How to Develop an Effective Running Training Program

Assuming you have addressed the important basic aspects of running, as outlined in my previous article ‘4 Things to Consider Before Starting a you should now be ready to start a proper running training program.

A good long term training program will incorporate a number of phases. Each phase is designed to improve your physiology in a specific way and prepare you for the next phase of training. Usually a phase will run in one or more 4 week blocks.

A good duration for the most effective training program is about 20 weeks, this will enable you to build up and be 100 percent prepared for a specific race. It helps to use smaller, less important races along the way to keep you motivated and assess your performance level and improvements.


The phases that are usually included in the program are base, build, preparation, taper and recovery.

Base phase – this is usually the off or pre-season phase. The goal of this phase is to condition the muscles for running and build a good base of aerobic fitness, before beginning more arduous speed training.
Build phase – this phase is designed to build on the aerobic fitness gained in the base phase. This is the meat of the program and includes more high intensity work developing a higher lactate threshold.
Preparation phase – this phase comes prior to the race taper and aims to more specifically develop speed, utilizing the aerobic base and lactate tolerance developed in the previous phases. The volume drops somewhat in this phase.
Taper – this phase comes in the 1-2 weeks leading up to a race, depending on the length of the race. It involves a further drop in volume with some short sharp speed sessions and plenty of recovery immediately prior to race-day.
Recovery – this is a short phase again depending on the length of the race completed, with lower intensity and building volume back up prior to beginning the next phase. It is important to recover from a race, too much too soon will likely result in injury due to fatigued muscles.

Workout Types

The following types of workouts are the building blocks to any successful running training program:

Long Run – a slower aerobic run, essential to building cardiovascular endurance and improving blood flow to muscles
Tempo Runs – running at higher tempo (around 10k race pace) for 5-8km helps build muscular endurance
Hill runs – doing hill repeats at an aerobic pace with ample recovery is key to building specific muscular strength. Varying the hill grade and distance is useful.
Fartlek Runs – these are additional runs that can be thrown in. The word Fartlek comes from Swedish and means ‘speed play’. These runs can be about an hour and involve random speed intervals of 15-30 seconds to a few minutes at varying pace, with ample recovery. They are meant to be enjoyable sessions.
Interval sessions – these sessions are designed to develop V02 max and running form and involve running of various distances from 300m to 2km for distance events (5km or more)
Easy runs – an important recovery tool for experienced runners, these should be of 30-45min duration and just at a relaxed and comfortable pace, to circulate blood through the muscles and assist in muscle recovery.