As a running coach, one of my favorite workouts for runners regardless of their level or pace is the progression run. This type of run can be done on any terrain—no need for a track.

The Workout

  • Run out for 15 minutes at an easy effort
  • Run back for 15 minutes at a comfortably hard effort

The out-and-back progression run can be done by any runner at any level of experience, since it’s run by time and effort. For beginner runners, the out and back progression run will introduce you to running faster for a sustained period of time (similar to more advanced tempo or fast finish runs). For runners of any level, the out-and-back progression run will teach you how to run negative splits (when the second half of a run is faster than the first half) and add some variety to your training.

Run out by a set amount of time—15 minutes for a beginner runner—and then run back to where you started in less time. Once you cross your original starting point you can take the original few minutes as a cool down. The key to this workout is holding back your pace for the first 15 minutes. You want to run the first 15 minutes at an effort easy enough that you can carry on a conversation.

For the back portion, you want to run at a comfortably hard effort. Comfortably hard may sound like an oxymoron, but what it means is that your pace is hard but sustainable for the duration of time. You don’t want to run so hard that you need to slow down after a few minutes. The best way to monitor your effort is to pay attention to your breathing. If you can talk in short phrases—just a few words—and your breathing is labored but not gasping for air, you are at the right effort.

Track it here with Runkeeper. Our Audio Cues will tell you when to speed up or slow down. (For iOS, ensure you have at least version 7.9 or later installed. You’ll be able to easily open this link with the next Android update, version 7.6.)

I’ll be posting a weekly running workout (that you can track in Runkeeper) each week, so check back in next Tuesday. In the meantime, Happy Running!