Basic Progressive Running Workouts

By Rick Morris

Some non-runners believe that running is boring. As dedicated runners, we all know better. Running is one of the most fulfilling, rewarding and stimulating activities we can do. But, on the surface you can understand why those non-runners think running is a tedious activity. There is a lot of repetition in running. During many of your training runs you’re taking stride after stride over many miles at the same pace. It is a bit like being in a training rut. We love running no matter what – even if it is mile after mile at the same pace. But you can change your routine and get out of that training run by doing basic progressive training runs.

Progressive training runs are workouts in which you gradually increase your pace during your run. A progressive training does more than just add some variety to your training routine. Progressive runs are great workouts to train for negative splits, improve your race performance, build your lactate turn point, raise your mental toughness, condition your central nervous system and improve your ability to run at a quality pace when fatigued.

Just as with any other workout there are a nearly unlimited number of ways to design a progressive workout. The only requirement is to increase your pace during your run and finish with a very strong pace. Here are a few basic progressive workouts to get you started.

Classic Progressive Run

This is the classic progressive run that you can adapt to any goal distance.

  • Description: Run between 2 miles and 20 mile gradually increasing your pace from an easy pace to 5K pace.
  • Pace: Begin your workout at an easy pace. Once your feel complete warmed up and are in a good running rhythm begin to gradually increase your pace. Keep gradually speeding up throughout your workout so that your final 1/2 mile is at 5K pace.
  • Recovery: None

Lactate Turn Point Progressive Run

This progressive run concentrates on improving your lactate turn point.

  • Description: Between 2 and 12 miles with your pace increasing from an easy pace to 10K pace.
  • Pace: Run the first 1/3 of your workout at an easy pace. Speed up to tempo pace or about 20 to 30 seconds slower than 10K pace for the middle miles and finish with the final 1/3 of your run at 10K pace.
  • Recovery: None

Speed Progressive Run

You can emphasize any training system in a progressive run. This one concentrates on speed and vVO2 max.

  • Description: Between 2 and 8 miles increasing your speed from an easy pace to vVO2 max or 3K pace.
  • Pace: Run the first 1/3 of your training run at an easy pace. Then speed up to 10K pace for the middle 1/3 before increasing your speed to 5K pace for the final 1/3. Finish this speed progressive run with 200 to 400 meters at 800 meter pace.
  • Recovery: None

Strength Progressive Run

Pace isn’t the only possible variable in a progressive run. You can also increase the incline of your workout. This one calls for a hill that increases in incline, so you may need to do this strength progressive workout on your treadmill.

  • Description: Between 2 and 8 miles at a gradually increasing incline.
  • Pace/Elevation: Run at a pace that feels moderately hard. Your actual pace will vary as the incline changes. Begin your run at zero elevation and gradually increase the treadmill incline so that you reach a maximum incline of 12% to 15% by the end of your workout.
  • Recovery: None