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Critical Running Workouts

Running Workout

How many run workouts do I need to do each week?  If I am training, for an Ironman, I need to do more running right?  What good workouts are there for running?  What running workouts should I be doing?  I could seriously continue with these questions for paragraph after paragraph.  They, and many more, are questions I get ask all the time about running, run workouts, long run workouts, mile run workouts, and so on.

Rather than answer them independently each time, here’s my view about running workouts whether related to mile run workouts, long run workouts, or just good workouts in general.  If you have any questions, comments, or (because this post is about such a hotly debated thing) disagreements, please let me know below.  I love hearing what you have to think!

Running Workouts

To start, the “correct” number of running workouts each week is the number that will work in your schedule.  Sure, the more you do, the probably greater your results.  But, not always.  Training stress is the same as any other stress.  If your running workout schedule causes more stress than it should (due to logistical or scheduling issues), then you should modify it.

In general though, I recommend at least two running workouts per week.  This is a bare minimum.  I personally think three running workouts each week is perfect and totally sufficient for the vast majority of triathletes, marathoners, 5k-ers, etc.  Now, if you have elite or professional-level aspirations, you’ll probably need more.  Most of us, though, are not after such lofty goals.  The three running workouts per week paradigm enables you to hit the basic sessions each week without overloading your life with running.

Running Workouts: The Long Run

By far the most critical running workout is the Long Run workout.  Why, you may wonder?  All triathlons are endurance events.  Even the fastest people do sprint triathlons in about an hour.  That’s endurance, even at their speeds.  Given that, building your aerobic base is paramount above all other running goals.  The Long Run workout is the biggest return-on-investment running workout you can do each week to build that base.  The length of your long run will vary, depending on what races you are targeting and where you are in your annual training plan.  So don’t think you need to pound out a three hour run each week!

Run Workouts

Given the length and trauma caused by long runs, consider a few things when planning/doing them.  Try to run on packed dirt or trails.  This will minimize the pounding your legs will take and decrease your chances for developing a use-related injury.  Also, to stay aerobic, keep the pace/intensity at a “fairly comfortable” or conversational level.  Any harder than that in your long run and you are trending out of your aerobic zone and into what I call a “Tempo” running zone.  Stay aerobic the whole time.

Running Workouts: The Steady-State Run

The actual type of running workout done in the steady-state run will vary during your year.  This run might be nothing more than a shorter aerobic run but will build during the year into an Aerobic-Plus, Tempo, Tempo-Build, or (gulp) Threshold-Build.  Regardless of the intensity, this running workout is designed to keep you running at a certain intensity level (or building intensity level) for a set duration of time.

For these, you want to execute a warm-up period (about 10-20 minutes, depending on your fitness and the conditions of the day), increase the intensity into the appropriate zone, hold that for a set duration (about 35-50 minutes, in general), and then do a cool-down period (about 10-15 minutes).  This running workouts helps you learn what certain above-aerobic paces feel like and teaches you to run with discomfort.  Good times right???


Running Workouts: The Interval Run

This can also be called the Speed Run, Mile Run, Fartlek Run, or any other similar name.  It refers to anything that is done for a set time or distance and at a much higher intensity than other running workouts.  It is listed last as I view it as less important as the first two running workouts but also because I believe it is a complement to the proper running workout program rather than the focus.  Too much time spent running at high intensities will eventually lead to burn-out or an over-use injury.

You can begin with focusing on either time or distance but always at a set intensity.  The intensity is based upon your fitness at the time; not the fitness you want.  As you improve, your intensity level will remain the same (e.g., Zone 4-5a), but you will be running faster.  Going too hard, too early in a running program can easily lead to injury.

Running Workouts: Conclusion

With only these three running workouts, you are hitting the major areas of any run training program.  Can you add more?  Of course, but recognize that more is not always better.  There’s a very fine line between more being better and more being too much.  Your Coach can help you answer that question.

Thanks for reading and have fun running!

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