Hill repeats 

What are they? Hill repeats are 30 to 120 seconds of vertical running. There are some who prefer longer hill repeats, but the duration of your repeats varies depending on the length and intensity of the hill you have available and how important they are to your specific race.

Why? Hill training improves running form, reduces stress on the joints, builds strength and power, and provides an excellent aerobic workout. You have multiple hill repeat options available, mainly short and long hill repeats.

If you have a hill that takes 90 seconds to complete, your rest could be a slow jog or recovery walk to the bottom before performing a few more repetitions. 

Hill repeats should be difficult. Aim to train at zone 4 but don’t be afraid to mix it up.

When to use? You can also include fartlek sessions for a more unstructured approach (this works especially well on longer hills), or even remove the repeat effort and run a progression-style run instead, starting slow and finishing quicker than you started.

Run no more than 1 hill repeat session a week. 

Intervals 

What are they? Interval training is a must-have for any runner who wants to go fast and break their personal bests, especially if running shorter distances such as the 5km and 10km events. However, intervals are very useful for half marathon and marathon distances.

Why? You can run intervals as short as 200 meters and up to 1 mile (or even further). The most popular interval sessions include repeats of the following:

  • 400m repeats
  • 800m repeats
  • 1 mile repeats

For shorter intervals (400m and 800m repeats), the intensity is usually very high, it’s VO2 Max style training, run at the upper end of Zone 4, similar to your 5km race pace, and sometimes even faster.

1 mile repeats, on the other hand, are often run a little slower — but you can adjust the intensity to suit your goals. For example, if training for a half marathon, you can perform mile repeats at your goal pace. Or, if you’re training for a 5km race, you can run at your target 5km pace with 1 mile rest between each repeat. 

When to use? Interval training is the quickest and most intense type of training (other than sprints). It’s much faster than your base and long runs, and even quicker than your tempo runs — expect lactic acid to accumulate.

However, it’s a very effective type of training and has its place in all training plans. 

As a general rule of thumb, run no more than 1-2 interval sessions per week. Too much intensity and not enough recovery can cause injury. If you’re already running a tempo session, an interval session on top of this is plenty.

Strides

What are they? Strides are controlled efforts, closer in intensity to sprints, lasting anywhere from 20-30 seconds. You can perform strides as part of a warm up before hard efforts or a race to increase blood flow to the muscles and to prepare the body for more intense running.

Why? Aside from warming up for competition, strides are great for improving:

  • Running technique
  • Cadence
  • Overall running efficiency

When to use? Strides should be run at close to maximum effort. But because strides are so short, we’d suggest running at an RPE of 9-10.

For efforts that are so short, running using heart rate is not accurate. This is because it takes time for your heart rate to catch up to the intensity.

Base runs 

What are they? Base runs make up the bulk of your training. It’s what you do between more intense sessions, such as threshold and tempo efforts. 

If training by heart rate, you should be running base runs in Zone 2, often described as a conversational pace. 

Why? Base runs are a staple in your training programs, designed to improve your aerobic capacity with minimal stress on the bones, joints, and muscles. Continuous base running increases the number of mitochondria in your cells, providing your body with more energy to run further/faster with less fatigue.

When to run? Compared to other types of running, base runs are faster than your warm up and cool down pace, but slower than threshold. It’s a pace similar to your long run effort, although usually slightly quicker.

If not a specific speed or distance workout, most of your runs will be base runs.

In training methodologies like polarized running, approximately 80% of your running will be base runs. If you’re running for five hours per week, roughly four of those hours should be at a slow conversational pace which has been found to materially increase aerobic endurance and performance.

Easy runs 

What are they? Often, many running coaches and running publications combine easy runs and base runs. However, we like to take it a step further. Easy runs should be even slower than base runs, they should be, well… run at an “easy pace.” Leave the faster pace runs to the more intense training sessions!

Why? Think of easy runs as the same pace you run during recovery between intervals. Your easy runs should not be taxing, and should be on the lower end of zone 2. The goal of your easy runs is to recover between intervals and pump blood to the muscles to facilitate recovery.

When to use? Easy runs should be incorporated into training on an as needed basis.

Mix the types of running training sessions to improve

Whether you’re a beginner or a more experienced runner, adding different types of running sessions/workouts to your training is an easy way to make progress.

For example, intervals, strides, and sprints improve running form and efficiency, tempo runs increase your lactate threshold to run faster with less fatigue, and long runs improve your aerobic capacity.

We also create a guide for how to pick the right half marathon training plan to help you on your journey.

Frequently Asked Questions About Types of Running

How many types of running are there?

There are 13 different types of running: warm ups, cool downs, progression runs, tempo runs, fartleks, sprints, long runs, recovery runs, hill repeats, intervals, strides, base runs, and easy runs.

What is fartlek running?

The term “fartlek” is a Swedish word that means “speed play.” It’s a form of unstructured speed training that combines quick, short bursts of running with recovery intervals.

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