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For interval runs what are the common types of workouts for runners training for distances of 5km or more?

Example 10 repeats of 800 meters with 200 meter rests or 10x 200m with rests until HR drops far enough. I see examples in books but Im curious what is the common practice.

  • For what specific distance? Each race will have different needs. For example, 10x800 might be relevant for a 5k runner, less so for a 10k, and hardly useful for a half or marathon. – JohnP Jun 5 '16 at 17:20
  • @JohnP Im only interested in 5km upto marathon distance, and I was assuming each distance would be almost the same since it targets on speed instead of race pace. Except that its less useful for longer distances. Is it too much to ask for each common distance: 5k, 10k, half, & marathon? – Jason Jun 7 '16 at 23:11
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I believe you are looking to break down a 10km run into intervals that are suitable for helping you develop anerobic fitness for competing. Hopefully you understand that to improve at X activity, the common advice is to DO X activity A LOT.

However, progression through intervals can be beneficial for a variety of reasons.

The Main types I am aware of:

Heart Rate: Limited and changed by your heart rate, this can vary enormously and be a little fiddly to execute:

Warm up, measure your heart rate after 5 mins gentle jog and 30 seconds fast jog/run. These will be your lower and upper bound respectfully (imagine mine is lower of 150bpm and upper of 190bpm)

Using a stopwatch, and a known fixed distance you then run for 1/2/3/4 minutes and then jog for 1/2/3/4. The interval length and rest length progression is up to you but you need to be able to nail your target heart rates within 10bpm. Once you have nailed it and it becomes easier then move onto next progression

Jog/Run Linear Progression: 4/1, 3/1, 2/1, 1/1, 4/2, 3/2, ...

Linear: Limited by time/distance

Simple to execute and requires no equipment, using the intervals from the heart rate exercise but this time you do not worry about heart rate and focus on improving your time over fixed distance (or distance over fixed time).

With known distances (school track works well here) follow the linear jog/run progression: 4/1, 3/1, 2/1, 1/1, 4/2, 3/2, ... Aim to improve your distance covered in each of the intervals till you stall on distance and then move up a place in the jog/run progression.

Decreasing Linear: Harder as a single run goes on

This one requires a little measurement on a map first but you essentially want to break a 9k run down thus:

3k run, 3k jog, 1k run, 1k jog, 300m run, 300m jog, 100m run, 100m jog, 30m run, 30m jog, run, rest.

Your exercise gets harder as you have less and less rest time between the intervals. You can also run this in reverse (if you hate yourself and want to induce fatigue)

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You can probably choose any distance from 200m to 5000m, use a factor such that the total distance at target pace is somewhere between 2k and 10k and use ca. half the distance as recovery and you have a list of common interval workouts. 5k runners do in general more of the shorter ones while marathon runners may even do something like 3x5k at marathon pace.

Here is a table with workouts from the german LA Coaching Academy. The table is in German but I think it's pretty straight-forward. The number of repetitions are quite challenging, doing only 10x400m and 6x1000m is quite common for slower runners, but these numbers are meant for runners running 31 to 33 minutes on 10k.

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If I'd have to choose my five most common workouts:

  • 20x200m, 200m recovery
  • 15x400m, 200m recovery
  • 8x1000m, 400m recovery
  • 4x2000m, 800m recovery
  • 3x3000m, 1200m recovery
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