3 double-intensity training sessions

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Designing a training plan can feel like ticking off a checklist. Short intervals to boost speed? Check. Tempo runs to raise lactate threshold? Check. Hill repeats to build power? Check. In a race you must roll these components into a single performance, so it’s wise to also include combination workouts to practise changing gears, mentally and physically.

Combo runs blend familiar ingredients to create a unique stimulus that forces you to adapt in a slightly different way. Mix short and long intervals on the track with tempo sections on roads or trails, and hill repeats. Make use of your surroundings, try different paces and keep the distance covered consistent with your usual workouts (so if you typically do 6 x 800m, your combo should add up to the same distance). Combo sessions require that you stay alert to adjust to the changing terrain, pace and effort level. Keeping the rests between sections short – no more than a minute – forces you to adjust quickly and practise the focus you need to race well. Try one of the following combos every two weeks.

1/ Accelerator

Run the intervals on a track and the tempos on the road or a trail, with no more than a minute of rest between each.

1,600m/4 laps at 5K pace

1 mile at tempo pace (‘comfortably hard’)

1,200m/3 laps hard

1 mile at tempo pace 800m/ 2 laps hard

1 mile at tempo pace 400m/1 lap all out

2/ Cross-country simulator

Cross-country races start and end fast, and require mid-race strength. Coach Matt Centrowitz replicates that effort here.

1,200m (first lap at mile pace, next two 10 secs slower per lap); 1 min rest

1 mile at tempo pace 5 x 60-sec hill reps; jog recovery

1 mile tempo pace; 1 min rest 1,200m (first two laps 10- 15 secs slower than mile pace, last lap at mile pace)

3/ Prefontaine's progression

This session is adapted from one US legend Steve Prefontaine did in 1975. It mixes track and road and speeds up within each section.

2 x 1,200m/3 laps (start at 10K pace, get two secs faster each lap); 1 min rest

Progression run (3 miles; start easy, speed up so final mile is at half-marathon pace); 1 min rest

5 x 300m (jog 100m between each; start at 10K pace, speed up)

READ: Interval training: How it works

READ: Tips for safe speedwork

READ: What is tempo running and how do I do it?