What running training should I be doing?

I often get asked “what running training should I be doing?” from all sorts of people in my sphere, friends, acquaintances, club and coached athletes and sometimes just random people. 🙂 They all want to know the magical formula to the perfect run training schedule. I asked this myself, when I was doing my Athletics Australia recreational running qualification and I was told by our instructor “it depends”.

It’s kind of a “how long is a piece of string” question! What are you training for? Are you actually training for anything? How long do you have to train for it? What are your goals for the race? What distance are you doing? What other training do you do (particularly triathletes)? How fit are you now? Do you have injury issues? It’s very hard to answer this question on the fly without getting into specifics.

However…… taking sprints out of the equation as most recreational runner and triathletes are training for run lengths equal to or greater than 5km, I tell athletes training for running events or training generally to work around the following sessions, the make up of them dependent on the answers to the questions above.

For more information about the specific pace of some of these sessions please see my article on setting zones.

  1. Long aerobic run – the length of the long run is relative to what race you are training for and your current level of fitness. It is designed to put some time in your legs and develop aerobic endurance without taking too much time to recover from it. You should be able to talk happily and comfortably at this pace and it is probably slower than you want to go. 🙂
  2. Threshold pace session – this is intervals or a block run set in your threshold pace zone. The threshold pace zone is the pace just below where your body can no longer produce enough oxygen to clear lactate from your system. Training your system at this pace makes it more efficient so that you can run faster for longer. It is approximately your 5km-10km race pace.
  3. Tempo pace session – this is intervals or a block run set in your tempo pace zone. Slower than your threshold pace, these are often known as “staying” intervals. Approximate pace is your half marathon/marathon race pace.
  4. Intervals session – these can be different types of intervals distinct from the ones I have already suggested which have different goals or aims. Examples of these are hills intervals, VO2 max intervals, fartlek intervals, sprints, repeats. Usually the goals of these sessions involve developing speed or strength.
  5. Recovery or easy Runs – these are a close relation to the long aerobic run but possibly at an easier pace, so easy that you can sing! They aren’t necessarily long either. Designed to tick the legs over with minimal impact. Most athletes don’t do these slow enough and those that do whinge and complain about how slow they have to go! 🙂


The makeup of your schedule depends on your goals and how much time you have to put into achieving those goals. You may include all of these sessions at some point or you may exclude some of these type of sessions from your schedule altogether.

For example, a triathlete getting into the nitty gritty build stage is likely to be doing a threshold, tempo and a long aerobic run each week. They are less likely to be doing sprints.

A marathon runner is likely to be doing multiple easy runs to beef up their mileage with a marathon paced & long aerobic run thrown in on a weekly or fortnightly basis.

A 5km runner is more likely to be doing the shorter harder stuff to develop speed, with a shorter long aerobic run in comparison to those doing the longer distance training.

The short answer is, there is no short answer. The only sessions I would automatically include for all runners/triathletes on my program is a threshold paced run and an aerobic long run. For everything else, as my instructor told me “it depends”.

Peta from Energise Coaching is a Triathlon Australia Development Coach and an Athletics Australia Recreational Running Coach based south east of Perth. She offers personalised training programs for triathlon/swimming/running, generic training plans and structured run sessions for all levels and abilities. Contact Peta and ask what she can do for you!