5 Workouts to Easily Add Variety to Your Running, Even When You Are Not Training For a Race


I actually wrote this before COVID19 turned our lives upside down. I have left the article mostly as is, but this time more than ever is a good time to try these out. As none of us have any idea when our next races will be, these will keep your fitness up without taking up too much time or taxing your system too much. And if you haven’t listened to my special report podcast epiosde on COVID19 yet, you can find it here as well as the written guide if you are not a podcast person. Both of these will help you figure out a plan.

As runners, there is a lot of emphasis on setting big, scary goals, and then working hard for the months (or years), it takes to achieve them. Sometimes though, you have reached a point where you have been fighting so hard to achieve that goal, yet never quite reaching it, that you start to lose your love of the sport. The pressure piles on, and running becomes a chore.

Time to change things up.

Or other times you have just achieved that big goal, and feel burned out. You don’t want to stop training, but you need some time to just be goal free.

Time to change things up.

Or maybe you are just enjoying running for the pure simplicity of it. Maybe you will race soon, maybe you will not, but you are just having fun out there, and you know that easy running is good, but workouts are better.

Time to change things up.

Workouts or hard sessions do not have to just be for times you are locked in to a plan. In fact, I find workouts most enjoyable when I am doing them because I want to, not to hit a pace I have been prescribed or because my training plan tells me to, but because it sounds…well, fun!

I have five workouts for you to use, all short and sharp, for those times that you want to throw something in there to keep up the intensity, without the pressure. These are also all great for sneaking speed into your training, so if you are in your off season, or coming back from an injury, these are some good choices to get back into training.

With each of these, I would recommend a 10-15 minute warm up jog, before going right into it. You do not need to stop and stretch before (although if you prefer to do so, that is fine too). After the workout is complete, do a 5-15 minute cool down and you are done. These are not meant to be long, intense sessions, but just something to raise the heart rate, and build fitness. If you want to make them longer workouts, increase the warm up and cool down time first, and then increase the workout if you still need to add more. When I was in heavy training, I would do up to 5 miles warm up and 3 miles cool down if I wanted to make these a longer day, still keeping the workout part short.

To make it nice and easy for you, I have made a cheatsheet for you with each of these together on a cheatsheet. So go ahead and read…or more likely skim (ha!) this page, then I will send you the cheatsheet (plus two bonus workouts) to print off and refer back to.

10 x 1 minute on and off

I have mentioned this one many times on other workout related posts, but this is my favorite one for anyone.

Run one minute hard (although keep in mind, you have ten of these, don’t take off sprinting!), followed by one minute VERY easy jog (as in you could certainly walk just as fast as you are jogging).

Repeat 10 times, letting your watch roll the entire time. Start on the minute and stop on the minute, without reseting or lapping it!

This one can be deceiving. Ten minutes of hard running with equal rest sounds like nothing, it sounds easy, but it is not. Especially as most of us tend to go off too fast for the first few, and if you do, you will pay the price. Start off conservative, and ideally, you should be getting faster with every rep. That being said, DO NOT look at paces! One of the most important and best things about this one, is that there is no measurement. You should be running this along a course, not back and forth along the same stretch to see if you get further each time. This one is supposed to be relaxed and pressure free! I just mean in theory you should be getting faster as you go, but you will only know that afterwards if you look at the graph on your GPS watch app (if you use that).

10 x 1 minute uphill, 30 seconds off

This has been my go to workout during pregnancy, and it works best on a treadmill, unless you have a long and sustained hill that you can keep going up for 15 minutes straight.

For this one, you will set the incline from 7.0-10.0 at the start of the workout portion, run one minute at your regular easy running pace (it will feel A LOT harder!), and then jump your feet off the belt on to the side for 30 seconds recovery. Get back on after 30 seconds, and repeat.

If you can, increase the incline in the final five reps. On days I am feeling good, I like to increase the incline by 1.0 for each rep after 5, keeping the pace the same.

I like this one because it does not require you to run any faster, but you are working hard. For me during pregnancy, running faster can. feel awkward and make my hips hurt, but this one does not have that effect.

4-6 x 3 minutes with 3-4 minutes off

Similar to the 10×1, this one can be deceiving, and you get to choose whether you want to make it more intense or less intense by the number of reps you do here.

if you are more looking for speed work/higher intensity, do the 4 reps, and expect to be really struggling after two. These should be close to all out as you have such a long recovery.

If you want to add a little more to the workout, make it 6.  This will work more on endurance, but will still be much faster than your recovery runs. However, if you feel like you are unable to get through 1 lap at the 8-9 effort level, then stop after 4. If you feel like you are able to get through 400 or more holding an 8-9 effort, you can do 1-2 more.

20-25 minutes of rolling hills

This works well if you live in a hilly area. Ideally though, this should not really be run in your neighborhood. You want a stretch where you can run uninterrupted and just focus ahead. Most areas have parks or quiet roads that are perfect for this. The idea for this is that you run hard up the hills, and then on the downhills, jog very slowly. The natural ascents and descents of the area will set you up for a workout that is great for building fitness.

Sometimes you may have a hill that only takes 10 seconds to run up, followed by a 1 minute downhill. other times you may have a 3 minute hill, with a very short recovery, before you go up again. Try to adjust your speed accordingly.

This is an ideal workout if you re coming back from an injury, especially as you are going very easy on the downhills, which are the parts that can be aggravating for recovering injuries.

If you enjoy hill workouts, this is just one of the eight hill workouts I have for you to try. Hills are a fantastic workout for every phase of training, and this will give you ideas based on what is available in your area.

Name your area fartlek

This involves just following the natural stretches of uninterrupted road you may have or distance of a loop within your local park. This is going to involve a lot of creativity on your part, but you can make it your own.

Let’s say you have a bike path that has a 800m (ish) stretch of road before a road crossing, then after that road crossing, there is another 1000m (ish) of path, before you hit another road crossing. Make those road crossings your natural stopping point. Run hard when you can, and jog when the natural layout of the land forces you too. Sometimes, like in the case of a road crossing, you might cross the road, and then jog/walk along the crossing road for a minute, before getting back on the path and running hard again.

Try to get 10-15 minutes of hard effort in, and let it be what it is.

Here is an example of what that looked like for me last week (the splits and loop in the bottom corner include the entire run). I did the workout portion as an out and back on the Centennial Greenway.


1600, 1200, 2 x 800m, 2 x 400m, 2.5-3 mins rest

This is one of my husband (and coach) Steve’s favorite workouts for 5k and 10k training, but it is a great fun workout to test yourself a little.

It is a little more complicated, so let me explain.

Although this workout can be done on the roads, this is one I strongly recommend you complete on a track. It makes the measurements nice and easy, and you can regulate yourself better.

Run 4 laps of the track (1600m), rest 2 mins

Run 3 laps of the track (1200m), rest 2 mins

Run 2 laps of the track (800m), rest 2.5-3 mins

Run 2 laps of the track (800m), rest 2.5-3 mins

Run 1 lap of the track (400m), rest 2.5-3 mins

Run 1 lap of the track (400m), rest 2.5-3 mins

Now, this is quite a lot, so you will have to be very careful not to overdo it in the first few reps. I know a few 400m runs at the end don’t sound like much, but if you have burned yourself out, they will be close to impossible.

The cheatsheet of all the workouts I have shared today will give you advice on efforts to run these at, which will make it easier to understand AND I give you two bonus workouts to try. So pop your email in below, and I will give you all five of these workouts on a printable sheet, with more detail on efforts to use.

Just cause you are not training for a life changing race, doesn’t mean you can’t have fun with some workouts. Give these a try, and let me know what you think. It feels good to get that burn in the legs, and will keep up your speed more than you think, so if you do choose to jump in a race sometime soon, you may surprise yourself.




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  • Thank you Tina for sharing these with us. I’m looking forward to using them. Even, shock horror, the tread mill one.

  • Kristen Smith
    March 26, 2020 12:14 pm

    Thank you for these ideas! For some reason, when I plug in my email address, nothing happens. I have tried a few times and haven’t been able to access the cheat sheet.

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