When I was younger I always hated running. I never understood the point of running in circles around a track, and I definitely didn’t have the patience for it.
Like many things in our lives, my lack of interest and patience was due to a lack of good instruction.
It all changed with Coach Stan Lyford.
He’d been coaching the girls track team at my school longer than I had been alive, and boy did he love it. Long since retired, he kept it up as a hobby.
To keep us entertained during the hardest workouts, he sang showtunes, recounted crazy stories from his past, told hilarious not-so-PG jokes, and quizzed us from his deck of Trivial Pursuit.
He was the first person I ever met who could actually make running fun. Turns out, I was getting in excellent shape in the process.
These are some of the best workouts I learned from my years of running for Lyford. All of them can be adjusted for people of all different skill and fitness levels.
If you don’t have access to a track with exact measurements, try to estimate the distances in your local park or wherever you walk/run. (400 meters = ¼ mile, roughly)
1. The Sprint Running Workout: Bursts
According to Lyford, this is one of the fastest and most intense ways to get into shape and improve your cardio. If you do this one every day for a week, you’re sure to notice a different in your endurance and speed.
There is no set pace, as everyone’s maximum speed is different. For this reason it’s a highly flexible workout, because everyone from my grandmother to Usain Bolt can perform it and get results.
It’s pretty straightforward, but definitely the most physically-demanding of the four exercises. Fast results require a lot more immediate effort.
-400 meter warm-up jog -Dynamic stretching -Abdominal exercises (crunches, bicycles, turn and taps, etc) -10 x 100 meter sprints at full speed Take as much rest in between as needed -400 meter cool-down jog -Static stretching
If ten sprints are too hard for you, start with just five and add one every two days until you get to ten.
The most important part about this workout is the rest. If you try to get through the ten sprints too fast it will lose its efficiency.
Take time to recuperate between each one, and only start the next when you feel rested enough and your heart rate has dropped to reasonable levels.
2. The Mid-Distance Running Workout: Thresholds
I was always more inclined towards mid-distance, mostly due to the fact that I lacked the innate speed of a sprinter and patience of a long-distance runner. I found it to be the perfect middle ground for those of us that didn’t fit on either end of the spectrum.
Since it’s slower than a sprint but not that far, this workout appeals to everyone. It can be as difficult as you want to make it based on the pace you set.
-400 meter warm-up jog -Dynamic stretching -Abdominal exercises (crunches, bicycles, turn and taps, etc) -6 x 800 meters at pace (start with 4 minutes per 800 and adjust accordingly – it should feel chall-enging but not exhausting) Take about 1 to 1.5 minute breaks in between each one; your heart rate should decrease before starting again -400 meter cool-down jog -Static stretching
If six is too hard, try three and add one every two days until you get to six.
This workout is great if you don’t want the muscle exertion of the full-sprint workout, but also don’t want to run miles and miles without end.
3. The Long-Distance Running Workout: Loops
We had many, many different loops in our workout repertoire, and they all had unique names (and Lyford loved to tell the background stories). There was the Hanna Loop, the Kelley Loop, the S&E Loop, and, eventually, the Kelsey Loop (due to my wrong turn one day that lead to four years of running the wrong path).
This kind of workout is great for morning running, a time to run at a comfortable pace and be able to enjoy the surroundings. It’s especially great if you have trails in the woods near your house, or in the park.
Although there are many variations, here’s one that everyone should be able to manage.
-400 meter warm-up jog -Dynamic stretching -Abdominal exercises (crunches, bicycles, turn and taps, etc) -4-5 mile run at pace (try 8 minute mile pace for starters, and adjust from there. You should feel relaxed and be able to find a good rhythm) -5 short hill sprints (if you don’t have any hills around, a normal 50 meter sprint will work) -400 meter cool-down jog -Static stretching
If you want to go longer than 5 miles, that’s great! If you’re just starting, however, you should probably keep your distance under 5 miles. Over time you can increase.
The sprints at the end give your muscles an extra kick and are a satisfying way to end a long run. Don’t forget to catch your breath in between the run and the sprints.
4. The Little-of-Everything Running Workout: Ladders
If you don’t know whether you prefer sprinting, mid-distance or long-distance, there’s an option for that too. Maybe you just want a little variety, or you want to give a little spice to your workout. That’s ok too.
When used for serious training, this workout can pack a serious punch. It all depends on how intense you want to make it. I’ve turned down the intensity to a reasonable level that most everyone should be able to handle.
Don’t get intimidated by the different paces; just go with what feels natural for the given distance!
-400 meter warm-up jog -Dynamic stretching -Abdominal exercises (crunches, bicycles, turn and taps, etc) -2 x 100 meters at full sprint -2 x 200 meters at 80% sprint -2 x 400 meters at 70% sprint -1 x 800 meters at pace (try 4 minutes to start and adjust accordingly) The order should go: 100, 200, 400, 800, 400, 200, 100 Take 1-1.5 minutes rest in between each -400 meter cool-down jog -Static stretching
This workout is called ladders because you start at a small distance, eventually working your way up to a larger distance and back down again. For a challenge you can add a 1600 meter distance (one mile) in the middle and another 800 meter one.
If you have any questions about these workouts or need clarification, please feel free to contact us through the Contact page. Happy running!