A Runner’s Bread and Butter

A look into the weekly schedule of a distance runner!

 A Runner’s Bread and Butter is a general run down of what a typical weekly schedule of training looks like for a distance runner. I know that this does not apply to everyone and that not everyone will find this useful/entertaining.
This post is meant to inform those that really have no concept of the structure and purpose of a training schedule. For the majority of distance runners out there and for those of you interested in setting up a weekly training schedule to improve your running, well this is how it looks for the most part:
  • The Sunday Long Run

The dreaded Sundy Longrun! This run typically consists of 10% of the weekly volume of mileage for a distance runner.

That’s why it’s the most important run for base building and setting the foundation of the week.

Long runs start off the running week or end it- depending on how you set your week up. A long run day heavily relies on the type of mileage you are getting per week.Also it varies, whether you’re a middle-distance runner or a higher mileage distance runner like me. A long run can range anywhere from 7-16 miles or even more if you train for marathons or Ultras!

For me, my longest long run so far has been 16 miles. Although, I don’t need much more for my long run right now because my primary racing goals are for the 5K and 10K(for now).

To marathoners and Ultra runners, that may seem like an easy run. Middle distance runners may only get 10-12 miles for their longest long run.

It all really depends on what type of events you train for, your current training block(like if you are tapering for a big race), and what your coach suggests for you based on what has worked best for you.

Pacing for the Long Run- traditionally pacing for a long run has been slower and more relaxed, focusing on getting the miles in and recovering. Many coaches have referred to long run day as: LSD(Long slow distance).However, recent studies and many professional distance athletes have been incorporating a bit of speed throughout their long runs. This can have HUGE benefits for training and simulates racing. It makes you a lot tougher too and sets you up for some great races by getting your body used to turning over after running long miles.

I ran my first progression long run this summer where I had pick ups throughout the run. It can be very tough to hold on through the long run especially if your used to a chilled, slower long run.

Doing a speed progression long run will make you a lot fitter and faster in the long run. šŸ˜‰ They are not the most enjoyable training runs but they are a great idea to add variety to your schedule.

  • Easy runs/Maintenance runs-

These runs consist of about 4 runs per week on a typical running schedule, if you do two “workouts” or fast days a week.

That can vary again, depending on your current training block and what you are training up for or recovering from. Easy runs should be run at an EASY pace!!

Nothing annoys me more than going out to recover and run easy when someone picks up the pace to a level that turns into a tempo effort. Maintenance runs are on your schedule for a few reasons.

First, to make sure you’re getting your weekly mileage in. It’s important to stay committed to training and keep getting the amount of mileage prescribed for you depending on what you’re training for.

Also, how much or little mileage you need depends on YOU. Everyone responds differently to mileage. Some runners thrive off of higher mileage weeks from 70-80 miles a week or even 100-120 mile weeks. NOT everyone is built like that though. Some runners only need 35-50 mile weeks to see success.

Personally, I’ve ran my best doing anywhere from 50-70 miles a week. It all depends on the intensity of workouts too and how your body responds to the stress. There is such a thing as “over training” despite what many runners believe to be a solely mental block.

That brings me to my second reason for the Easy Run- RECOVERY!

If you run every single run at the same pace for everything, you will NOT get faster. You will plateau in your training, get injured, run yourself into the ground or over train or ALL of those. No one wants that.

So, when you set out for your easy run, please focus on what it means to RECOVER. This is a time to focus on your form; make sure those hips are tucked under and tilted slightly forward, pick up your feet(dorsi-flexed),drive up knee lift & pump your arms side to side and don’t cross over the center of your body!

Easy runs are great for having an enjoyable, relaxed run to remind you why you love running and getting the miles in. An Easy run should be a relaxed pace but not a shuffle! I normally try to run my easy runs around 7:30-8:00 min pace. I fluctuate a little depending on how sore I am from workout days and if it’s a race week.

LISTEN to your body! If you are feeling fatigued or worn down from workouts that week, scale down on mileage and slow the pace. If you have to cut an easy run short one day because you are super sore or something is wrong(injury, sick), DO IT. But don’t skip out on an easy run just because your being lazy or “not feeling it”. That habit will add up and eventually you won’t be getting your mileage in that you need to and you won’t be as fit.

TRUST me, you can tell on race day!

The last point I’ll make regarding easy runs is that if you do not listen to this advice and actually run an easy, comfortable pace and recover, then you will NOT be able to perform on workout days or race day. Maybe you will for a while. But not for long, you can get injured pretty quick that way.

I’ve been a distance runner for over 8 years, and I’ve seen it all or experienced one or many difficulties I’ve already mentioned. I don’t want you to make the same mistakes, but be knowledgeable and take control of the aspects in training that you have control over.

  • Speed Workouts/ Sessions-

Okay, this is everyone’s favorite day of the week(not really, we all dread it). Speed workout days and Tempo days(that we will discuss next), are similar. They are both known as “workouts” or “sessions” because they are not easy. They are all run at a fast, controlled effort.

For Speed workouts, they are normally run on a track or somewhere that you can track your mileage and splits. I recommend owning some type of GPS watch that tracks mileage and pace and has a lap counter that keeps splits for you. I have a Garmin and I use it daily.

A GPS watch helps to log workouts and runs on your computer so you can track your progress!!

Most Speed workouts are on Tuesdays/Thursdays. AGAIN, this depends on your week and if you have a race coming up that weekend you may only have one workout. Also, you may only have one Speed workout on the track and one Tempo on either Thursday or Friday.

There are so many variations with speed work. So it depends on you and your coach if you have one and your personal running goals.

In College, I normally had track workouts on Tuesdays and then a Tempo Run on Friday. However, if we raced that weekend we would only have a short “pre meet” speed workout on Tuesday. I still follow this type of schedule for race week, but my workouts are a little different now.

Speed work breakdown:

Most Speed workouts on the track start with a warm up where you run EASY for 1.5-3 miles. This gets the body warmed up so you don’t pull anything when you run the fast intervals.(Especially if it’s colder out, warm up is more important).

Then, normally you will have a set of warm up drills and dynamic(moving) stretches before you start.

Finally, it’s GO time!! Normally, a speed workout is a set of intervals run at a given fast pace. The most beneficial way is to find what your current VO2 Max is, or use a current PR(personal record/best) at whatever race you are training for. You can use this to break down each split pace you need to hit to improve and get faster.

What in the world is VO2Max?

Glad you asked! VO2 Max is basically the total volume of oxygen that our bodies are able to consume.(Milliliters per kilogram of body weight per minute (ml/kg/min). The fitter you are, the higher your VO2 Max! I know this is getting super nerdy, but learning your personal VO2 Max can help you base your whole training and help you improve. Every run has a purpose and knowing your body can help you set measurable goals.

There are many ways to find your VO2 Max. You can find it the easiest way online and calculate it. Here is an easy site I found with a VO2Max calculator if you want to try:


Back to Speed Work- An example of a speed workout could be: 10X800 w/ 2 min rest.

You run 10-800s(two laps around a track) with two minutes rest in between each interval. Or maybe you have a set of 4X mile repeats with a minute rest in between at a given pace.

Speed work is always a combination on intervals. It’s not easy, and it pushes you to the limit. It’s supposed to challenge you and help you get faster each week.

Speed days help you improve mental and physical toughness so that on race day you’re not completely shocked and shut down when the pain comes. And it will. You need to accept this and conquer it in training if you want to run a successful race!

Whatever your coach gives you that day or whatever you decide to do for speed work depends on your current racing schedule and what you are training for. If you are training through a race or in a building training block and not racing for a while, you may have a more intense/ longer workout.

It takes about 4 weeks before your body is able to show the work you put in doing a workout.

That’s why it is incredibly important to hit the paces given to you, even when you feel like giving up. Don’t cut reps and don’t slack off. This will make you tougher so that when it’s race day, you smash it and make it look easy.

  • Tempo Runs-

I’m just going to go ahead and say it, they SUCK. These are probably the toughest workouts for us mentally because tempos are  longer, faster, sustained efforts in training.

Normally, a tempo is run once a week on Thursday or Friday. A tempo is still considered a workout or session because it is a faster run held at a certain pace for a targeted amount of miles.

A tempo day starts as a speed day would– a proper warm up(ideally at least 2 miles), drills and stretches then strides before you start the tempo!

The tempo run can be anywhere from 3-9 miles or even more for marathoners and higher mileage runners!

When you run a tempo, you run the whole amount of mileage at a set pace given; which is normally 30-45 seconds slower than your race pace.

This needs to be a hard effort that puts you in debt but not so hard you can’t breath or you’re at 100%.

Believe me, sometimes you will feel like you’re going all out on a tempo but that’s when you can learn to push past the pain  threshold and earn your wings! Running a tempo is pretty brutal work but the benefits are unfathomable. This is where you learn who you are in training.

  • Strength training days-

I am only going to touch on this briefly because this subject really needs a blog for itself(and will soon!)

But concerning strength training for runners- I have learned the importance of proper strength training for a running schedule can keep you from injury and make you STRONG.

I used to hate lifting at all or doing anything in the gym when I first started running. Actually, I hated everything in training that wasn’t running. Then, I grew a little and started running in college and became surrounded by women who were faster, stronger, and had abs of steel.

I wanted that too and I also knew I would need to become a strength runner to get faster rather than a scrawny stick that would break like a twig with the mileage and intensity building.

As I became more knowledgeable in my sport I quickly learned that strength training can:

1. Keep you from getting injured

2. Keep your form strong

3. Keep you flexible

4. Give you strength to pull through in a race or workout when you don’t have anything left

Strength training can of course vary depending on what your coach has planned for you or what your body responds best to. You can do a body circuit that works on abs, upper body, legs, and back or a mixture of all of these. Strength training is normally done in a gym but you can do your own circuit on an easy day at your home or after a run at the park.

I recommend 2-3 times a week of strength training while being mindful of your current training cycle. I have focused so much more attention in strength training and flexibility drills since I ended track in April and graduated college.

I can already tell a significant improvement in my form and overall strength! I am so happy I stopped being afraid of strength training and became fully obedient in this part of training.

It works!! If you want to stay injury-free and become a STRONG runner, don’t skip out on gym days.

You can do them before or after a run or do a double day and do your run in the morning and lift at night. You can also switch that around too. The main point here is consistency.  Like I said, I won’t get too detailed into strength training here but just reminding you of the importance!!

Cooling things down

Wrapping things up, I know that I’m just skimming the surface of running and training. A Runner’s bread and butter really do include the subjects we touched on and I hope I was helpful in highlighting a general schedule.

I want to offer advice that’s helped me, to help improve your running if that’s what you want to accomplish. Which is what I hope, because you’ve already read this far! šŸ™‚

Now, are you going to be a quitter and just give up because it hurts for a few minutes? OR are you gonna OWN your workout and reach a new level of training?

Every day you lace up and go for your run; whatever training day that is for you, you have a choice to make.

Running isn’t for the weak minded or for people that take short cuts. And there is SO much more to running than just running.

You truly get out what you put in with running and you can discover who you really are through a runner’s lifestyle.

Just remind yourself that every run has a purpose for that day and take it one day at a time! Good Luck in training and remember that you are ALWAYS more capable than how you feel.



As a runner, you have to face the truth about yourself on a regular basis, and it makes you more honest. You can’t pretend to be faster than you are. You can’t pretend that you are better prepared than you are. You cannot pretend to be a runner, you actually have to run.
ā€“ John Bingham

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