Top Ten Types of Running Workouts

By Rick Morris

Distance training can be really simple. Just go out and run. While that simplified approach will improve your fitness and can lots of fun, mixing things up with a variety of workouts is probably a more efficient way to reach your peak as a distance runner. There are a lot of different types of workouts you could do. Here is our list of the top ten types of distance running workouts.

Easy Endurance Runs

Of all the types of running workouts, easy endurance runs are the most popular. This is the staple training run of many distance runners.  Just head out the door and run at an easy endurance pace. This one will improve your fitness, up to a point, and is great for stress relief and relaxation.

Easy Recovery Runs

Aren’t all easy runs the same? Aren’t easy endurance runs and easy recovery runs identical workouts? They are closely related but not quite the same. The goal of easy recovery runs is to recuperate from hard training sessions. When you do a recovery run you really need to focus on maintaining a very easy pace and limiting your distance. A pure easy endurance run can be performed at a variety of easier paces and for nearly any distance.

Long Runs

Here is another of the most popular types of running workouts. A distance runner just can’t get by without their weekly or bi-weekly long run. Performing long runs will improve or maintain your endurance as well as your mental and central nervous system toughness.

Goal Pace Runs

Goal pace running is one of the most critical workouts for a competitive distance runner. Goal pace running improves your efficiency at your goal race pace. Goal pace runs can be standalone workouts or can be combined with other types of training runs.

Interval Training

Distance runners also have a need for speed. One of the best ways to improve your running speed is with high intensity interval training. While most interval training is done on a 400 meter track you can perform these important workouts on the road or trail.

Compound Sets

Some types of running workouts are not well known. A very effective but less common type of interval training is compound setting. Compound sets are various combinations of speeds and distances that are performed without recovery. Recovery is taken between the compound sets. Compound sets are great at mimicking race conditions and improving both positive and negative split ability. Compound sets are also a good way to improve your lactate threshold.

Progressive Runs

Progressive workouts are a highly effective and enjoyable type of training run. Progressive runs allow your body to warm into your workout by beginning at an easy pace. You then progressively increase your pace throughout your workout. Progressive training runs improve your lactate turn point, negative split ability and race performance.

Tempo Runs

One of the most common and widely performed distance running workouts are tempo training runs. These moderate pace and distance workouts improve your stamina or your ability to hold a quality pace for long distances. Tempo pace ranges from around marathon pace to just slower than 10K pace. Distance can vary from 2 miles or 15 minutes up to 12 miles or 90 minutes.

Hill Training

In my opinion, the single most valuable high intensity distance running workout you can do is hill training. Hill running is difficult but brutally effective. Hill training will improve your VO2 max, lactate threshold, running economy, running strength and power. Most runners think uphill when doing hill training, but don’t forget to include some downhill training. Downhill running is great for improving your running form and efficiency.


Without a doubt, one of the most enjoyable workouts for most distance runners is a fartlek training session. A fartlek training run is a mostly unstructured workout in which you vary your pace at will. You just go out and have fun with your training run. While a fartlek is fun and unstructured, it’s still an effective training run because the frequent change of pace improves a number of different running systems and components as well as increasing your race efficiency.