Progression runs are not only a great way to get a significant aerobic stimulus, they are also an indicator of your ability to run by feel. Let me explain.
Because a progression run has you running progressively faster throughout the run, you have to gauge your effort early in the workout. While you don’t want to run so slow to start this workout that you’re not being challenged, there is a tendency to run a bit too fast on the first segment of the progression run. You’ll have to speed up at three points in this run, so you have to make sure that in the first section you are being challenged, but running conservatively. If you are skilled at running by feel, this won’t be a problem, but if you’re still honing that skill then knowing what rhythm you can run and still be able to speed up three times will pose a challenge.
I really like a 50-minute progression run as the bread and butter version of this run. Do 20 minutes steady, 15 minutes a bit faster, 10 minutes a bit faster, 5 minutes fast but controlled. If you do a 10-minute warm-up and a 10-minute cool-down then you have 70 minutes of running. If you do LMLS before the run and SAM after the run then you’ll work out for 90 minutes, start to finish. This is a realistic amount of time to ask of even the busiest adult runner, let alone a high school or collegiate athlete training in the off-season.
You can start with a 40-minute progression run: 15 minutes steady, 10 minutes faster, 10 minutes faster, 5 minutes fast but controlled. You can also extend this workout and do a 60-minute progression, where you do 30 minutes steady, 15 minutes faster, 10 minutes faster, 5 minutes fast but controlled. That’s a long day, with 80 minutes of running between the progression run and 10 minutes for the warm-up and cool-down. Add 20-25 minutes of LMLS and SAM and now you’re close to 105 minutes for the day. Very reasonable for marathon training, yet that may or may not fit the training you need to do for your training goals. When in doubt with this workout, do the shorter versions and do it at a higher intensity.
Key Point: At the end of this workout you must be able to say, “I could have run another 5 minutes at the final pace and felt decent doing so. And I could have run another 10 minutes at the final pace if it were a race effort.” Said another way, you’re never going to end this workout running all out. If you do that then you’re not executing this workout correctly.
As long as you start the progression run conservatively, you should be able to speed up three times. The workout is a lot of fun when you execute it properly and it’s great mental practice for race day, when you’ll want to be pushing in the late stages of the race.
As always, if you have questions, feel free to email me – jay @ coachjayjohnson.com