Pairing your usual run with another workout can make both elements more effective – as long as you’re careful to make the right match. When you add strides to an easy run or do strength training after a speed workout, the ultimate benefit can equal more than merely the sum of the workouts’ parts.
However, it’s important to be strategic. Stacking two workouts together for quantity’s sake isn’t the goal. Instead, you want the two to complement each other, the way fine wine enhances a steak. Here are four runs paired with something extra that can help you reap more benefits from every session.
1/ Long run + gentle yoga
Coach and US Olympian Ryan Bolton says it can be hard to unwind after a long run, but doing so is crucial for the recovery process. One study found that after 2.5 hours of running, athletes had elevated levels of the stress hormone cortisol, which can suppress your immune function. Yoga and meditation can help bring cortisol levels back down.
Do it: Directly after you run, refuel and rehydrate. Later in the day, make time for light yoga, meditation or a massage. If you choose yoga, focus more on moving and breathing than deep stretches.
2/ Hill sprints + tempo miles
Ever had someone fly past you in the last mile of a race? To have what that runner has, you need to do workouts that demand you stick with them even after fatigue sets in. To build late-race strength, Bolton has his elites do hard hill repeats followed by short tempo runs.
Do it: Bolton suggests doing six to 10 sprints up an 80-100m hill. Run the repeats as hard as possible, recovering by jogging slowly back down. After your last hill, head straight into two to three miles of tempo work at your half-marathon race pace.
3/ Easy run + strides
The point of recovery days is to run easy, but maybe not for the whole time. Eric Orton, running coach and author of The Cool Impossible, says he has his runners finish easy runs with strides – short efforts where you build speed over 50-100m. ‘It flushes out the legs just like a massage,’ he says. Research shows that athletes clear blood lactate faster with high-intensity work versus slower recovery jogging.
Do it: After an easy run, do six or seven strides: start slowly, building speed over 100m. Once you reach a hard pace, slow down, recover and repeat.
4/ Speed + strength training
Doubling may help you fit in all your workouts (and rest days). ‘If I give an athlete a strength-training workout and a quality run on Tuesday, then Wednesday can be a real recovery day,’ says Orton. Do whichever workout is more important first; that’s usually speedwork. A 2012 study found athletes who did aerobic followed by strength training had elevated levels of acute testosterone, which can help with muscle repair.
Do it: Run, then do your strength work, immediately afterwards or later in the day. Focus on strength moves (e.g. lunges). Save the next day for easy active recovery.