During my 5-year career as a runner at Villanova University, I must have completed over 500 interval sessions. Most have since left my memory, but there is one workout that has been burned into my mind forever – threshold reps.
Once a week during the cross-country season, We jogged to a local high school and ran strenuous 1km grass reps. The pace was determined from a VO2 Max test, but was usually somewhere between our 8k and 10k pace.
It wasn’t the pace that made it such a strenuous workout, but the number of repetitions with short jogging reps of 45 to 60 seconds that challenged even the strongest of the group. Every year at the start of the season, incoming newbies got cocky in the first few iterations. But like clockwork, the seasoned runners took over by the sixth or seventh rep when the newbies started to burn out.
The biggest challenge is not in the first three quarters of the workout, but in the last quarter, when severe leg syndrome begins to establish itself. And that’s how you get stronger.
Best running workout: threshold reps
I have trained Hundreds of runners, and I prescribe this workout for one mile to 100 mile runners.
At its core, threshold repetitions are fantastic speed endurance training for half marathon runners to marathon runners. But those who run shorter or longer will benefit from adding this to their exercise regimen.
Many runners confuse this workout with Yasso 800s. However, there are two main differences: the rest time is shorter in this session and the pace is a little slower. These two minor differences change the training effect.
To start with, you need to calculate your repetition distance. This depends on your ability to run. The goal is for the interval to be between 3 and 3.5 minutes.
For most runners this is 800 m, but it can be 600 or 1,000 m. You can enter a current race time in this calculator and select the interval between 3 and 3.5 minutes.
I recommend starting with a 90-second break and, if that feels good, reducing it to 60 seconds. Your goal here is not to run faster, but to add more and more repetitions. This is very important. Ideally, you will repeat this workout two to three times a month and try to add more reps continuously.
- Warm up 1-2 miles, starting at an easy pace and then gradually increasing to a moderately tough pace
- Perform 8-12 800m reps (or 600m or 1,000m reps, depending on ability) in the threshold (with this calculator to determine your individual threshold speed), with 60-90 seconds of jogging relaxation
- Cool off 1-2 miles at a light pace
Note: Repeat this workout two to three times a month, adding one or two more repetitions each month to speed up the load.
Speed shoes are important
Unless you have a specific pair of speed training shoes, I recommend investing in a pair, especially if you are using your racing shoes. Traditional training shoes like the ones you wear every day tend to be heavier, which puts you extra work to speed up your steps. Of course you can use your racing shoes, but wearing them every speed session will wear them out faster.
Ideally, you want a lightweight pair of shoes that you only take off for speed sessions like this one. Two of my favorite shoes are the new ones Nike Air Zoom Tempo NEXT% and the Brooks Hyperion Tempo.