So that’s what they mean when they say every run should have a purpose….

Posted: November 16, 2012 in Running

Years ago, while doing my usual overabundance of research – in this case, how to be a faster runner, I read something about every run should have a purpose. I didn’t really “get it” if you know what I mean. I was new to the sport, just learning how to train and wanting to improve my racing times. But the whole concept simply eluded me.

It has taken me YEARS to “get it”, if you will. My training improved because I received help from more experienced runners and my training runs had purpose, I simply wasn’t realizing it at the time. Thankfully, the person training me did and I finally “got it” today, while I was doing my morning run. I figured since I had my ephiphany, I would share with those of you who are still trying to figure it out.

There are several types of “training runs” which will help to improve your performance and make you a better runner in general. They can be broken down into categories:

1. Long run
2. recovery run
3. tempo run
4. intervals or fartleks (essentially the same thing)

I consider these to be the core workouts of a successful training plan and will all have different distances and speeds based on the length of your upcoming race and the goals you have for that race. Each of these runs has a purpose and even if you understand the goal of each run, you may not understand the purpose – that was where I was stuck. So, I’ll try to help.

1. The long run has a single purpose – to train you for endurance, period. It is not to “recover”. It is not work on speed. It is to build endurance. Believe me when I tell you that as a novice or even intermediate runner, this is the only thing you are shooting to get out of this run. If your goal race is a 10k then you probably want to do a long run of 10 miles. Why? Because you will build your endurance beyond the point of what your race distance is, making that race that much easier. It is worth putting in the extra miles and will pay off big on race day.

2. Recovery runs have another purpose – to give you a moving recovery after a hard training run. A long run would be a hard training run that is pushing your limits. The next run should be a recovery run. Even if you take a day off after the long run (or the tempo or interval runs), you should do recovery runs. Recovery runs are done at an easy pace – conversational pace, if you will. These runs are absolutely essential in a training plan and should (as I’ve learned) always take place before you do another hard training run. That is it’s sole “purpose” – to allow your body to recover while still putting in some miles.

3. Tempo runs have a different purpose than either of the first two. This run’s purpose is to train your body to run at pace for a long period of time. These runs, by the end of training should be approaching your goal race pace and, in my opinion, should be fairly close in length to the distance you are going to be racing – to allow your body to get used to what it will experience on race day.

4. Intervals or fartleks have the purpose of training your fast twitch fiber muscles. They will also improve your cardio for race day by pushing your cardio system to it’s max. Intervals can be used in an alternating method with hill repeats (intervals on a hill). Hill repeats will not only serve the purpose of building your cardio strength but also your power which definitely comes in handy on race day.

This goes back to the original point of what I read that day. EVERY run should have a purpose. It should do something to help you to perform at your best on race day. If you aren’t planning on racing, then of course, none of this pertains to you.

If it is your first race and you simply want to finish with no specific time goals then you should focus on your long runs and building your base mileage – which will help you to finish your race in fine shape.

Currently, I am between training periods. I run 5 – 6 days a week at a comfortable pace with only one goal in mind – building my base mileage. I don’t do fartleks or hill repeats or tempos or any of that. I am simply building my base so that when I begin training again, I have a higher mileage to start from so that I can increase my training intensity for the next race.

I hope this helped to make “purpose” understandable and also helped to explain the purpose of each of the runs in an understandable way. Or maybe I just spent the last 15 minutes typing this for no apparent reason other than I felt a need to do so…. šŸ™‚

  1. RunToInspire says:

    thanks for breaking it down so simply… I’m off for an interval run!

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