Training Plans Decoded-Because Not All Of Us Speak “Run Nerd”


Training season is quickly approaching and the plans went out this week to a lot of half and full marathoners.  Shortly after the plans were sent I started receiving some very good questions.  In fact it doesn’t seem that long ago that I was googling these terms when reading my training plans.  In my silly little world I forget that not everyone goes around talking about long slow distance runs, fartleks, and tempo runs.  Some of these topics have been discussed on this blog before but I thought it would be a great time to discuss the various types of training runs you might encounter this summer if you are in racing mode.


Keep in mind that every run has a certain purpose in your training.  Skipping your speed day is not going to help you PR and sprinting through your long slow run isn’t going to speed you up.  Play by the rules and you will get the best results.  Some of these training runs have links to previous posts.  Click on them for more detailed information.

Easy or As You Feel Runs:  These are pretty much what sound look like.  If you are supposed to do a 3 mile easy run, take your time and do it at an easy pace.  Everyone’s version of easy varies.  Your easy might be 10:00min/miles and your friend might find 7:30min/miles to be easy.  Find your version and stick with it.  That means don’t spot a cute girl a quarter mile up in front of you and sprint to catch up to her.  “As you feel” could mean an easy run or simply whatever feels right for you that day.  Just don’t treat these runs as speed training.

FartleksThis funny sounding training run is Swedish for “speed play.”  These are series of unstructured intervals.  Alternate between fast and slow at your own choosing.  These are great runs to help build speed and eliminate boredom from the monotony.  Use songs, street lights, or pretty much anything else to help you determine when to speed up and slow down.  These are also great to do on the treadmill (aka “dreadmill” for some) when you feel like you are going to fall asleep or pull your hair out.

Tempo Runs: Tempo runs are often referred to as pace runs or threshold runs.  You start out with a short warm up followed by a prescribed amount of time running at a certain race pace, or a pace just faster than what you intend to race at.  Follow this run up with another short bout of slow running to cool down.  Tempo runs can help build speed and also train your body to run at a determined pace for periods of time.  It is a great dress rehearsal training for a race or to help mentally train you to work through a slightly uncomfortable running speed.

100m StridesI like to think of these as the cheater’s guide to speed training.  These are short 100m runs that begin at a nice easy pace and work up to a brisk almost sprinting pace at the finish.  Strides train your body to create short bursts of speed at the end of your run when you might need to call on your body for a little extra push.  They don’t take a ton of effort but they do help train your fast twitch muscles.  They can also help flush the lactic acid out a day or two after your long distance run.  To perform these you will want to find a flat 100m stretch (or .06 miles if you use a GPS).  Run to the end of your marked out distance and then walk back to the beginning and repeat the prescribed number of strides, walking back to the beginning each time.  Do these at the end of a training run to reap the biggest benefits.


Long Slow Distance Run: We runners like to refer to these as LSD (it is our drug of choice).  The long slow distance run is meant to be done approximately 1 minute to 1 1/2 minutes slower than your race pace.  This isn’t a dress rehearsal for race day but instead trains your body from the inside out to be able to handle long periods of time on your feet pounding the pavement.  These runs should be done at a conversational pace, meaning you should be able to carry on a light conversation while doing this.  It is not meant make you winded but instead teach your body to use and conserve its glycogen and oxygen stores most efficiently.  Long training runs will build throughout your training plan as your body acclimates to the mileage and learns to use its fuel for longer distances.

The I Need to Maintain My Sanity Run: This run has nothing to do with your training but has everything to do with you not going crazy.  Perhaps you have family staying with you for the weekend, or your office cubicle is way too small and your coworker chomps her gum all day, or whatever.  Shrug your shoulders and explain that you are in training, throw your shoes on, and get out the door.  Don’t explain yourself, non-runners think you are crazy anyway so they won’t need any reason.  Enjoy a few sweaty, quite miles, and you will return a happier version of you.

Happy running and training!

31 thoughts on “Training Plans Decoded-Because Not All Of Us Speak “Run Nerd”

  1. Love these. I’ve only recently started asking questions off fellow random runners. Before I was just too nervous to ask. Great simple advise is always appreciated, Thanks.

    • Never be nervous to ask. In fact, if you ever have a question please do ask. I would love some ideas for informational posts. There are all sorts of things about running that seem strange and mysterious!

  2. Hey!! Happy Thursday!! I love all of these run workouts so much and are vital for performing well in races!! Thanks for the easy to read, great breakdowns!! XOXO!! Hope you’re having a great day!!

  3. I think the most important of all of these definitions absolutely is the “I need to Maintain My Sanity Run.” Because otherwise, things get crazy real fast, and people will be fartleking away from you as fast as possible!

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