With UK outdoor activity currently restricted, AW results guru and coach Steve Smythe suggests some running sessions that can be done quickly and efficiently
Current UK government advice on exercising in England is to stay local, restrict outside training to once a day and to only train alone or socially distanced with one other person if they are not in your household or support bubble. (Click here to view the latest government guidance).
Here are some running sessions which can be carried out quickly and efficiently.
In theory, without clarification, one session could last three hours and anyone training for a possible marathon won’t want to fully ease back on the training, but for everyone’s safety when the virus is so prevalent and contagious it would be beneficial to keep the time out training to a minimum.
Many runners used to high volumes of training are surprised just how fit you can get on a hour’s training a day or at least maintain fitness if starting at a high level.
If you are used to longer sessions, then shortening the length might allow you to increase the intensity, but it is still important to ensure you have rest or at least easier days.
Make sure you do not have two intense sessions on successive days and limit them to three a week.
On speed sessions, we have listed standard distances but with tracks not available, it may be difficult to get precise measurements and you could instead do efforts by time. So instead of doing kilometre reps, for example, you could do a four-minute rep. That might mean a 15:00 5km runner will cover over 1200m while a 30:00 5km runner might cover 600m.
With parks being so much more crowded than pre-covid, make sure you give others plenty of space and it might be worth trying to find a smaller lesser-known park or an area of common. I live near Greenwich Park but find it far too busy to train there and the nearby Blackheath Common with its wide expanses is much easier to train on and avoid people.
Below are 25 sessions that can be completed in around a hour and we give a rough level of intensity for each one but that is dependent on how hard you choose to push it. For instance, you might choose to increase recoveries or run a mile rep session at half-marathon pace instead of 10km pace which would significantly reduce the intensity level.
If you do choose some of the more intense sessions, do note that you can do half hour to 45-minute recovery runs the following day and don’t need to necessarily run for a hour every day!
1. 400m for speed (300m for less fast athletes). Intensity: 6
15 minutes warm up, 5 minutes of strides, 8 x 400m or 90 seconds at mile (significantly quicker than 5km!) race speed with 90 seconds recoveries or a rep every 3 minutes, with 15 minutes warm-down.
For variation: run first 200m or 45sec at 5km pace, but accelerate second 400m approx 5sec quicker.
2. 400m for speed endurance (300m for less fast athletes). Intensity: 7
15min warm up, 5min stride, 12 x 400m or 75-90sec at 5km race speed with 30-45sec recoveries or a rep every 2min, 15min warm-down.
3. 800m for speed (600m for less fast athletes). Intensity: 7
15min warm up, 5min strides, 5 x 800m or 3 minutes at quicker than 5km race speed with 2min recoveries or a rep every 5min, 15min warm-down.
4. 800m for speed endurance (600m for less fast athletes). Intensity: 8
10min warm up, 5min strides, 8 x 800m or 3 minutes at 5-10km race speed with 1min recoveries or a rep every 4min, 10min warm-down.
5. 1000m for speed (800m for less fast athletes). Intensity: 7
15min warm up, 5min strides, 5 x 1000m or 4 minutes at quicker than 5km race speed with 2min recoveries or a rep every 6min, 10min warm-down.
6. 1000m for speed endurance (800m for less fast athletes). Intensity: 8
10min warm up, 5min strides, 8 x 1000m or 4 minutes at 5-10km race speed with 1min recoveries or a rep every 5min, 10min warm-down.
7. Mile for speed endurance (1000m for less fast athletes). Intensity: 9
10min warm up, 5min strides, 5 x 1600m or 6min at 5-10km race speed with 1min recoveries or a rep every 7min, 10min warm-down.
8. 2000m for speed endurance (1600m for less fast athletes). Intensity: 9
5-10min warm up, 5min strides, 4 x 2000m or 8min at 10km race speed with 2min recoveries or a rep every 10min, 5-10min warm-down.
Basic speed session
9. short recovery. Intensity: 7
15min warm up, 5min strides, 20 x 200m or 40 seconds at 5km race speed with 20sec recoveries or a rep every 1min (optional break of a few minutes after 10 reps), 15min warm-down.
10. Russian steps. Intensity: 9
15min warm up then 4 sets of 7 minutes of 15sec hard, 45sec easy, 30sec hard, 30sec easy, 45sec hard, 15sec easy, 60sec hard, 60sec easy, 45sec hard, 15sec easy, 30sec hard, 30sec easy, 15sec hard, 45sec easy, with 2min recoveries, 15min warm down.
11. Leg speed. Intensity: 5
20min warm up, 5min strides, 10 x 30 seconds effort with 2min easy jog/walk recovery (start at 10km pace and try and go a few metres more on each effort).
Multi paced running
12. Steady with bursts. Intensity: 6
Run one-hour at a steady pace (approx a minute a mile slower than half-marathon race pace) but every 10 minutes put a one-minute burst at 5km pace but go back to original pace asap at end of one minute.
13. Double acceleration. Intensity: 8
5min easy, 5min at steady, 5min at marathon pace, 5min at half-marathon pace, 5min at 10km pace, 5min at 5km pace and repeat all sections.
14. Two-paced section run. Intensity: 7
Alternating kilometre or 4min of approx a minute a mile slower than half-marathon race pace and just inside half-marathon pace.
15. Pyramid run. Intensity: 8
10min steady, 1min easy, 5min at half-marathon pace, 1min easy, 4min at 10M pace, 1min easy, 3min at 10km pace, 1min easy, 2min at 5km pace, 1min easy, 1min at mile pace, 1min easy, 1min at mile pace, 1min easy, 2min at 5km pace, 1min easy, 3min at 10km pace, 1min easy, 4min at 10M pace, 1min easy, 5min at half-marathon pace, 1min easy, 10min steady.
16. Three-paced section run. Intensity: 7
10min warm up, alternate one minute sections at 5km, half-marathon and steady (one minute a mile slower than half-marathon race pace) for 40min, 10min warm down.
17. Fast start run. Intensity: 9
15min warm-up then a kilometre or 4min at quicker than 5km pace, a kilometre or 4min quicker than 10km pace, a kilometre or 4min quicker than half-marathon pace, then ease back sufficiently to recover but pick up last 5 minutes to maximum effort.
18. Out and back run. Intensity: 7
Choose a point half an hour or so away and run there at a relaxed, steady pace and turn after 33-34min and then try and get back before the hour with a much quicker second half (take into account wind direction and terrain).
19. Short hills. Intensity: 5
20min warm up, 10 x minimum 30sec dynamic efforts with 90 secs slow jog/walk recovery, 15min warm down.
20. Long hills. Intensity: 8
15min warm up, 10 x 90sec steady efforts with 2min slow jog/walk recovery, 10min warm down. Note: if the hill is not that length, then carry on past the top of the hill to make up time.
21. Hill Circuit. Intensity: 8
15min easy. Continuous circuit (with a steeper uphill section and ideally longer easier descent) – ideally a 3min circuit to run harder up (minimum minute climb but keep a reasonable pace on the descent but monitor time on each circuit to check you are not slowing too much), maintain for 30min. 15min easy.
22. Very hard. Intensity: 9
One hour at half-marathon pace.
23. Hard. Intensity: 8
One hour at marathon pace.
24. Steady. Intensity: 7
One hour at a minute a mile slower than half-marathon race pace.
25. Recovery. Intensity: 5
One hour at 90sec a mile slower than half-marathon race pace.
Lead photo by Mark Shearman