GRIT Building Running Workouts

Over the past eight years of coaching and my own personal running of over 20 plus years, I’ve hoarded probably safe to say hundreds of different workouts for different training goals and from various training plans. Additionally as a coach, I’m forever and relentlessly trying to expand my education and knowledge on how to train my runners and then assess what has worked or what hasn’t for each person. So, with spring race season just around the corner, I specifically wanted to share a few of the ‘GRIT Building Running Workouts‘ that I’ve discovered for varying race distances.

“The Michigan”

Let me preface by saying that runner’s grit is something that is grown and not typically just had from the get go say if you’re a beginner runner. The majority of these workouts would require a base of at least 1-2 years running age, or 6-8 weeks base aerobic and fundamental strength foundation. These workouts should also only be done by runners who are consistently running weekly mileage and do not currently have any concerns of injury or pre onset to injury.

“The Michigan” was devised in the 1970’s by Ron Warhurst the cross country coach for the University of Michigan. The purpose of the workout’s design is to simulate the change of paces that runners experience during a race. It is a combination of a fartlek, and short tempo run. But don’t be fooled into thinking it’s going to just be short fast or easy work. This one’s a doozy!

  1. Begin with a fast mile on the track. Coach Warhurst recommended the best runners attempt to run about 15-20 second slower than their best mile time. Imagine the beginning or start of a race and hammering out fast when the gun goes off.
  2. After the mile, jog about 3 minutes before running a slower mile on a road or trail. This mile should be about a minute slower than the track mile.
  3. After the road/trail mile, jog 3 minutes and then run a fast 1200 meters on the track at about the pace you ran your first mile.
  4. Jog 3 minutes and run another road/trail mile at the pace you ran the first road/trail mile.
  5. Jog 3 minutes and run a fast 800 meters on the track.
  6. (optional) Jog 3 minutes, and run another road/trail mile
  7. Jog 3 minutes and finish with an all-out 400 meter run on the track. This should fee like a finishing kick effort or as fast as you can muster.
  8. Collapse and die! 😉

“The Michigan” would be ideal for a 10k runner looking to work on race speed, or a half marathoner who wants to switch it up and foster neuromuscular fast twitch muscle fibers when fatigued.

5K Grit Growers

The following 5k workouts were featured by Andy Palmer, Ph.D. in an issue of Running Times Magazine.

Workouts for 5k Speed

  • 10 x 400 meters @ 90-95% maximum heart rate (Max Heart Rate is 220 minus your age. Click on this max heart rate calculator link. )
  • 5 x 800 meters @ 85-95% with 400 m jog recovery.
  • 12 x 200 meters @ 85-90% with 200 m jog recovery.
  • 4 x 1200 meters @ 85-95% with 400 jog recovery.
  • 15 x 300 meters @ 85 – 90% with 100 jog recovery.
  • Ladder; 400, 800, 1200, 1200, 800, 400 meters @ 85 – 95% with 400 jog recovery. These reps should be faster coming down than they were were going up.

Workouts for 5k Anaerobic Threshold

  • 3 or 4 x 1 mile @ 77-88% with 3 minutes easy running for recovery.
  • 2 or 3 x 1.5 miles @ 77-88% with 3 minutes easy running recovery.
  • 5 x 800 meters @ 77-88% with 3 minutes easy running recovery.

Jack Daniels’ Marathon Tempo Miles

I’m a huge believer in Jack Daniels’ Running Formula and his theories on scientific based training. Not only have I tested and implemented his theories out with the cross country team I coach, but I’ve also structured all of my own training via his principles.

In his book, Dr. Daniels lays out some periodized training plans for the 5k to full marathon distance and correlates the “quality” workouts to the fraction of peak mileage you would be at within your training cycle. According to an 24-week marathon training cycle he gives several tempo or T-pace workouts at 90% of peak mileage. Need to figure out what your T-pace is? Use this online calculator to plug in a recent race effort for you own personalized training equivalents. Jack Daniels’ VDot Running Calculator

“Program A is for runners who like a typical marathon approach. I’ve designed this program to work for any amount of mileage – you simply pick the highest (peak) mileage that you can plan to hit over the course of the program and determine each week’s mileage from there.”

-Daniels’ Running Formula, Jack Daniels, PhD

Daniels’ T-Pace Grit Workouts

  • Done at 90% peak mileage: 2 miles easy pace + 4 x (5-6 min @ T-pace with 1 min. rest) + 1 hour easy pace + 15-20 min T-pace + 2 miles easy pace.
  • Done at 90% peak mileage: 2 miles easy pace + 4 x (1 mile T-pace with 1 min. rest) + 5 min easy pace + 3 x (1 mile T-pace with 1 min rest) + 2 miles easy pace.
  • Done at 90% peak mileage: 2 miles easy pace + 2 x (10 to 12 minutes @ T-pace with 2 min rest) + 10 miles or 80 minutes (whichever is less) easy pace + 15-20 minutes T-pace + 2 miles easy pace.

Trust me! These T-pace workouts will build your toughness. If you don’t already know this, then you’ll certainly discovery that T-pace feels moderately uncomfortable. So the test is how long you can endure feeling discomfort.  

Finish Strong Workouts

If you’re already beyond your first marathon and the mindset of just completing the distance, and onto wanting to run stronger or finish feeling competitive, then consider adding these aspects to your training.

Progressive Mile Repeats

Mile repeats done at approximately 10k race pace or within a window of 10k race pace to 1 mile threshold pace (refer back to the Jack Daniels VDOT running calculator above) can help you nail down running a bit faster during your marathon by pushing your lactate threshold and ability to run faster for longer.

With that said, let’s say your 10k race pace to 1 mile threshold window is approximately :10 seconds. You can aim to run your mile repeats progressively faster (for example :02 -:04 second faster per repeat depending on how many repeats you have that day). This always bolsters confidence in the ability to dig deep and finish strong.

Fast Finish Long Runs

Another test for recruiting energy stores and fast twitch fibers under fatigue is to run easy for the first three quarters of your long run mileage and then run either by a faster pace per mile or harder perceived effort for the remaining quarter of your long run. Takes extreme grit to execute but will leave you with definite post-run endorphins.

Having a Growth Mindset Will Make You A Better Runner

I’ll reiterate in saying that these workouts aren’t easy. They will most likely make you feel uncomfortable and possibly questioning why you even tried them to begin with. But, if you want to grow your “Runner’s Grit” you’ll have to accept doing things that may be slightly out of your realm or current difficulty level. Whether it be one of the workouts above or from another coach or training plan, having the attitude to just try will help you in bettering yourself in some way either mentally or physically. So, get after it!! Go grow some GRIT!!!