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Eight Gut Busting Workouts For Runners

By Eileen Portz-Shovlin
Visit Runner's World Online
We inspire and enable people to improve their lives and the world around them


Sure they're tough. But they deliver. Oh boy do they deliver. So strap on your seatbelts, ladies and gentlemen. It's time to get faster

I'm competitive masters runner. Ever since my first race in 1979, I've always wanted to train hard so I could race better and reach my goals. I've always thrived on high-intensity workouts that produce results. This hasn't been easy, but it's been effective.

The proof: In my prime, I ran a 17:43 5-K and a 2:51 marathon. My key workouts prepared me for these races, and gave me the confidence to succeed. All of this proved extremely gratifying, I can tell you. Really fun, too.

Sure, I've slowed a bit in recent years, but I continue to place high in my age-group, and my special workouts still do the trick. Without them, I couldn't run strong and fast.

So here they are. My secret weapons. The eight toughies that I've depended on through the years. The eight toughies that will improve your running.

When you do these workouts, don't skimp on the warmups and cooldowns. Before you run fast, your legs need to be warm and loose, and your heart rate elevated. And don't even think about trying any of these workouts when you're feeling tired or experiencing nagging aches.

Final caveat: If you can't handle this kind of intensity right now, no problem. For each workout, I offer a "Plan B"--an easier version (that's where I started). Do one of these workouts just once a week at first. As you get stronger, you can add a second, but never do more than two.

The 30-30 Workout

This workout is a great way to start your season of speed training. It will boost your aerobic capacity and make your races feel easier.

  • Warm up with 15 minutes of easy running.
  • Run for 10 minutes at your tempo pace (your 5-K race pace, plus 20 to 30 seconds per mile), followed by a 2-minute recovery jog.
  • Alternate 30-second hard intervals at your mile race pace with 30-second recoveries at your easy training pace.
  • Continue this pattern until exhaustion (15 to 20 hard intervals should do it).
  • Run easy for 2 miles.

Plan B: Run the tempo-paced run, then do eight hard intervals of the 30-30.

The Step-Up

When your opponent comes up on your shoulder with 800 meters to go in a race, this workout will help you put the hammer down.

  • Jog easily for 2 miles.
  • Run 1200 meters at 5-K race pace with the last 100 at top speed, then jog for 400 meters.
  • Run 1200 meters at 5-K race pace with the last 200 all-out, then jog for 400 meters.
  • Run 1200 meters at 5-K race pace with the last 300 at mile speed, then jog for 400 meters.
  • Run 1200 meters at 5-K race pace with the last 400 at mile speed, then jog for 400 meters.
  • Cool down with 2 miles of easy running.

Plan B: Do the 1200s slower. Start them at 10-K pace and finish at 5-K pace.

The Cruisin' Session

In my prime, our Rodale (RW's parent company) women's team won the JP Morgan Chase National Corporate Championship. This is the workout that got me ready for that event. I've been using it ever since. It elevates your lactate threshold, so you can run faster longer.

  • Warm up for 15 minutes with easy jogging.
  • Run 1200 meters at 10-K pace, followed by a 60-second recovery jog.
  • Repeat this sequence (1200 fast with 60-second recoveries) four more times.
  • Cool down with 2 miles of jogging.

Plan B: Run three 1200 repeats, each with a 90-second recovery.

The Powerhouse

This workout's a killer, but it will give you staying power in a race. It helped me run negative splits (the second half faster than the first) in lots of my races.

  • Warm up with 2 miles of easy running.
  • Run 1 mile at your 5-K race pace, then jog for 5 minutes.
  • Run 1 mile slightly faster then your 5-K pace, then recover for 5 minutes.
  • Blast through a final mile slightly slower than your 1-mile speed, then recover for 5 minutes.
  • Now run 8 x 200 meters at your 5-K race pace, with a 200-meter jog between repeats.
  • Finish with 2 miles of easy running.

Plan B: Run 1 mile at 5-K race pace, then a second mile slightly faster. Skip the last mile, and finish with 4 x 200.

The Cross Country Tour

This workout simulates a 5-k race perfectly. It will give you the confidence and strength to finish strong. I usually do this workout on a well-marked trail or cross-country course.

  • Warm up easily with 2 miles of jogging.
  • Run 1200 meters slightly faster than your current 5-K race pace, with a 2-minute recovery.
  • Run 2 miles at tempo pace, followed by a 3-minute recovery.
  • Run 1200 slightly faster than your current 5-K pace, then work the last 400 meters as if you were finishing a race.
  • Finish with a 2-mile cooldown jog.

Plan B: Do everything the same, except run only 1 mile of the tempo.

The 4-Star Special

This session really boosts leg speed, and it'll help you kick effectively at the end of a race.

  • Warm up with 2 miles of jogging.
  • Run 400 meters slightly faster than 5-K race pace, followed by 400 meters of recovery.
  • Run 300 meters at 1-mile speed, followed by 300 meters of jogging.
  • Run 200 meters a little faster than 1-mile pace, followed by 200 meters of recovery.
  • Run 100 meters at top speed, followed by 100 meters of jogging.
  • Repeat this 400-300-200-100 sequence twice more (three times in all) to complete the set.
  • Jog for 5 minutes, then do a second set.
  • Cool down with 2 miles of jogging.

Plan B: Do just two sets of the 400-300-200-100 sequence.

The 4-8 Workout

This is another great workout for boosting your aerobic capacity, and it'll help you surge more effectively in your races.

  • Jog easily for 2 miles.
  • Run 400 meters at your 10-K race pace, then jog for 60 seconds.
  • Run 800 meters at 5-K race pace, followed by a 2-minute recovery.
  • Run 400 meters slightly faster than 5-K pace.
  • Without resting after the 400, run 800 meters at 5-K pace.
  • Jog easily for 4 minutes, and repeat the 400-800-400-800 sequence.
  • Cool down with 2 miles of jogging.

Plan B: Do just one sequence, and add another after
3 to 4 weeks.

The Change of Pace


This one boosts your speed and endurance. Perfect for 5- and 10K race preparation.

  • Warm up with 2 miles of jogging.
  • Run 6 x 300 meters at your mile race pace, followed by a 2-minute recovery after each one.
  • Run 4 x 1100 meters, with the first 800 at tempo pace, and the last 300 at your mile race pace, followed by a 2-minute recovery after each one.
  • Cool down with 2 miles of jogging.
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