Each runner is an individual, and each workout, therefore must be individualized. When I was in college, I ran the 800 meters. Why is beyond me! Now I don’t desire to even attempt that distance at the previous speed I used to run it at. Well, when I was in college, we had two different types of 800 meter runners. One group was more distance based, while the other was more speed based. I do not have raw speed, therefore I was in the distance group. Our workouts were entirely different. But, I often saw distance based 800 meter runners post times similar to speed based 800 meter runners, and vice versa.
I have now resorted to sole distance running. My races of choice are half marathons and full marathons. For these race distances there are a variety of workouts that can be done. Mile repeats, other track workouts, fartlek runs, slow steady distance runs, hill repeats, tempo runs, etc. I have tried all of the above workouts. When I came back from foot surgery #1, hills killed me like you wouldn’t believe. I struggled so much to get up a hill. I decided that perhaps hill repeats would help me with this. With my desire to have immediate results, I did not see much improvement with this workout after several weeks. I then resorted to mile repeats. I thought this may help increase my speed. Difficulties with drilling myself to do several mile repeats resulted in a usual 3×1 mile workout with 2 minute jog recovery between each. I couldn’t get myself mentally past 3! Again, with this workout I saw little benefit after several weeks.
Well, now what do I do? I wanted to get back into my previous shape before injuries. I desired to run fast again, and if God was willing, to get even faster than I had been. With my proven benefit of mentally being capable of motivating myself to just “run”, I decided to do just that. I didn’t plan workouts. I didn’t do track workouts or hill workouts. I just “ran”. Some days I felt great. Some days I would be frustrated with some circumstance from my day. On those days I went with my body. When all was said and done with my run, my end result was a tempo run of sorts, with each mile progressively getting faster. Eventually I built these runs into my actual weeks. Some days, I’ll be honest, I did NOT feel like doing a tempo run, but most times I found enough motivation to get me through it. Fortunately for me, once I get going, I am okay. It’s getting started that is tough!
Tempo runs delivered results for me. These runs helped me to develop strength and endurance, while also working on speed. For my chosen distances, tempo runs were perfect. Mile repeats may offer some benefit, especially if I did more than 3! Unfortunately, I just struggle to motivate myself to run more than 3 fast mile repeats. It makes no sense, but I have an easier time going out for a fast progressive 6 mile run. My last mile may be as fast as one of my mile repeat times, but mentally I can handle this better.
To determine the best workout for you, you need to realize what you can handle. What can you mentally handle? What can you physically handle? Finishing workouts is very important. I was not fully finishing my mile repeat workouts. Once you find a workout or two that work for you, build them into your weekly routine. But, don’t forget to add in easy days or off days!