Tempo workouts, speedwork, long runs, not to mention work, family and life in general... how can a runner fit it all in? One time-efficient solution: combo workouts, which blend elements of quality runs to make the most of every minute you have. But these multitasking workouts also stress your body, so follow up with a day of easy running, cross-training or a rest day. Here's how to get it together.
Run + Strength
"Sandwiching a lower-body strength workout between two easy runs simulates race-day muscle fatigue, without the need to log long or hard mileage," says coach Susan Paul (trackshack.com). After two to three miles easy, do six to eight reps of squats, lunges and calf raises (if you're in the gym, add leg extensions and leg curls). Do two or three sets. Finish with another two to six easy miles.
Long Run + Goal Pace
Learn proper pacing
“This run lets you practise race pace without risking injury, because the fast portion is short,” says coach Nick Anderson (runningwithus.com). It also gets you mentally and physically accustomed to running hard on fatigued legs. Begin your long run at about a minute per mile slower than your goal pace. Two-thirds in, speed up to goal pace or slightly faster and maintain this until you’ve completed your mileage. If you’re running more than 16 miles, use the same formula, but only run the final three to four miles at marathon goal pace.
Hills + 800s
Improve form and fitness
Combining a hilly route with half-mile repeats elevates your heart rate, which boosts your aerobic capacity. Plus, "on long, slow runs, we can get sloppy with form; short, fast runs teach our bodies to find the most efficient way to run," says Paul. On a measured route with rolling hills, run easy for one mile, then do 800m at 10K pace (newbies should run 30-60 seconds per mile faster than easy pace). Repeat two to four times.
Hills + Sprints
This taxing duo trains your body to resume goal pace after a short, fast spurt - as if you were passing someone in a race. "Throwing in a faster-paced segment to raise the bar on your aerobic threshold ultimately makes goal pace seem that much easier," says Paul. After warming up, run one mile at, or up to, 30 seconds faster than your marathon, half marathon or 10K pace. Then run 400m at 5K pace or slightly faster. Repeat two to five times. Do this on a track, treadmill or measured stretch of road.
Hills + Flats
Learn consistent effort
The key to a successful race is to keep your effort constant as you navigate varying terrain. "Running hills followed by flats helps you to find that even effort," says Anderson. A treadmill provides the most control: warm up, then set the incline at between two and five per cent and complete a two-minute interval. Reduce the incline to zero and continue at the same effort for two minutes by picking up your pace. Your breathing rate should remain the same. Walk or jog on the flat for two minutes. Repeat the sequence three to six times.
Reach Your Goals
Do the right combo workout to hit your goals:
Aim: General fitness
Workout: Easy run + strength + easy run
Why? It will improve your strength and your cardiovascular fitness.
Aim: PB in 5K
Workout: Mile repeats + sprints
Why? Fast running trains your body to run more efficiently at a higher speed.
Aim: A hilly race
Workout: Hills + 800s
Why? This trains muscle fibres to withstand fatigue caused by a challenging terrain.
Aim: Half or full marathon
Workout: Long run + goal-pace miles
Why? Builds endurance and confidence in maintaining speed in the final miles.