Are You Doing These 3 Types of Running Workouts?

Last week, my mom and I had a really good 8 mile run. It was our last long run before the Long Branch Half Marathon (which is this weekend). Since we missed a few days due to traveling back from Paraguay (didn’t run Tuesday or Wednesday), I wanted to make it a workout as well.

My inital plan was to do a 2 mile warm up, 2-3 miles at tempo pace (anywhere from 9:30-9:50), then 3ish miles at normal pace to cool down. Instead, I decided to do a 2 mile warm up, 2×2 miles at tempo pace (9:30-9:45), 2 mile cooldown. We had a 5 minute recovery period in between.


A photo posted by pattyrivas13 (@pattyrivas13) on

This workout was tough, but I loved it! I could keep that pace for about 3/4 reps…here are our splits: 9:28, 9:33, 9:41, 10:30 (yikes). I really fell off on that last one. Clearly not ready to run those paces for any sort of long distance race, but that is why I want to keep doing this workout.

For me, my weakness isn’t speed. I love track workouts and even with faster paces I have no problem completing it. My issue is endurance at a certain speed. That’s why I have not been able to improve my half marathon times. I just can’t hold a faster than comfortable pace and I end up slowing down and feeling defeated. I know I need to “get comfortable with being uncomfortable” and I know I need to do more tempo runs.

Anyway, I didn’t know if you’d categorize this as a tempo workout or an interval workout…which is what led me to this post. I wanted to talk about different types of running workouts and how they can help you improve. 

3 Running Workouts You Should Be Doing

Tempo Run

I think I’d say my workout was a tempo run. It was sandwiched between easy miles, and was run at (hopeful) half marathon pace. A tempo run, according to RoadKill Racing, is:

 A 20-40 run done at a pace you could sustain for an hour long race.  For slower runners this may be close to your 10k pace for faster runners this would fall between your 15k and half marathon pace. For this type of tempo run, do a few miles at easy pace then 20-40 minutes at tempo pace followed by a few miles at easy pace.

Tempo runs are sometimes also referred to as threshold pace runs. Dr. Jack Daniels, Olympian and renowned running coach, is a big proponent of them as well. If you haven’t read his book, Daniels’ Running Formula, you should! He outlines every type of workout, why it is beneficial, goes into the science behind everything, and gives you training plans. It is REALLY sciency, so if you like data you will like his book. 

Back to tempo runs…Jack Daniels is all about tempo/threshold pace runs. 

By running tempo runs and cruise intervals at your threshold pace, you can raise your lactate threshold. This will enable you to race faster and farther before fatigue sets in.

Here’s more info on the benefits, according to him, as well as a handy pace chart.

McMillan running talks about tempo runs as well, specifically Tempo Intervals. This is what I did in my run.

Tempo Intervals are like fast tempo runs broken into two to four repeats with relatively short recovery jogs. The appropriate race paces for tempo intervals are 0:30:00 and 1:00:00 race pace and they should last between eight and fifteen minutes. In this case, you jog two to five minutes between each repeat then start the next one.

A tempo interval workout that I’ve had particular success with is two (or three) times two miles at 0:40:00 race pace effort with three minute recovery jogs between repeats. Following a thorough warm-up, these provide a great training stimulus to prepare you for an upcoming 5K or 10K race. The effort required, the pace judgement and the mental discomfort all help immensely when race time comes. Do this workout seven to 14 days before your next 10K.

Both Jack Daniels and McMillan Running emphasize this: Don’t run your workouts too fast. It is tempting to sometimes treat workouts as time trials, but it won’t benefit you. Stick to your paces in your workouts and you’ll recover faster which will lead to better times. Daniels says that go by feel instead…if a workout felt tough the first week, but in the third week it feels much easier (and you’re running the same paces, not faster), then that is how you know you are improving.

Interval Workouts

This is your typical speed/track workout. My favorite day of the week is the day I get to do a track workout! I love pushing myself in these workouts, and this winter I was doing a lot of 400 repeat workouts which are my favorite.

According to RoadKill Racing,

Interval pace is somewhere between your 3k and 5k race pace.  Distance of each interval can vary from 200m-2000m but Jack Daniels pegs the ideal duration at 5 minutes, this being optimal for raising your VO2 Max.

Interval workouts are done with rest that lasts between 50% to 100% the duration of the interval.

Coach Marc would regularly prescribe track workouts for me, and in my Philly Half Marathon build up I was doing all sorts of repeats: 400s, 800s, milers, etc. For me, 800′s are the most challenging…2 laps at around 5K pace is tough! I don’t mind mile repeats because I usually do those a bit slower (more like 10K – half marathon pace).

Check out my post on track workout ideas if you want to start doing more interval training.


I haven’t really done much of repitition training, probably because most of the time I’m training for a longer race. Repetition training helps improve your leg turnover, and you’ll be running at faster than 5K pace.

According to Jack Daniels,

R pace is very fast training aimed to improve speed and running economy. The training is performed as short interval training, with typically 200 m, 300 m, or 400 m work outs, with full recovery intervals in between. No more than 5% of the weekly miles should be R pace.

And RoadKill Racing (pretty informative web page!),

Repetitions should play an important role in everyone’s training regardless of race distance. Repetition paced intervals are done at your mile race pace +/- 5 seconds.  200 meter to 400m reps are most common but they can be done up to 800 meters..Repetitions are normally done with full rest either walking or jogging. The purpose of repetition running is to improve running economy and speed.

I can remember one time where I did 200 meter repeats. I do like sprinting (or attempting to), because I feel fast…I really should throw more of this into my training. Usually my “sprints” are just striders at the end of my runs. I am not fast at all…definitely never even attempted to do shorter distances in Track & Field in high school!

I’m really excited to continue training hard after this half marathon on Sunday. My mom’s friend is running it, which is why we are also running it with her. If it were up to me, I probably wouldn’t since I know I’m not fully ready, but it will be a fun run AND it is where we ran our first half marathon!

Running goals after this half marathon are:

  • Work up to 25-30 miles per week as a base
  • Peak around 40-50 miles per week once I start marathon training
  • Fall half marathon PR
  • Fall marathon PR

But as always…we’ll see what happens. I wanted a half marathon PR last fall and that did not work out as planned. But that’s the thing with running – anything can happen, and you just have to dive back into training and keep going after your goals!

What is your favorite type of running workout?

Any tips for how I can “race” a half marathon? I always just end up running halfs/fulls at a comfortable pace because I’m scared of suffering in the later miles…I know I need to work on my mental strength!


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  1. I’m going to buy that book rightnow! I love sciency books about running! The Sports Gene is one of my favourite books.
    I actually really like tempo runs, I like being able to push myself for a longer distance.
    I like the build approach to racing halfs – start out slightly slower and then build to a negative split. You can also practice that with progression runs subbed for a few tempo training runs.
    Ange @ Cowgirl Runs recently posted…Running Paris – Paris Marathon Recap by a First Time MarathonerMy Profile

  2. I’ve always wondered what these terms meant!! Thanks for sharing – super insightful!
    Sam @ PancakeWarriors recently posted…Strawberry BrowniesMy Profile

  3. I hate tempo runs, like just hate them! So I admit they’re on my schedule every week but more often than not I end up just running steady which I know isn’t going to help me get faster.
    Jen @ Pretty Little Grub recently posted…Snacking the Right Way & Balsamic Bruschetta RecipeMy Profile

  4. I love that you are running a half with your mom! I hope my daughter will run with me someday. I don’t normally do any of these which probably explains a lot!
    Deborah @ Confessions of a Mother Runner recently posted…Are you Fearless? 261 With Skirt SportsMy Profile

  5. Larisa (0to26point2) says:

    I have a love/hate relationship with tempo runs. LOL! I find that in my long training runs if I do fartlek training in that run it helps me get used to running faster on tired legs.

  6. I love doing intervals it helps break up the monotony of a longer run.
    Ivanna recently posted…How To Cope With Social AnxietyMy Profile

  7. i’m definitely not a fan of tempo runs but do incorporate hills and speed sessions into my training. For your race I’d say start conservatively so the latter half you can really pick up the pace! you’d be surprised what you can do if you test yourself a bit.
    Mar @ Mar on the Run recently posted…North Face Endurance Challenge 10K Race Recap!My Profile

  8. What a great explanation of these workouts!
    Kathryn @ Dancing to Running recently posted…My Goals for This Weekend’s RacesMy Profile

  9. I’ve never raced a half marathon either. I’m contemplating training for speed this year, rather than training just to finish. That would mean I need to incorporate speed workouts…
    Emily @MyHealthyishLife recently posted…If I Can Make It There…My Profile

  10. yey! I do all of these. You make me feel so good about myself. Doing all these types of runs have improved my overall time for longer races, so that faster times start to feel more like “comfortable” paces for long distances. I still have to push myself to maintain pace, but it’s not an all out, burn out effort.
    Nicole @ Fitful Focus recently posted…MORE/FITNESS/SHAPE Women’s Half-Marathon RecapMy Profile

  11. I haven’t been doing any speed workouts lately because I’ve been all about safely building mileage. After my marathons, though, I want to do some speedwork because I want to PR at Marine Corps Marathon in the fall.

    Great info!
    MCM Mama Runs recently posted…Feetures Socks review and giveaway!My Profile

  12. I like to do intervals because they go so fast!
    Kate @KateMovingForward recently posted…Weight Watchers Week 11My Profile

  13. I use both interval and tempo runs but not the repetitions for the same reason you mentioned. Great info Patty.
    jill conyers recently posted…5 Ways To Recharge Your Body and MindMy Profile

  14. You run with your Mom. That is awesome and she hangs right there with you. I love it!
    GinaB @ Mirror Watching recently posted…Fit Social At Solstice AtlantaMy Profile

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