Progression runs correctly added into a structured training regime will increase your stamina and fitness, leaving you in a place to pick up the pace in the last part of a race when everyone else is hanging on.
A progression run can be defined as a type of run that begins with a steady structured pace and ends with a fast finish.
They can be fun, boost stamina, create lasting muscles memory by teaching the body to run faster in the later stage of a race, and when correctly integrated into a training regime will result in both psychological and physiological benefits.
The distance of your progression run and pace will vary based on your ability and training goals.
Although patience is not a common trait amongst runners, a progression run by its very structure forces you to begin slowly, benefiting you by warming-up muscles before your planned fast finish, an important aspect of minimising injury risk.
Psychological, this slow start of a progression run also teaches patience and discipline in pacing. How many runners start too hard in a race?
By starting out too hard in a race or running too fast in training, your body goes into an anaerobic state and this produces lactic acid in your muscles, meaning you fatigue sooner, losing the ability to maintain the pace for the duration of the race.
Anaerobic running occurs when your muscles do not have enough oxygen to create the energy you are demanding, whereas aerobic running is when your muscles have sufficient oxygen to produce all the energy needed to perform.
At least 70-80% of runs throughout the week should be spent in an aerobic (normal paced running) state, and properly understanding the difference between aerobic and anaerobic running is essential to getting the most from each training session. This will help you avoid training burnout, keep motivation levels high, and enable you to give your best in every training session.
Physiologically, running a series of progression runs throughout a structured training block will improve your overall stamina, which will result in a stronger and fitter runner. For example, a four-week training block could include six progression runs, with each run including 40 minutes at a steady structured pace before finishing with 10 minutes of fast running.
Over the course of your training block, the progression runs result in an extra 60 minutes of high-quality stamina training without a lengthy recovery period.
Example progression runs
These two example runs are best ran on trails or roads.
Fifths with fast finish (10 miles)
Run 2 miles at your 10K pace with 60 seconds added.
Run 2 mile at your 10K pace with 45 seconds added.
Run 2 mile at your 10k pace with 30 seconds added.
Run 2 mile at your 10k pace with 15 seconds added.
Out and back (45 minutes)
Start with an easy run in one direction and once you hit 25 minutes, turn and run the back at a pace that is 1-2 minutes faster per mile. You should end up back close to 20 minutes.