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Training Pace Guide

Advice on how fast to run when training.

 

Benefits of a varied weekly training schedule

One of the best ways to improve your overall running performance is to combine several different types of running into a structured weekly schedule. By doing this you will improve different aspects of your fitness, provide greater opportunity for recovery between training sessions and reduce the risk of injury. In addition, not only will it help to better condition your body for running, it is likely to provide added interest and variety to help keep you motivated.

 

What types of running should I include in my weekly training?

One of the most common ways to categorise running is by how fast you run. However, "fast" means different things to different runners, so in general terms it is best explained by how hard you run, i.e. the level of effort or the intensity of the training session.

The following table describes a number of common types of running and the benefits of each. It also sets out our recommended guidelines on effort levels and distance for medium distance runners (running distances between 3 miles to 10 miles) who are aiming to improve performance.

NOTE: You should only follow these guidelines if you are already reasonably fit e.g. you can run 5km without stopping.
If you are not quite at this level, take a look at our Beginners Guide to Running article, which also contains a Beginners 5K Training Plan.

  RECOMMENDED LEVELS * DESCRIPTION BENEFITS
  EFFORT LEVEL % OF WEEKLY
DISTANCE
EASY 60% - 70% typically around 57% This should be a comfortable conversational pace and should make up the bulk of your weekly running. It will include warming-up and cooling-down before and after harder running sessions and races, which you can log in your Good Run Guide Log Book as Multi-Part runs.
  • Builds aerobic fitness
  • Weight loss (best zone for burning fat)
  • Builds basic level of fitness for beginners
  • Recovery from hard sessions or over-training
LONG RUN 60% - 70%

typically around 25% but can be up to the length of any imminent races and a maximum of 2½ hours

We recommend that you aim to build in one long run per week to be run at an Easy pace. If you are training for a medium distance race, this should be geared to the length of the race and how far off it is; you should be able to comfortably run the race distance as your long run as you get near to the date of the race.

  • Conditions body for long distances and endurance
STEADY 70% - 80% 0% We recommend Easy rather than Steady Runs as part of a training schedule aimed at performance improvement. However, if you would like to include Steady Runs in your tarining, we suggest that you substitute them for some of your Easy runs.
  • Improves aerobic fitness
  • Develops healthy heart
  • Weight management
TEMPO 80% - 90% typically around 10% but not more than 60 minutes

This should feel like 'comfortably hard' running. A typical Tempo run would be a non-stop run at this level of effort for 20-60 minutes (deending on the overall distance you run each week). Or, you can split it down into a few shorter sessions of approximately 10-15 minutes each, with a short recovery jog between each one.

  • Increases overall performance level while avoiding overtraining
  • Conditions body for increased intensity during middle distance races

INTRVALS / FARTLEK

90% - 100% (bursts)

(slow recovery)

typically around 8% but not more than 30 minutes This is hard running at near maximum effort and should only be undertaken for short periods at a time. Generally, Interval sessions should be around 2-5 minutes bursts each with equal or less time of slow recovery jogs in between. Fartleks are sessions with intermittent hard and easy running, with varied length bursts and slightly shorter recovery times in between than with Interval running.
  • Improves aerobic capacity by optimising your VO2 max (maximal oxygen consumption)
  • Enhances performance in middle distance races
HILL SESSIONS 90% - 100% (uphill)

60% - 70% (downhill)

 

This is a workout usually based on running hard uphill and then jogging slowly back down, which is repeated a number of times. If you are training for a hilly race, it would be beneficial to include Hill Sessions in your weekly schedule.

  • Improves aerobic capacity by optimising your VO2 max (maximal oxygen consumption)
  • Enhances performance in middle distance races
  • Develops strength and confidence to cope with hills

* These training levels are recommended by Good Run Guide for medium distance runners and are general guidelines only.

 

How fast should I run at different Effort Levels?

If you are relatively new to running it is not always easy to translate the target level of effort into how fast you should run.

Here are three techniques you can use:

  1. Learn to judge how easy it feels - You should be able to hold a conversation while running at an Easy pace and should be able to run at the same speed for at least 20 minutes at a Tempo pace. If you are finding it very hard to do this or you are finding it very easy, adjust your speed as necessary, using a stopwatch to pace yourself if it helps. Over time you will get used to judging how fast you are running, even without the aid of a stopwatch.

  2. Use a Heart Rate Monitor - A Heart Rate Monitor is certainly not essential for the everyday runner but it can give you accurate feedback on how hard you are running and help you to train more consistently at the target level of effort based on your own Heart Rate Zones. For more advice on training with a Heart Rate Monitor read our article on Heart Rate Training.

  3. Use our Training Pace Calculator (see below)- This will suggest a target pace and weekly distance for each type of run based on a recent race result and the total distance you run each week.

 

How much running should I do each week?

It is possible to run as little as 10 miles per week and still achieve a good level of fitness and participate in shorter distance races.

This is very much dependent on your personal goals, your current level of fitness, the time you have available and most importantly, how much your body can cope with; there is no set recommendation that suits everyone.

It is possible to run as little as 10 miles per week and still achieve a good level of fitness and participate in shorter distance races.  However, if you want to train for medium distance races and achieve your best possible performance for the time spent training, a good goal is  to run between 15 and 40 miles a week (depending upon time constaints, the speed you run,  and how well your body copes with training). Always monitor your own health and tiredness levels each week so that you don’t overtrain.  Also, cross-training such as cycling, swimming and strength training, can have a beneficial effect, so it is worthwhile considering adding this to your weekly schedule if possible.

If you want to increase the distance you run each week, we recommend that you only increase it by a maximum of 1 mile for each run that you do per week, up to a maximum increase of 10 miles. So, for example, someone doing 5 runs a week covering a total of 20 miles could increase their distance the following week to a maximum of 25 miles. You should then try to maintain this distance for at least 3 weeks in order to reap the full benefit before increasing it again.

With regard to frequency, we would recommend that you try to run at least 3 times a week.

 

Training Pace Calculator

If you are a medium distance runner and your goal is to improve your running performance, you can calculate a recommended weekly training schedule using our Training Pace Calculator. Enter a time from a recent race and the distance you run each week and we will suggest a training pace and weekly distance for each type of run. If you haven't run a race recently then we recommend that you map out a 5K flat route using our Route Measurer and run this as a time trial to estimate your current race pace.

TRAINING PACE CALCULATOR
Recent Race Result
(5K - half-marathon)
  in hours  mins  secs
   
Distance you run per week
(10 - 60 miles)
  RECOMMENDED LEVELS *
  TARGET PACE WEEKLY
DISTANCE
WEEKLY
TIME
EASY      
LONG RUN      
TEMPO  

 
   

INTERVALS / FARTLEK

 
 

 
 
   
 
HILL SESSIONS  

 
 
  TOTALS    
 
NOTES
  1. Paces are based on running on a flat, even surfaces (see Tips below for more advice on this)
  2. Spread out your training sessions across the week so that you don't do two consecutive hard sessions.
  3. Easy runs can be separate runs or warm-ups/cool-downs before/after harders runs.
  4. If you run a race during the week, count this in place of your Tempo run.
  5. Always warm up and cool down for approx. 10 mins. before and after Tempo, Hill and Interval sessions.
  6. The Long run can be increased if you are training for a longer race, but limit the time to under 2½ hours.
* These training levels are recommended by Good Run Guide for medium distance runners and are general guidelines only. Please use this together with the other information in this article.

 

General Training Tips

  • Listen to your body - Always train according to how your body feels. If you feel unusually tired one week, it is best to cut back, perhaps by eliminating one of the harder sessions. Most importatnly, do not ignore any niggles; monitor them carefully to make sure that they don't turn into injuries.

  • Adjust your training pace for strong headwind or difficult terrain - Bear mind that the paces recommended by our Training Calculator are based on running on flat, even surfaces, without a headwind. If this is not the case, you should aim for a slower pace so that you are still running at your target level of effort. If possible, try the pace out on a flat route in good conditions to get used to the level of effort required. This will help you to judge the right level of effort when conditions are more difficult.

  • Vary your training over time with new goals - Don't continue with the same weekly schedule for months on end or you could get bored, disillusioned or even injured. It's a good idea to base your training around a specific goal or race; choose a goal, train towards the goal, then allow some recovery time (perhaps just running at an Easy pace for a few weeks or alternative exercise), and then set a new goal.

  • Review and recalculate - As your performance or weekly distance changes, recalculate your target paces so that you are training at a level that reflects your current ability.

  • Train on terrain to match the races you plan to do - If you are training for a cross-country or multi-terrain race, try to train when you can run on reasonably similar surfaces and terrain. This is particularly beneficial as the race date approaches. You can search for ideas for off-road routes in the Running Routes section of the site.

  • Warm-up and cool-down - Always remember to warm-up and stretch and cool-down and stretch before and after any exercise.

 

Example Weekly Training Schedule

The following is an example of a weekly training schedule for someone who runs 25 miles a week.

MONDAY TUESDAY WEDNESDAY THURSDAY FRIDAY SATURDAY SUNDAY
5 miles Easy

1 mile Easy
(warm-up)

2 miles Intervals

1 mile Easy
(cool-down)

Rest

1 mile Easy
(warm-up)

2.5 miles Tempo

1 mile Easy
(cool-down)

5 miles Easy

Rest

6.5 miles Easy
(Long Run)

 

Training for a medium distance race

The above advice provides a guide to a developing a regular weekly training schedule but if you are planning a race, you should consider developing a longer-term schedule that builds your training over time with the race date as a goal. The following table provides some general advice on developing a longer-term training schedule for a medium distance race (3 to 10 miles). You should use this in combination with the training pace guidelines above and should recalculate your target paces as your training progress.

8 - 12 WEEKS
1st Quarter * 2nd Quarter 3rd Quarter 4th Quarter
  Final Week       Final Week
  • Build up Easy distance

  • Very little hard running
  • Introduce a Long run
  • Include Tempo and Interval runs

  • Give priority to Tempo runs over Intervals if you have to miss one
  • Give priority to Intervals over Tempo runs if you have to miss one
  • Try to recreate race conditions (time Tempo run to target race pace)

  • Cut back on Long run and hard runs if feeling tired
  • Only do one hard run this week around 3-4 days before the race

* The 1st Quarter should be treated as the Foundation Stage and may not be required if you are already including Long runs and Speedwork sessions in your weekly training.

 

 

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