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As I gear up for my fall running races, which includes the Healdsburg Half Marathon, I’m trying to get back into running three times a week, one day shy of my four-day regimen I abided by when training for the San Francisco Marathon. With the days growing shorter and my shiny new gym membership taunting me with its fun classes, the idea of getting out of bed at 5:30 in the morning to run in the dark seems less than appealing.

To stay motivated and focused, I’m trying to reduce junk miles and run higher quality workouts to both make time go by faster and get more bang for my running buck. To do this, my schedule contains three key runs: interval workouts, a pace or tempo run, and a long run. I try to avoid running on back-to-back days, and running three days in a row is completely out of the question for me so I can avoid injury and keep my muscles loose.

Interval workouts, generally done on a track, consist of brief periods running out of your comfort zone with a short recovery. This week I did a workout comprised of a one mile warm up, 8 X 400m at a pace slightly faster than my last 5k  (25:xx, which was the day after a grueling 10 mile trail run so I may be a bit faster than that) with a 200 m jog in between, then a one-mile cooldown. It’s easier for me to do these workouts on the treadmill, but a flat course works well too. Apart from the muscle-building and fat-burning properties of interval trailing, you gain efficiency and running fitness with these workouts. Interval workouts aren’t limited to running track-like workouts; this article has an expanded list and this Greatist infographic illustrates the perks of interval training

I ran after work yesterday, an extremely rare occurrence.

I ran after work yesterday, an extremely rare occurrence.

Tempo runs and pace runs are meant to push your lactate threshold and better mimic racing conditions. Adding about 30 seconds to your 5k pace, a tempo run contains a mile warm up with a few miles at your tempo pace before a mile cooldown. Your tempo pace should feel comfortably hard – you can’t breathe very easily and can only mutter a few words or a sentence at a time. For my tempo workout, I’d run a 9:30ish pace warmup, two or three miles around 8:30, and then a cooldown run. A pace run is just that: a run at the pace you want to complete your goal race. Since I’m looking to break two hours in the half marathon, I ran last yesterday’s six-mile run at a nine-minute per mile pace.

I end the week with a long run. Now that I’m training for a half marathon rather than a full marathon, I’ve been running 9 – 12 mile runs on the weekends. Though these miles feel a bit “junky” due to their slower pace, time spent on my feet and increasing my aerobic endurance are crucial for half marathon success. I like to add trail runs into this mix to build length strength and beat the monotony of running on the concrete.

Happy running this weekend!