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Running Repeats: The Workout That Will Elevate Your Ability

If you haven’t heard of running repeats, get to know them now.

Running can be as simple as putting your shoes on and heading a few miles down the road at a moderate pace. Running can also be a very complex and competitive sport.

Athletes spend months and years training to be in top shape to run the best race their bodies allow. Those training schedules always include high-intensity workouts.

Those high-intensity workouts are, of course, running repeats.

Let’s explore the different running repeat workouts and find which is best for your running.

What Are Running Repeats?

The term “running repeats” refers to an intense workout for runners, especially distance runners.

Runners must reach a high intensity for a shorter distance than they usually run. They’re so vigorous that they must be completed on nonconsecutive days to avoid injury.

Some running repeats workouts are based on distance, while others are based on pace.

A running repeat workout is intended to be done by running an exact length or speed, taking time to recover, and then repeating that distance or speed. Hence “running repeats.”

Running repeats should be integrated into a training program for all distance runners. However, they shouldn’t be the only type of workout used.

Running Repeats vs Intervals

You may have heard of running repeats before, but have you heard of running intervals? What exactly makes these two workouts different from one another?

What’s the Difference Between Intervals and Repeats?

Remember that running repeats are called such because a runner completes a distance or pace, recovers, and repeats the effort as before.

The difference between intervals and repeats comes down to time and intensity.

✔️ The Focus of Repeats

Some running repeats are considered a style of interval training.

When done correctly at a nearly all-out effort, runners completing this type of workout will see their pace decrease with each distance repeat. A repeat will last as long as is required for the runner to complete the specified distance.

For instance, mile repeats may take one runner eight minutes for each repetition.

✔️ The Focus of Intervals

Intervals are done at a more intense level than most repeats.

Generally, a single interval will be less than 5 minutes, and the time between one interval and the next should only allow for a partial recovery.

Intervals also require runners to be at or beyond their maximum capability. Repeats are often a few seconds slower than a runner’s limit.

For example, hill repeats that allow a runner to run uphill for at least 30 seconds before recovery is an example of a running interval.

What’s a Mile Repeat?

Mile repeats are a workout where the runner runs the mile distance, recovers, and reruns the mile distance. The runner repeats the mile as frequently as is suitable for their training cycle.

You may also hear mile repeats referred to as 1600m repeats because of the distance of a mile equalling 1600 meters.

Benefits of Mile Repeats for Runners

Many distance runners use mile repeats to see improvements in their abilities, as these long-distance repeats come with several benefits.

Mile repeats:

✅ Help to increase a runner’s long-distance pace

✅ Help runners focus on a desired race pace

✅ Increase cardiovascular endurance

✅ Change up the routine of solely running long distance

If you want to earn a new PR at your next race, use running repeats to get the best out of your training!

A female runner is running around a track. A track is a prime location for completing the running repeat workout.

How Long Should You Rest Between Mile Repeats?

The time to recover between mile repeats depends on how many miles the workout calls for and at what pace you’re running them.

For instance, when running mile repeats at a 5k pace, the runner’s speed will be quite fast. The runner will need more time to recover before starting the next mile because of the fast pace.

By the time you’re starting your next mile repeat, you should be fully recovered.

This means your heart rate should decrease to where it usually is when walking or slowly jogging. For many runners, this means walking less than 400 meters, or about 2 to 3 minutes, before starting the next repeat.

Mile Repeat Workout for 5k Training

Mile repeats aren’t only for marathon runners.

Using mile repeats is appropriate for anyone trying to amp up competitiveness in the 5k. Running the mile repeats at a 5k race pace is a proven way to prepare your body to race at that speed.

Remember, after each mile, your body will require time to recover. Including mile repeats in your training to improve your 5k race is very practical.

How Fast Should Mile Repeats Be for 5k Training?

It’s best to run the mile repeats at your desired race pace or as close to it as possible when training for a 5k. This is key to improving your 5k race time.

The 5k is a fast-paced race. It’s also relatively short compared to most distance races. Running your mile repeats at a race pace will help to improve your racing speed.

You won’t need to run as many sets of mile repeats as someone training for a marathon. Instead, at the peak of your 5k training schedule, aim to complete four 1-mile repeats with recovery in between.

Are you running a distance other than 5k? You might not need to run your repeats at a race pace. Remember, running repeats are to be an intense workout.

Mile Repeats for Half Marathon Training

If you’re using mile repeats as a workout in your half marathon training, adapt your pace to suit this race pace.

If aiming to run a consistent-paced half marathon, consider running your mile repeats at your goal race pace. This can help you improve hitting those negative splits by finding a speed you can maintain for 13.1 miles.

When implementing mile repeats into your training, start with two to three repeats and work up to six to eight.

Do these workouts sparingly. Aim to complete your repeats once a week or once every other week. They should be done with high intensity to help your body get used to running at speed.

Hill Repeats

Hill repeats work well as an intense workout within a training schedule.

To complete hill repeats, a runner runs up a hill and attempts to reach a specific pace. The runner takes a moment of rest by coming back down, then repeat the run back up.

Are Hill Repeats Good for Running?

Hill repeats are specifically handy for runners planning to run in hilly locations.

Hill repeats can be especially useful for anyone training to run races with tough elevation gains. I find this true when training for the St. Jude Rock ‘n’ Roll Nashville Marathon, a particularly hilly marathon. Hill repeats could be vital if you live and train in an area without hills.

By using a high-intensity workout on hilly terrain, runners can build endurance and improve their cardiovascular strength, a necessity for the sport.

Running on a treadmill with incline can be the best option to fulfill this workout if you don’t have access to hills.

A female running is running up stadium stairs with a big smile on her face.

800m Repeats

800-meter repeats are very popular amongst distance runners, especially marathon runners.

The distance of 800 meters is equal to a half mile or two laps on a standard outdoor track in the US. These repeats are often called “Yasso 800s,” named after the “Mayor of Running” Bart Yasso.

Bart Yasso found a close correlation between running 800-meter repeats and finding your approximate marathon time. The theory is that the average pace at which you can run your 800-meter repeats will equal your time for a full marathon.

For example, an average Yasso 800s pace of 3 minutes 30 seconds will equal a marathon time of 3 hours 30 minutes.

How to do Yasso 800s

👉🏼 Start with a warm-up for 5 to 10 minutes of fast walking or jogging.

👉🏼 Run 800 meters at the pace you’ve determined for you.

👉🏼 Recover by jogging or walking for the same length of time that you ran.

👉🏼 Repeat. You will repeat about four 800-meter sprints the first time you do this workout.  Eventually, you want to build up to 10 800-meter sprints.

👉🏼 Cooldown. Just as you spent time warming up, allocate about 5-10 minutes to cooling down with light jogging or walking.

Stride Repeats

Strides are quite a bit different than the other repeat workouts mentioned above.

Rather than a stand-alone intensity workout, strides are done before or after another type of run, for example, running strides before a race as a warm-up. This prepares your body to achieve race pace.

Strides are essentially sprints but should not be done at 100% of your pace ability.

A runner should set out to do 5 to 10 strides total. Focusing on the perfect form is essential for strides to be beneficial. Strides intend to help runners learn to increase their speed quickly by conditioning the neuromuscular system.

A stride workout will follow this process: Start by jogging. Then rapidly, within about 20-25 steps, increase your pace to hit a speed of nearly 90% of your maximum ability. Maintain this speed for a maximum of 20 footsteps. Then, decrease the tempo back to a jog and recover.

Final Thoughts: Running Repeat Workouts

If you want a way to shake your legs out and break up the monotony of distance running, include running repeats in your next training cycle. Be smart about how and when you do them depending on your goal race and don’t continue this high-intensity workout during the taper phase of your training.

Whether you include mile repeats or Yasso 800s in your training, you should start seeing an impact on your overall running abilities.

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