Running at different paces will not only add variety to your training, it’s also the most effective way to enhance your overall performance. Short, fast bursts will improve your racing sharpness and your body’s capacity to pump blood and oxygen to your muscles; easing off the accelerator over longer distances will build muscle-strength and prime your body for the loading demands of prolonged exercise.
Understanding the purpose of each workout is key to maximising the benefits of our training schedules, especially if you need to shuffle sessions around within the week to suit your other commitments. Completing hard workouts on consecutive days, for example, will leave you exhausted and more susceptible to injury - instead, it’s important to follow each hard day with an easier session to allow your body time to recover.
Spend a minute familiarising yourself with the training terms in the pace guide below so you know just how hard you should be pushing yourself during each workout. Then, either check out our training-pace calculator for a better indication of how these intensities translate in practice (calculated from a recent race time) or read our ultimate guide to heart-rate training for the most objective way of monitoring your progress.
- Jog recovery – a period of extremely slow running (barely above walking pace) in between the efforts in a speed session.
- Easy – a gentle jog at below 60% working heart rate (WHR). Running at this intensity will help your body recover between harder workouts, while still building your aerobic fitness and muscle-strength.
- Slow – conversational pace (60-65% WHR). This is the speed at which you should do your long runs - it might feel awkward at first, but it’s better to hold back initially and last the distance than set off too fast and burn out just a few miles later.
- Steady – a comfortable, but purposeful, pace, similar to your marathon pace (65-75% WHR). The ‘steady’ run helps teach your body economy, and also familiarises you with the speed you should set off on marathon day. After a few runs at this pace, make a note of your target heart rate as you’ll really need to stick to your guns in the first few miles of the marathon and avoid getting caught in a rush.
- Threshold (THR), or Brisk – around your target half-marathon pace (85% WHR). 'Brisk' sometimes refers to half-marathon pace while 'threshold' refers to 10-mile pace. Often described as feeling 'comfortably hard', aim to hit about an 8 on a perceived-exertion scale of 10.
- Fast – your 5K or 10K pace, depending on the distance of the speedwork reps (85-95% WHR). Try to hit your 5K pace for reps measuring up to 400m, and your 10K pace for reps between 800m and 1M in length.
- Fartlek – an easy pace, with fast bursts as you wish (70-85+% WHR).
To calculate your working heart rate, subtract your resting heart rate from your maximum; take the appropriate percentage of this figure, and then add it to your resting rate to find your target training rate.