Running hard is an essential component of becoming fitter, faster and stronger. Don’t know where to start? Struggling for workout ideas or stuck in a rut of overcomplicating things? Let’s explore some session hacks you can integrate into your weekly training.
Session Hack #1: Hilly Fartlek
Fartlek = speed play in Swedish and essentially translates to periods of faster running mixed with periods of slower running. The ‘hilly fartlek’ is a simple session to do as your on and off time is relative to the terrain. Find a hilly route that allows uphill running, flat running, and downhill running. Run the hills hard, use the flatter sections to run easy or moderately hard and use the downhills to recover from your efforts. Warm up with 10-15 minutes of easy running and the same to cool down.
Purpose: this is a great session to stress both V02 max and lactate threshold, as well as the musculoskeletal system responsible for a strong stride and general running strength.
Session Hack #2: Out & Back
Simple by name, simple by nature. The out and back is an easy way to accumulate stress without having to think about interval breakdown, time or distance. Start by running an easy warm up into easy pace out, when you turn around run comfortably hard back to your starting point. This is an easy session to tick off in unfamiliar surroundings and is also handy if you want to switch off during your run and forget about distance and pace. Take this session to a trail and focus less on pace on the way back and more on effort, the session will take care of itself.
Purpose: stress lactate threshold. This is a simple way to tick off the traditional 20-minute tempo run.
Session Hack #3: Landmarks
Most of us have a regular running route or a series of regular routes complete with familiar trees, streets, hills, and other landmarks. Want an easy workout? Why not let geographic landmarks dictate your workout. Sessions don’t have to be complicated; run hard for a suburban block, easy for a block. Run hard for the length of the field, run easy until you hit the next length. The intensity and workout volume of your session will depend on how long each interval lasts for and how many repetitions you do.
Purpose: varied. Mix short hard intervals for V02 max work, longer intervals for lactate threshold. Running a marathon? This could be a great opportunity to accumulate some time at marathon pace.
Session Hack #4: Jukebox
Enjoy running with music? Why not use it to drive your workout! After an easy warmup, run at a specific intensity for the duration of a song and recover for the duration of a song. How hard you run during the ‘on’ song and how many repeats you do will depend on your goals, training history and upcoming races. If you’re stuck inside on a treadmill apply the same structure but play around with incline during the ‘on’ song.
Purpose: short songs for V02 max efforts, longer songs for threshold work.
Session Hack #5: Race
Enter a local race and run hard! Simple! Racing is an easy way of committing to a workout. Particularly since you’ve parted ways with money for the sake of the workout. Keep things simple, run hard from the gun or progressively run harder as the race goes on. For the sake of those around you (on trail particularly), avoid running any complex intervals. Slow to a jog while the rest of the field runs consistently behind you. The other added bonus of using a race for a workout is you are able to engage with the process of racing. This decreases any nerves you may have around racing and actively contribute to the local running community.
Always remember to train at your current fitness and to adhere to the principle of progressive overload relative to your running history, injuries, and upcoming goals.