6 Running Workouts for Long Distance Runners

6 Running Workouts for Long Distance Runners

When I first started running long distances, I had no clue about running workouts.

A fartlek? Whatttt is that? I’m out.

In fact, I ignored all running workouts while training for my first 10 Miler. Guess where that landed me?

With an injury mid-race. It was so sad. And it could have SO easily been prevented by doing supplemental running workouts.

Learn more about long distance running, why running workouts are crucial, and what workouts to start with!


What is Long Distance Running?

Long distance running is typically defined as running 3 or more miles.

However, many runners who identify as long distance runners (likely) run more that.

Think 5 milers, 10K’s (6.2 miles), 10 milers, half marathons and even marathons!

But either way, feel confident in calling yourself a long distance runner if you run 3 or more miles at a time.


Why Do Long Distances Runners Need Running Workouts?

The short answer: to build endurance, strength and speed.

Endurance essentially means being able to withstand long durations of pain or trial.

And what else is running 3-26.2 miles besides pain and trial?

I kid. It’s totally awesome…right??!! 🙂 🙂

But still, you need to properly prepare your body for distance. And that means doing more than just running (sorry, it’s true).

This post focuses on running workouts, but check out Strength Training for Runners (8 Easy Moves) if you want strength workouts, and Cross Training for Runners, Hidden Secrets Revealed if you want a variety of non-running workouts.


Rate of Perceived Exertion – What is That?

Rate of perceived exertion is a measure of intensity of exertion during exercising based on how you feel.

Here is a simple RPE chart:

Image credit: sbfitnessmagazine.com

And here is a more detailed chart, which includes notes on what you’re training in each zone, and examples exercises:

Rate of Perceived Exertion for Running Workouts
Image credit: https://bitbetter.coach/personal-training/rpe-chart



What Types of Running Workouts Exist?

There are tons of workout options available, and which one you do depends on your goal.

Is your goal to strengthen your hips and legs to avoid injury? Or is your goal to beat a PR (personal record) and run your next race super fast?

Those aren’t the only two goals for running workouts but you get the point.

Step 1 is identifying your goal. Step 2 is choosing a workout that supports that goal.


Fun story: After training for a 10 miler last year, I wanted a short running break and decided to strength train my arms. Because my wedding was coming up, and who doesn’t want nice arms in a wedding dress?

Guess how much time that took? About 30-45 minutes a day, 5 times a week.

And guess how much it helped my running?

Honestly, about 0%. Maybe 5% if I’m being really generous.

The next race was slow, and my legs were sore. My breathing was labored. Why? Because I focused on the wrong goal (for running).

If I could do it all over again, I would have built a better running base and increased my endurance with one of these following workouts.


And Now: 6 Running Workouts for Long Distance Runners

To build endurance, you need a combination of a few different basic running workouts.

Here are some example running workouts in each of the four main endurance-building categories.

Note: Remember to properly assess your current fitness level and decide on goals before choosing which workouts to do (and how intense they should be). It’s not helpful to over-extend yourself doing these workouts if you’re a beginner.

Also know that incremental progress over a longer period of time is the most effective. It builds muscle strength and aerobic endurance and prepares your body, slowly and surely, for the next step. You absolutely do NOT want to injure yourself doing running workouts!


2 Hill Running Workouts

Running Workouts - Hill Runs
Image credit: Runnersradar.com/advice/workouts/hill-running/

Most people hate hills.

We get it. They’re tough.

But that’s why they’re so effective. Endurance + strength + running form improvement, all in one awesome session! Does it get better than that?!

Ok, now that we’ve generated some excitement…see the 2 hill workouts below.

>>Want more info on hill running? See this beginner’s guide to hill running post for tons o’ info you’ll love.


#1 Hill Workout: Long Repetitions

Long reps are usually about 2-4 minutes long, and great for the base-building running phase because they train you in the aerobic zone (about zone 3 on the RPE scale).

For incline, 5% or so is good – you don’t want an intense hill for this particular workout since you must sustain for 2-4 minutes at roughly a 10K pace (which should be slightly slower than your tempo pace).

Beginners should repeat 3-4 times at 2-3 minutes each.

Intermediate runners should repeat 5-6 times at 3-4 minutes each.

Jog or walk back down the hill for recovery. Don’t skip recovery, it’s crucial to this workout!


#2 Hill Workout: Short Repetitions

Short repetition hill running workouts are best saved for the later phases of training.  Short repetitions are run at a much faster pace than long repetitions, and therefore train you in the  7-8 RPE zone (the Vo2 max zone).

For incline, you can double the long repetition grade you did – so around 10% is ideal. Run it at the 7-8 RPE effort, meaning you should feel like the effort is difficult and not be able to speak much or at all while running.

Beginners should repeat 5-7 times, with 60-90 second bursts uphill.

Intermediate runners should repeat 8-10 times with 60-90 second bursts uphill (with optional advanced incline of 15%-20% if you are conditioned to do so).


2 Tempo Running Workouts

Running Workouts for Long Distance Runners - Tempo Runs

Tempo runs are great for runners.

At their essence, they build endurance and mental toughness. Long distance runners need tempo runs to succeed.

So what is a tempo run?

It’s a run where you sustain a “comfortably hard” pace (or about the pace you can sustain for an hour, or a 10K) in the middle of a warm up and cool down period.

Tempo runs train you to push your lactate threshold further (which gets scientific quickly…but means this is the threshold of producing the most lactate that your body can clear from the bloodstream efficiently…so you don’t get achy, sore, tired muscles basically).

>>Interested in more on tempo runs? Check out the Beginner’s Guide to Tempo Runs.


#1 Tempo Run Workout

The classic tempo run contains a warmup, a longer tempo run, and then a cooldown.

Beginners can try this: warmup for minutes, run at tempo pace for 20 minutes, then cool down for 5 minutes.

Intermediate runners should warm up 5-10 minute but increase the tempo speed running time according to fitness level (3-4 miles), with a 5-10 minute cool down.


#2 Tempo Run Workout

Negative split tempo runs!

What’s a negative split? It just means you run the next mile (or interval) faster than the previous one. Why is this awesome for runners? It helps teach your body to increase effort throughout a run instead of decrease effort…ensuring you end races strong (mentally and physically).

Beginners should warm up 5-10 minutes and then run 1 mile “intervals” at increasing speed for 2 miles (so the first 1 mile is slightly easier ad the second mile is slightly harder), with a 5-10 minute cool down. Again, you want the pace to be “comfortably hard” but not a 10 RPE or anything. So do mile 1 with less effort than a typical tempo run and do mile 2 with a little more effort.

Intermediate runners should do the same warm up and cool down, but you do 3-4 total tempo miles at negative splits.



2 Fartlek Running Workouts

Running Workouts for Long Distance Runners - Fartleks

If you’re a long distance runner, you are probably familiar with “fartlek” workouts, which means “speed play” in Swedish.

Why are fartlek workouts fun for runners?

Well, they’re generally unstructured – meaning you choose exactly how long and how often you speed up!

With fartleks, you can better assess what “effort” means to your body. You’re not prescribed a certain effort for a certain interval length. Just do what feels right to your body. Start with a 5K pace or less during fast bursts and work up from there.

Pro tip: start with farlek workouts before advancing to interval workouts.

>>Want even more info on fartleks? Check out the Definitive Guide to Fartlek Runs.

While the nature of a fartlek is unstructured speed work, I know some of you still want a workout recommendation. So here are our 2 favorites:


Fartlek Running Workout #1:

Use environmental markers to know when to speed up and slow down.

Examples include: telephone poles, hydrants, street lights, traffic lights, blocks and more.

See a phone pole? Speed up and run to it. Slow down until the next one.


Fartlek Running Workout #2:

Create a playlist specifically for your fartlek workout.

Alternate slow beats with faster beats and speed up during the fast songs, and slow down to recover during the fast songs.

Extra pro tip: want shorter “fast” intervals? Mix a playlist with 60-second intervals instead of full songs.



2 Interval Running Workouts

Running Workouts for Long Distance Runners - Intervals

Interval training does a few things for runners: it trains you anaerobically, for both strength and speed (and good cardio health).

You may have heard of High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT)?

It trains you in the 8-9 RPE scale zone…so you’re gonna feel this one 🙂 Effort should be extremely difficult during hard interval bursts.

The great thing about interval is they’re easy to do in bad weather, just hop on a treadmill!

Bonus: you burn more calories doing intervals than a steady run.


#1 Interval Workout:

The basic interval workout.

Everyone should warm up 10-15 minutes, and cool down 10- 15 minutes.

Beginners should run hard for 30-60 seconds, followed by a equal or longer recovery walk. Repeat 3-5 times depending on fitness level and how it feels. Listen to your body to avoid injuries!

Intermediate runners should run hard for 30-90 second intervals, follow by equal or longer recovery walks. Repeat 5-8 times or as much as your fitness level allows. Again, be cautious and adjust as needed – do not over-extend yourself because that leads to injuries.


#2 Interval Workout:

The “Pyramid” Interval workout – find this specific workout on Active.com and it incorporates sprinting at a 9-10 RPE zone effort! This workout is for more advanced runners who already have a solid base and have been doing speed work. 

It goes like this:

30 seconds sprint/30 seconds recover
1 minute sprint/1 minute recover
2 minutes sprint/2 minutes recover
4 minutes sprint/4 minutes recover
2 minutes sprint/2 minutes recover
1 minute sprint/1 minute recover
30 seconds sprint/30 seconds recover


There you have it – 6 Excellent Running Workouts for Long Distance Runners!

Now you have some running workouts in your back pocket. Make sure to integrate them strategically (and appropriately) into your training plan!


You Might Also Like:

How to Run Faster in 30 Days or Less

Cross Training for Runners: Hidden Secrets Revealed

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6 Running Workouts for Long Distance Runners

6 Running Workouts for Long Distance RunnersWant to increase endurance, strength and speed? Do these 6 running workouts for long distance runners.6 Running Workouts for Long Distance Runners to increase endurance and improve your running.

Workouts for long distance runners to increase endurance.

6 Running Workouts for Long Distance Runners

6 Running Workouts for Long Distance Runners


6 Running Workouts for Long Distance Runners

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