In this article I’m going to go through five different types of runs and give you a workout example as well as a suggested effort to each session! However, instead of giving you a certain pace to run at, we’re going to use rate of perceived exertion (RPE) to choose what speed you should perform each run at. The RPE scale is a widely used effort metric in sports. It is a simple and easy to use method of analyzing an individual’s effort.
Why use the RPE scale?
As you know, a 4:30 pace run can feel easy on one day and feel impossible just a week later! This change in performance can come from many things - work related stress, built up fatigue from overtraining, not having enough recovery time between sessions, stress from our daily lives, etc...
Scientific research has shown that stress has a real effect on our bodies, decreasing our performance and increasing rate of injury, therefore, it's important to listen to the body and train adequately.
That is why I choose to use the RPE scale with athletes. The RPE scale allows an athlete to train at the highest intensity it can tolerate on any given day. By using the RPE Scale, we know that the athlete is always giving his best effort and is not overtraining.
For example, a 10km Tempo Run with a '9' RPE will always be executed to a high intensity by the athlete, no matter what pace he/she chooses, they will always be pushing their body to the highest effort. However, a 4:20 10km Tempo Run might feel just-right on some days but on other it is too intense for the body, due to day-to-day stress, and by forcing our body to follow that pace, we might be causing harm instead of improving our performance.
Click here to read a recent study regarding the RPE scale and its validity in sports.
Hill runs are incredible and should be a staple in any runner’s routine. Hill running places you in an advantageous biomechanical position to run with an efficient form. Not only this but running up a hill is a great strength workout too! If you don’t have any hills in your area, most treadmills have a setting to increase inclination – give that a try!
Workout example: Find a hill with a good solid hill that takes you at least 30 seconds to run up. Seems easy, but it’s a killer! When you reach the top, rest actively by running down the hill slowly. Rinse and repeat at least 6 times (max of 10).
RPE: You should be giving it your all on the uphill (8/9 RPE) and running easily downhill (5/6 RPE)
Fartlek is a Swedish term for speed play, which is exactly what you’ll be doing. The basic idea is to run at your regular pace and, at any time during your run, increase your speed to anywhere between 80-100% of your max effort for a short period of time. This session is fun!
Workout example: 30-minute run with 7/8 100-meter speed bursts. The bursts can be done whenever you want, just make sure to get at least 2 minutes active rest between each one (even though you can do them 5 minutes apart). Slow down to your normal running speed after each speed burst.
RPE: Majority of running should be done at 5/6 RPE and speed bursts at 9/10.
Possibly the hardest session you’ll ever do – tempo running is intense. You’ll be running at a high effort for a relatively long period of time. This session is taxing both physically and mentally so be short to have an easy run on the day before and after a tempo run.
Workout example: This workout should be relatively short. If your normal run lasts 30 minutes, a tempo run might last 20 minutes. Run at your desired race day pace and try to keep that pace for the whole run. If not possible, run at 80% of your desired race pace (and increase percentage on every subsequent week).
RPE: This is a hard session – expect a 9 RPE throughout the whole session.
This session does what it says on the tin! It allows your body to recover after an intense session or race.
Workout example: The goal here is simple – recover from a hard session on the day before. Just breathe deep and run at an easy pace. Remember though, this is not an excuse to slack off on technique! Technique is still important – click here to learn more about running technique.
RPE: Recovery runs should be done at a comfortable effort – 4/5 RPE.
Aahh, the long run. The opportunity to head out to the road/trails at a comfortable pace and just enjoy what we love doing the most – running. Pay special attention to the example below because it’s easy to injure yourself if you overdo it!
Workout example: The long run is usually done once per week, on the day that your schedule allows for a large running session. Ideally, you will increase your long run distance by 10% every week. This is a good number to avoid increasing distance too much and possibly causing injury!
RPE: Running pace RPE should at around 5/6 because you will be going at an easy pace for a long time! Avoid going too fast or you’ll be forced to cut your run short.
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