Most runners target a single intensity in all of their workouts. Either it’s an easy run or long run at a slow and steady pace or a tempo run with an effort at lactate threshold intensity sandwiched between a warm-up and a cool-down or an interval session featuring a set of a certain number of repetitions of uniform length or duration all done at the same high intensity or—you get the idea. But there is something to be said for doing the occasional workout that includes a range of different intensities.

First of all, multi-pace workouts are a literal change of pace, and as such they’re an effective way to keep your training fun and interesting. Multi-pace workouts are also a good way to get appropriate doses of different intensities. For example, if you’re at a point in your training where you can benefit from a little work at VO2max intensity—but only a little—why set aside an entire workout for it when you can incorporate that work into a session focused on an intensity you need more of—say, lactate threshold intensity?

Yet another benefit of multi-pace workouts is that they help teach effective pacing. Can you shift accurately from half-marathon pace to 10K pace to 5K pace by feel? Most runners can’t, but runners who do workouts that include efforts at all three of these paces can. Finally, multi-pace workouts that put the fastest work at the end develop the capacity to dig deep and finish strong in races.

Here are three multi-pace workouts to try:

Intervals + Time Trial

This type of workout serves most of the purposes mentioned above. The interval segment provides the primary training stimulus and it should target a high aerobic intensity close to the lactate threshold. The closing time trial should be fairly short in order to serve the purpose of providing a modest exposure to VO2max and to get you suffering a bit. As a whole, an Intervals + Time Trial workout is very taxing and you shouldn’t attempt them very often. The specific session described below is one I did with NAZ Elite during my time in Flagstaff.

1-3 miles of easy jogging

Drills and strides

7 x 1 km @ lactate threshold pace with 1:00 standing recoveries (2:00 after the last rep)

1500-meter time trial

1-3 miles of easy jogging

30-20-10 Run

A few years ago, a team of Danish researchers led by Jens Bangsbo set out to see if they could come up with a high-intensity interval workout that was more enjoyable than standard formats without being less effective. They tested a variety of designs before settling on one that fulfilled their hopes: the 30-20-10 Run. After learning about it, I gave it a try, made a couple of tweaks, and started incorporating the workout into the training plans I create for my clients. I like to schedule 30-20-10 runs during recovery weeks and during the final weeks of preparation for longer races as a way to expose athletes to a range of intensities without making them go to the well. This workout is also a great way to teach better pacing. Here’s the basic format:

1-3 miles of easy jogging

5 x 1:00 with the 30 seconds at marathon pace, the next 20 seconds at lactate threshold pace (i.e., the fastest pace you could hold for one hour), and the last 10 seconds at a relaxed sprint. No recovery—just cycle right into the next interval until you’ve completed all five.

Complete three cycles of five 30-20-10 intervals with 5 minutes of jogging after each.

1-3 miles of easy jogging

Tempo + Sprints

As a long-distance runner, you should sprint, but not a lot. Because any sprinting you do in a race is likely (one hopes) to occur at the very end of a race when you’re tired, it makes sense to sprint on tired legs in training. In the Tempo + Sprints workout, you will do just that.

1-3 miles of easy jogging

Drills and strides

20:00 at lactate threshold pace

2:00 standing recovery

8 x 200-meter relaxed sprints with recovery by feel (i.e., go again when you’re ready)

1-3 miles of easy jogging