Ask Stew: Running Workout Ideas for Timed Runs and Longer Runs

(U.S. Marine Corps/Cpl. Aidan Parker)

When you know you have different types of running tests in your military future, creating a running plan enables you to do sprints, agility drills, timed runs and longer-distance runs and rucks, depending on your job and branch of service.

Here is this week's question:

How do you balance interval training to get faster and longer runs to build mileage for when you are training for shorter or faster timed runs (PFT) and longer run or ruck distances? My run times aren't at that six-minute pace for three miles. Closer to seven-plus. Do you have any run workout ideas to help build that aerobic base and speed to get down to that six-minute pace? Thank you, Sam.

Sam, you can do these multiple ways, and it depends on how much time you have to train. Here are a few options that may help you, regardless of the time you have to prepare, as well as a few longer-term options:

Daily: You could mix all of the paces into a particular workout of the day. For instance, a workout we like to do on leg day during the calisthenics and cardio cycle works well for diversifying your running for specific goals. Adjust miles in this workout to fit your abilities. We call this "hill day," and it works like this:

Start with an easy one-mile jog for a warmup, followed by a light leg stretches.

Workout Section 1: Run 1.5 miles fast at your goal-timed run pace. For instance, start off at the set pace of a six-minute mile and note how long you can hold it. This workout assessment is key to setting up the following workouts as they depend on your ability to hold the goal pace for a set distance.

To continue, we'll say you can hold the pace for three-quarters of a mile before you fall off your pace.

Workout Section 2: At this point, we have arrived at the hill, 2.5 miles away from where we started. The hill is a 400-meter steady climb and takes the fastest person 1:30-1:40 to get to the top. Repeat running up and walking down the hill 4-6 times. The rest is the walk down the hill.

Workout Section 3: After another mile to 1.5 miles of uphill fast runs, it is time to get back to the starting point (2.5 miles away). We do this by goal pace intervals mixed with squats and lunges to work your cardio base, pacing speed and muscle stamina (calisthenics).

For instance:

Repeat five times.

  • Run: 800 meters at goal mile pace
  • Squats: 20
  • Lunges: 10 per leg

You could also do more sets of 400 meters (up to 10 sets), with half the reps of squats and lunges, or do mile repeats at your goal pace with more reps of squats and lunges to equal the same distances and reps of calisthenics, no matter the intervals you select.

Cooldown: An easy jog, bike or swim, mixed with stretching to cool down from the workout for 15-20 minutes, is recommended.

You can do this up to three times a week if you like this workout and can handle the volume. On the days in between, however, I would do more nonimpact, cardio-based training. This way, you can still work the heart and lungs without the strain on your legs, which may be fairly new to running this much.

You can also create a weekly cycle of running to mix all of the above methods on separate days and repeat the cycle for weeks or months with a steady 10%-15% progression of speed and total miles.

For instance:

Monday -- Do goal-paced runs of 400, 800 and 1,600 meters, mixed with upper- or lower-body calisthenics. You can also just run separately from the calisthenics and weight training workouts if you prefer to focus solely on running.

Tuesday -- Try a longer bit of aerobic-based cardio activity that has you running a steady pace for 4-5 miles, followed by biking, swimming or another nonimpact cardio activity for an additional 20-30 minutes. This way, you can get an hour's worth of cardio with 30 minutes' worth of impact if you need to reduce miles when starting a running program to avoid overuse injuries.

Wednesday -- Take a day off from running, but add in mobility and flexibility training with nonimpact cardio as a good impact-free day of training.

Thursday -- Repeat Monday.

Friday -- Repeat Tuesday or try the "hill day" workout above.

Saturday -- Try running at a steady pace on different grounds like dirt trails, obstacle courses or soft sand beaches (if you have them available) for a bit of variety. You can also do another mobility day if you are feeling the miles by the end of the week.

Enjoy! There are many ways to train when you run, and these are just some of my personal favorites.

Stew Smith is a former Navy SEAL and fitness author certified as a Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) with the National Strength and Conditioning Association. Visit his Fitness eBook store if you're looking to start a workout program to create a healthy lifestyle. Send your fitness questions to

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