Key Running Sessions Article
by Gemma Carter


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Key running sessions for a quality workout

What every runner should know...

Fitting a quality training session into a busy working week as well as domestic obligations can be tough, sometimes we all need a bit of guidance and structure. Here are the main key running sessions that should be an integral part of your running week. They are brilliant to fit in early mornings, lunchtimes or after work whilst still giving you the most out of your workout time.

The basics

Warming up

Never start a session without a proper warm up. This should be roughly 10 minutes with some easy jogging, drills (such as butt kicks, high knees and strides) to flex the main muscle groups. Without a proper warm up you are exposing yourself to injury - which can put you out of training for weeks.

Cooling down and recovery

As well as a good warm up, make sure you don't forget the cool down. Again 10 minutes of easy jogging should suffice. Couple this with a recovery including some basic stretches and if you have time a hot/cold shower can work wonders to remove excess lactic acid and muscle aches. Try showering under hot water for 3 minutes then under cold water for 30 seconds and repeat.

1) The tempo run

Tempo runs are carried out close to your anaerobic threshold and great for improving endurance over distance, speed, anaerobic thresholds and your general running economy. It’s a great session for all running regardless of your distance however this session focuses on improving your race times for distances of 10 km up to marathons.

Your anaerobic threshold is generally defined as the pace that you could run a 10km race in. Another way of measuring it is by your ability to speak while running; here it should be slightly difficult to try talking at this pace.

Start with a 10 minute warm up, picking up the pace to your anaerobic threshold for 15 minutes then run another 15 minutes at a cool down jogging pace to recover.  

2) Hill repeats

Hill repeats work magic to get your strength up to scratch for undulating courses and longer events such as marathons building endurance and running economy.

Start with a 10 minute warm up then follow with 5 minutes running at a similar pace to your tempo run. Now you are ready to start the hills. Each hill drill should roughly be 2 minutes up and a tempo run intensity. While running up the hill, focus on a powerful leg drive and steady but slightly forward posture, attacking the hill. However remember to take slightly smaller strides into the hill to prevent muscle strain. At the top of the hill immediately jog back down but it is crucial not to over stride as this can damage your legs so slow your pace slightly and let your legs naturally fall into a pace down the hill without trying to jar your muscles.

3) Fartlek runs

A strange name, but a great session nonetheless! Fartlek derives from the Swedish for 'speed play' so there's no problem guessing the style of this session!

Start the run with the 10 minute warm up to get to a comfortable pace. Here is where you can experiment. The idea of a fartlek run is to put intervals of fast pace sprints in between slower parts - as fast as you like, as often as you like. It’s a good idea to start these sessions with a small number of sprints initially (for example 3 or 4) and build up to more in time.

Great tips to spice up the run is to try running the sprints up hills or picking two points to sprint between on your run. Additionally, try taking a partner with you and take it in turns to sprint so the runner who sprints in front acts as the marker for the next then sprint to.

Fartlek runs are great as they can be done over naturally undulating courses such as woodlands, parks, golf courses or fields. Here the control is yours to see fit how far, fast and how many intervals you want - so make the session fun!

4) Anaerobic threshold intervals

These runs aim to increase your anaerobic threshold. This is the point lactic acid that builds in your muscles is greater than the speed of its removal. By improving your threshold by making it higher you will become less fatigued therefore able to run faster for longer. This factor determines how long you can maintain speed at a distance, so a great way to improve race times generally but also improve your race finish.

Start once again with a 10 minute warm up to loosen your muscles. Then complete 2 or 3 repetitions of 5 minute intervals carried out at intensity much like a 10km race. Here you should try to run slightly above your anaerobic threshold. Between each interval give yourself a 3 minute recovery.

After you have completed your intervals finish off with a 10 minute cool down. These sessions work wonders to prepare for 5km and 10km races which require you to run a anaerobic levels over a reasonably long distance.

TIP - for runners training for longer races such as marathons, try this session but at a slower pace and elongate the interval from 5 minutes to 10 minutes therefore focusing more on endurance.

5) VO2 Max intervals

These sessions aim to improve your maximum oxygen intake. This again helps to improve your ability to tolerate high lactate levels and your endurance at speed before fatigue sets in.

These sessions are short but require a large amount of effort due to the intensity.

Start with a warm up of 10 minutes and then complete a series of 2 minute near maximum effort sprints over a flat terrain. The idea here is to really push yourself to your limit. Depending on your level and how much time is available aim for between 3 and 5 intervals with a 2 minute break in between. Once completed finish off with a 10 minute cool down or even longer if need be.

6) Stride outs 

This session can act as your recovery run or a new style session in itself. The focus of this run is on an easy pace with short bursts of speed dispersed between. The session should take place on generally flat ground but if you wish to be nicer to your feet aim for soft terrain such as grass or a dusty track.

Start as usual with 10 minute warm up then the main body of the session should include 5 or 6 quick bursts of speed lasting anything up to 30 seconds. Aim to keep a long stride and good form as with tiredness can come injury. Between each stride give yourself a recovery at a very slow near walking speed.

This session should be easy but help recovery by loosening up tight muscles. It is ideal for any distance runner from 5km up to a marathon.


These sessions are a necessary part of a runners training and aim to focus on all the main ingredients needed for races. They are great as can be fitted into anyone’s lifestyle (generally 45minutes in length). However, don't be afraid to adapt any if you feel you’ve reached your training plateau.

Article by:
Gemma Carter who is a fully trained fitness and life coach.
Visit her website at or email her at:


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