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What do All of Different Workouts Mean?

Updated: Apr 19, 2023

Nick Zembruski

Full Speed Run Coaching

Tallahassee FL

The running world is full of term for different things and sometime multiple terms that mean the same thing. Understanding all of them can make changing your workouts frustrating and discourage your from trying. One of the goals at Full Speed is to eliminate that confusion with one consolidated set of terms for the runs we do and clear definitions of each.

Easy Runs

Easy runs will make up the majority of your weekly milage and form the aerobic base that the rest of your training builds off of. Running at an easy pace, or a conversational pace as it’s sometimes called, should be between 50 – 70% of your max heart rate and should be a pace that you can comfortably maintain for 90+ minutes. This pace should be effort based and is not a specific pace meaning it can change session to session. A great way to judge if your pace is correct to sing your ABCs while you are running and keep your breaths the same as you would if you were resting.

Easy runs are done to strengthen the heart and get the body used to increased aerobic activity for an extended period of time.

Pace Run

Pace runs are done at your current marathon pace and should be shorter in length than an easy long run, typically no longer that 90 – 120 minutes.

Much of the physical benefits of a pace run are the same as easy runs which is why we can perform long runs at a slower pace and achieve the same training outcome. The benefit of marathon pace training sessions are mainly mental. First, it helps you get used to running at a specific pace which helps reduce the mental demands to keep that pace during your race. Second, it helps prove to you that you can run for extended periods at a faster pace than you typically train.

Threshold Run

A “Thershold run” is possibly one of the most confusing terms used in all of running because depending on who you talk to, or what you read, the term is used to mean several different things. At Full Speed, threshold run means a 20 – 35 minute workout done at your lactate threshold pace. Of course, all I’ve really done with that definition is introduce a new term that probably doesn’t mean much to you unless you are deeply entrenched in the running world.

So, what is lactate threshold pace? Well that is more scientific. It is the pace you run during an all-out effort lasting 60 minutes. For most people that will be somewhere between 10K pace and 10 Mile pace but for some world class runners its closer to half marathon pace.

The purpose of a threshold run is to increase your body’s ability to filter lactic acid out of the blood. The easiest way to think about lactic acid and your lactate threshold is a bucket with a hole in it. As you run, or do any aerobic activity, your muscles create lactic acid. Your body’s ability to handle accumulation of lactic acid is represented by the bucket and its ability to eliminate that build up is represented by the hole in the bottom of the bucket. So long as that bucket doesn’t fill up you can keep running, but once the bucket is full, the feeling of exhaustion sets in and your forced to slow down or stop running. By performing threshold runs your helping your body improve its lactate threshold by increasing the size of your bucket and the size of the hole in the bottom of it.

Long Interval Sessions

Long intervals are sessions that consist of alternating hard and recovery segments. The hard portions of the workouts are run at your VO2Max pace, and the recovery portions are run at an easy pace. Long intervals typically consist of repeats of anything between 800 – 1600 meters but should be limited to no more that 5 minutes per repetition.

The purpose of these session is to build time at your VO2Max which will help improve the bodies aerobic power. When running long intervals, it is important to not run too fast during the early intervals causing you to need to run slower during the later intervals. By falling into this trap, you won’t be able to reach your VO2Max for the later intervals decreasing the intended effect of the workout. What your left with is effectively a modified threshold session at much higher effort than is required. Remember one of the guiding principles at Full Speed is using the minimum required training effort to achieve the desired result.

Short Interval Runs

Similar to long intervals but typically only lasting for <2 minutes per interval ranging from 200 – 800 meters.

The purpose of short intervals is much the same as the long intervals with the addition of building your top end speed. It teaches your body to run more efficiently at higher speeds which over time will let you run those faster speeds for longer periods.

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