Combo running sessions – two workouts combined into one – are effective and time efficient. They combine elements of quality runs to make the most of every minute you have. “Doubling up is great for targeting different systems in one workout – speed, strength, mental toughness and more – which makes you fitter and better prepared for race day,” says Susan Paul, programme director for Track Shack’s Fitness Club in the US. While these multitasking workouts deliver bonus rewards, they also put stress on your body. So, follow up with a day of easy running, cross-training or rest.
Learn Proper Pacing: Long Run + Goal Pace
“This run allows you to practise race pace without risking injury because the fast portion is short,” says Mike Norman, co-owner and coach of Chicago Endurance Sports. It also gets you mentally and physically accustomed to running hard on fatigued legs, a necessary skill for race day. Begin your long run at a pace about a minute slower than goal pace. Two-thirds through the run, speed up to goal pace or slightly faster, and maintain it until you’ve completed your mileage. If you’re doing more than 25km, use the same formula, but run only the last 5km to 6km at marathon goal pace.
Sharpen Speed: Kilometres + Sprints
This taxing duo trains your body to resume your goal pace after a short, fast spurt (say, if you were passing someone in a race). “When you throw in a faster-paced segment to raise the bar on your aerobic threshold, it ultimately makes goal pace seem that much easier,” says Paul. After warming up, run 1.6km (or a mile) at or up to 30 seconds faster than your marathon, half-marathon or 10km pace. Then run 400m at 5km pace or slightly faster. Repeat the sequence 2 to 5 times. Do this workout on a measured stretch of road, a track (or a combination of road and track) or a treadmill.
Improve Form And Fitness: Hills + 800s
Combining a hilly route with 800m repeats elevates your heart rate, which can improve your aerobic capacity. Plus: “On long, slow runs, we can get sloppy with our form; short, fast ones ‘clean up’ our form by teaching our bodies to find the most efficient way to run,” says Paul. On a measured route with rolling hills (or a rolling loop that ends near a track), run easy for 1.6km, then do 800m at 10km pace (newbies, run 30 to 60 seconds per 1.6km faster than easy pace). Repeat the sequence 2 to 4 times.
Push Through Fatigue: Run + Strength + Run
Sandwich a lower-body strength workout between easy runs to simulate race day muscle fatigue, Paul suggests. Run 3.2km to 4.8km (2 to 3 miles) easy on a treadmill or outdoors. Follow that with 6 to 8 reps of squats, lunges and calf raises (at the gym, add leg extensions and leg curls). Do 2 or 4 sets. Hop back on the treadmill or head out for another easy 3.2km to 9.6km.