As many of us approach our key race date or event, we are already doing some reasonably long and hard k’s to prepare for the big day. Here is a quick introduction to a type of workout that I personally love to have in the week (either regularly, or just on occasion) that has both mental and physical benefits.
A Progression Run is just that – over the course of the run, the pace picks up – the runner starts out slower, and finishes with a higher tempo. This is a great way to not only add slightly more threshold or speed work to a program, but also to train the mind to finish strong, something which is key on race day.
The following progression run ideas are a great place to start. Remember, the goal is to increase the pace, not the effort. The perceived effort will already be at a higher level near the end of the run due to fatigue, even though the pace may not change. To increase the pace, it’s important to start out conservatively!
This form of progression run sees the runner splitting the workout into thirds. The first third is carried out at an easy, base pace. The second third is run at a moderate pace, with the final third run at a strong, reasonably hard pace. This final third can be run somewhere between half marathon and marathon pace, not an all out sprint! To start, try breaking up a 45min run into three 15min segments and applying these principles.
Fast Finish Progression Run
This is a popular format, calling for the runner to carry out the run as per normal, but finish the last 3-8 minute segment at a very fast pace (such as 5K race pace). The benefit of this format is a sprinkling of speed work, without too much to really compromise recovery. It’s important here to not jump straight into this one if you do not have any experience with speed work in your running program. Fast finish runs not only provide great physiological benefits, but are also a lot of fun! Try with a friend for a great finish to the workout!
A few notes
Progression runs can be a great way to add a little more zest to your program. With the addition of 10mins or so of faster-paced running at the end of a run, carried out once or twice a week, you now have significantly more “quality” in your running program. Therefore, physiologically these workouts can be very beneficial, given they are used appropriately. To introduce progression runs, try making one run per week a progression run, starting no earlier than the end of your “base” period of training. As with all changes in training, start out slowly and take note on how your body responds to this type of workout.
As previously mentioned, a successful progression run relies on the ability to monitor pace. Training tools such as a GPS watch or similar are best for this, allowing the runner to instantly see changes in pace (as well as optionally monitoring heart rate).