Learn how drills can help you become a better runner.

4 Ways You Should Vary Your Running Routine

Whether you’re training for the Kaiser Permanente Half Marathon & 5K or just running for fun, chances are your primary focus is on how far and how fast you can run. But to reap the full health and fitness benefits of running, you need to vary your running routine. Here are three ways running coaches help their teams build strength and stamina.

1. Tempo Runs

A tempo run follows the three-step process of a typical run, with a warm-up period, a period of high intensity, and a cool-down. But in a tempo run, you push yourself just beyond your comfort level in the middle period. (To test, you should be able to speak a few words, but not be able to talk naturally.) Over time, gradually increase the length and pace of your high-intensity intervals with the goal of running faster at a lower level of effort. Use this 9-week training plan to build up your tempo runs.

How They Help: Tempo runs build stamina by increasing your lactate threshold, which is the point at which lactic acid begins to build up in the muscles, making them tired and sore

2. Interval Runs

Think of an interval run as shooting yourself out of a cannon – a burst of intense running at the top of your effort level, followed by a recovery period that’s longer than the speed interval. A typical interval run would be two minutes of hard effort, followed by three minutes of slow jogging, then repeat.

How They Help: Interval runs build endurance, burn fat, and help you run more economically.

3. Hill Runs

To build strength and power while increasing aerobic capacity, there’s not better way than running up and down hills. Not only does running up and down slope build calves, thighs and glutes, but it improves your running economy so you don’t get winded as fast.

How They Help: Hill running improve your respiratory function and help your body use oxygen more efficiently.

4. Reverse Splits

To do these drills, also called, negative splits, start your run slowly, staying below your ability level, then pick up the pace in the middle third of your run, saving your maximum speed for the final third. A popular form of race training, reverse splits help you finish stronger and faster.

How They Help: By building speed slowly, you preserve the glycogen stored in your muscles for as long as possible, allowing you to run longer without getting winded.

Heatherose Pitman is a licensed physical therapist whose passion is motivating people to make healthy lifestyle changes. As a Fitness Health Coach in the Health Education Department at Kaiser Permanente San Francisco, Heatherose works one on one with patients helping them meet their personal fitness goals. Her specialties include exercise physiology, strength training, and manual therapy techniques.